At the end of March, the Labor Department reported that jobless claims were down two months running (8%), a modest but potentially encouraging sign of economic recovery. It leads to an interesting question. If you’ve tabled the idea of adding new hires, what would have to happen for you to revisit that decision? Are you running short handed right now? If you aren’t, you’re probably in the minority.

Positioning Your Small Business for Growth by Hiring Workers Today

Your crews may be so overworked and stressed, that the addition of another pair of qualified hands (or two or five) could boost morale and make life easier for everyone, including you. When things do start turning around, will you be ready to gear up for increased production or volume, or will you be left scrambling? Hiring staff can be like gauging the current real estate market: watching for something — anything — that spells a sea change. If you’ve been sitting on your hands waiting to increase your payroll, here are a few points to ponder once you have the financing necessary to make some changes for the better.

Take advantage of an unprecedented sale on talent. After staying in a holding pattern for years, where do you put new resources? Well, there’s a large pool of talent out there that won’t stay on the market forever. You can find experienced, educated, and enthusiastic workers at attractive salaries these days. Even if you aren’t planning on hiring in the immediate future, you should make an effort to learn about what prospects may be out there now and in the future. Unemployment is still high, but that’s not the only pool of potential talent available. Many workers are hanging tight to jobs they hate or have outgrown, maintaining a holding pattern until things improve. Getting a handle on who may be looking will put you at the head of the line to get good talent when the time comes.

Be smart when putting out the call for new people. Small businesses can get swallowed up by hiring sites. You’ve heard that the best jobs are filled without ever being listed. That can work for you, especially if you’ve been networking diligently. Mention your future plans to suppliers and associates, and stay accessible. It can lead to connections you’d never have a chance with through normal hiring channels. You may be small, but vision and a great idea count for something.

Be prepared to sell your company. You may not have a stellar benefits package to offer, but there are probably other things you can mention to make your business appealing to a quality candidate. Put some ideas together before you need them, that way you’ll be ready when the perfect candidate knocks on your door. You’ll also want to make the job itself as transparent as possible by providing tools, like videos, which explain what skills you’re looking for.

Audition your choices. Once you do find what you think is the perfect person, be cautious. Developing the position slowly has merit. You can see if the candidate looks as good in fact as he does on paper. You can also get a sense of whether or not he’ll be a good fit for your management style — or hang around long enough to make the hard work of finding him worthwhile. If you have a small staff, individual personalities can have an enormous impact on day-to-day operations. Why not consider starting a new employee part time to see how it goes.

Trade up. You may have a full complement now but know that a current employee is looking, or just isn’t cutting it. You might also be reluctant to let someone go who’ll have a hard time finding other work, but when economic indicators improve your options will too. You may not be prepared to make a change today, but you can start looking at your workforce in a new way. What types of skills and talents would complement your company’s current workload demands and future goals?

Hiring can be exciting. An infusion of new blood and new ideas can transform your business one employee at a time. Consider the possibilities while you’re still a few days or a few months away from adding to or adjusting your staff.

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