Trudy MacDonald: Long-term vision key when planning staff numbers

By Trudy MacDonald

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A good fit is vital when taking on employees and one bad hire can have a lasting impact, says Trudy MacDonald.

There is nothing wrong with being a generalist as long as the business can recognise when a more specialised skill set is needed to take the business forward. Photo / Thinkstock
There is nothing wrong with being a generalist as long as the business can recognise when a more specialised skill set is needed to take the business forward. Photo / Thinkstock

How should small business owners approach hiring?

With any business there is no substitute for a long-term vision that looks at least two to three years out. This applies as much to decisions about hiring as any other aspect of a business. Part of a long-term vision is workforce planning, which is being able to identify when full-time employees will be needed. This is vital because a short-term view about hiring can lead to long-term problems. Just one bad hire can have a lasting impact on a small business.

A long-term hiring vision also means hiring the type of people the business needs for the future. While expertise, skills and attitude are important, the most commonly overlooked aspect is fit. Put another way, will the new person actually get on with the team and owner and share common values? If it's not going to work personally, it is definitely not going to work professionally.

What kinds of employees are needed for start-up companies?

There is definitely an international trend where the founding team have specialist and generalist skills and the need for more specialist skills emerge as the business evolves. There is nothing wrong with being a generalist as long as the business can recognise when a more specialised skill set is needed to take the business forward. It is not uncommon that the business will outgrow the leadership skills of the founder over time and a professional manager is brought in to take the business to the next level. It takes a very humble owner to recognise the need to do this.

What challenges do New Zealand businesses face with workforce planning?

There continues to be a brain drain out of New Zealand; although we have plentiful education opportunities, we don't necessarily have equivalent long-term career prospects because there are larger-scale opportunities overseas. To counter this, companies need to actively promote their employee value proposition (EVP), which considers all the reasons why people would want to work for their business. This is not only about money but also other important aspects such as development, education, work-life balance, flexibility and the opportunity to improve the breadth of skills and knowledge. The flip side of the brain drain is importing talent. In New Zealand we tend to be parochial and require New Zealand experience. Companies need to relax about this because as long as a person can do the job, has the right attitude and fits within the business, taking on people from overseas can add enormous value and create real difference.

What international trends in HR are we yet to see in New Zealand?

There's going to be a lot more work flexibility in regards to methods of communication, locations, hours and outsourcing. Companies commonly outsource their legal and accounting requirements and are starting to do the same with HR and marketing. This provides the opportunity to access specialist expertise on an as-needs basis, which reduces costs and enables businesses to maintain focus on their areas of expertise.

Trudy MacDonald is founder of HR consultancy Talent Code.

- NZ Herald

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