How to Hire and Keep Employees

by Ramli John

4 min read

Get a handful of people from a startup community in a room and ask them about their biggest challenges. Chances are, hiring and keeping employees engaged will be close to the top of their list. Hiring and retaining great people is hard, especially for small businesses.

“The biggest challenge that most startup founders speak about is recruiting people,” Ben Baldwin, founder of ClearFit, explains. “It’s not raising money, closing deals, doing sales or finding partners. It’s hiring people.”

To help you navigate through the murky waters of recruiting, Startup Canada invited experienced business owners, recruiters, lawyers and leaders to discuss strategies on how to hire and keep employees in September’s Startup Chats.

Deciding to Hire or Contract Help for Your Startup

The first question every small business owner needs to tackle when they realize they need to bring someone to help with the workload, is whether to hire or contract the work. Each has its own respective advantages and drawbacks.

For Chad Davis, co-founder of Liveca, hiring is a more sustainable long-term strategy. However, it can be a huge investment in time, money and effort to find the right fit. Sometimes, contracting is better in the short-term.

“With hiring, you get the benefit of bringing in personality to your company and help build the culture,” Davis said. “However, when the activity is completely outside of your core offering, you should consider contracting that out.”

Legal Aspects of Hiring

Whether you choose to hire or contract help for your startup, take note of the following legal tips by Melanie Polowin of Gowlings Law. This is especially important to consider, now that businesses have become so entrenched in social networking and the internet. There are many gray areas to the legal aspects of hiring.

“Social media has drastically altered who and how we hire, for good and bad,” Polowin explained. “Online searches give employers access to too much information that they shouldn’t know yet, or ever, about candidates. This can expose employers to claims of violating human rights or privacy laws”.

Polowin provides some examples that could potentially risk employers to claims of violating human rights or privacy laws. This includes doing online searches without proper protocols or using ‘protected’ factors to cut qualified candidates. These protected factors include disability, family status, and more.

To minimize the risk of violating human rights or privacy laws during the hiring process, Polowin gives the following seven tips to small business owners:

  1. Confer with your team to create a written protocol that everybody consistently follows each time for job postings, recruiting pages and application forms.
  2. Confer with legal or Human Resources to ensure job postings, recruiting pages and application forms comply with human rights laws.
  3. Disclose any intent to perform online searches on candidates on application pages, forms or during the first interview.
  4. Don’t search online until after an interview or short-listing.
  5. Only access publicly available online information. Never hack accounts or allow the use of deception.
  6. Ideally, task someone outside the hiring team to collect and filter information. Share only truly relevant information.
  7. Limit and secure information retained about candidates. If no claim is made, destroy information two years after hiring.

Creating a Winning Organizational Culture

Hiring great people is only the first step. Small business owners also need to nurture and cultivate a winning organizational culture.

“Organizational culture helps you attract and retain the right people,” said Marc Gagné, a startup mentor atMicrosoft BizSpark . “The biggest benefits of a great organizational culture is a positive, engaged and productive workplace, which is invaluable.”

Organizational culture defines your company’s values, belief and traditions. In some ways, it becomes your brand and public persona. People, both internal and external, will come to know your company through its organizational culture. Some examples of companies that exhibit great organizational culture includes Google and Disney.

Gagné’s tip for small business owners is to often ask why, listen to your people and re-visit your goals and values. Once you’ve defined it, make sure you live it, review it and refine it.

How to Hire and Keep Employees

There’s no magic bullet for startup recruiting. But those first few employees are so critical you owe it to yourself to recruit the absolute best you can find, take your time. Have a rigorous process in place for sourcing, attracting, recruiting and creating a winning organizational culture.

There is no magic bullet for startup recruiting. However, those first few employees are critical to your company. You owe it to yourself to recruit the absolute best you can find. Take your time, and have a rigorous process in place for sourcing, attracting, recruiting and creating a winning organizational culture.

Ramli John is a passionate web entrepreneur, developer and writer. He currently writes for Startup Canada’s PIVOT Magazine and his own personal blog. A University of Waterloo Computer Science and Ivey MBA alum, Ramli is a co-founder of FamilyTales based out of Velocity Garage Incubator in the Kitchener/Waterloo Tech Hub. Read more about him here.

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