Fred Ohlsson: How to get the best in the business working for your business

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Fred Ohlsson is ANZ's managing director retail and business banking.
Fred Ohlsson is ANZ's managing director retail and business banking.

Some are calling it a 'Rock Star' economy. New Zealand is now seeing broad-based growth and this is translating into historically high confidence among our businesses.

According to the ANZ Privately Owned Business Barometer, business owners across most sectors expect their operation to grow over the next year and are even more confident about the next three years. This now looks like it is increasing the demand for labour, with job adverts rising 2.6% in May, the fourth consecutive monthly increase.

But there's evidence that employers are finding good staff hard to find. Hiring the wrong person can be a recipe for problems down the track. A robust hiring process can go a long way towards helping you find the people and skills you need to take your business forward.

Here are a few tips to make sure the people you hire are right for your business:

Get personal
Outline the type of person you're looking for: not just their skills and qualifications, but also personal characteristics such as a strong attention to detail or good people skills.

You can train people to give them the skills to do the job, but you can't change someone's personality.

Get specific
Create a detailed job description outlining the specific duties and responsibilities required in the role. Applicants should know what they're signing up for. If performance problems do arise in the future, it's hard to address these if you have not been clear about the duties of the role.

Ask the right questions
Create an interview question template. Having a chat is not a robust way to determine if the person is right for the job. Having a questionnaire enables you to come up with questions that will demonstrate their skills and attitude and also ensures that you ask all applicants the same questions. It helps to have someone else in the interview to make notes you can reflect on afterwards.

Ask for examples
Don't limit your interview to broad questions like "tell me about yourself". Get candidates to tell you about examples of situations they've been in and how they performed. How you word the question is important.

The brain works like a computer. Being asked "tell me what you would do if" allows it to go to creative mode and think up something that sounds good. But if the question is "tell me about a time when" the brain will go to 'archive' and try to pull out an example. So if you're looking for someone who will be dealing with customers, you could ask: "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. How did you resolve it?"

Psychologists say it's hard for the brain to create when it's gone to archive mode.

Put them to the test?
If you're looking for evidence that the applicant has the skills they have stated, you could ask them to do a task in the form of a test so they can demonstrate those skills.

Check references
Once you've selected an applicant, it's essential to do reference checks. They may not want you to approach their current employer until they're sure they have the job, but they should be able to give at least two other names. It's important to verify the relationship of the referee to the applicant, how long they have known them and the reason they're qualified to give a reference.

In a recent case, an employee was awarded over $10,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal after being sacked when it was found he had falsified his work history, wrecked customer equipment and nearly killed a fellow employee.

The employer was criticised for failing to get proper reference checks and not following the correct disciplinary process. In this case, testing the applicant's ability and getting references would also have uncovered his lack of experience and would have saved the employer over $30,000 in compensation and legal fees.

Do the paperwork
It's a legal requirement that all employees sign an employment agreement before they start work. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has a free employment agreement builder on their website. This includes the wording for the 90-day trial period.

Remember, if the employee does not have an employment agreement, the 90-day trial period is not valid and you will face legal consequences if it is brought to the attention of the Employment Relations Authority.

Train new staff for success
Staff who know what they are doing make fewer mistakes, require less supervision and will contribute more to your business.

Keep them motivated
It doesn't stop there. To get the most out of your staff you need to keep them motivated. Ensure they understand the importance of their role to the business, keep them informed and give them recognition for the good work they do.

While all of this may sound like a lot of work, the reality is that as a business owner, you are dependent on your staff to create a customer experience so good your customers want to keep coming back and recommend you to others. Having the right staff will help you to succeed and grow your business.

Fred Ohlsson is ANZ's managing director retail and business banking

- NZ Herald

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