Support staff are not interchangeable parts. Sidestep these 6 mistakes and you can hire and keep the best.
In the army, it’s the infantry; in the factory, the line workers; and in the office, the administrative staff. Every organization has its “troops”—the people who carry out the basic tasks of the business.
Think of these folks as interchangeable parts, however, and you could be making a big mistake, says the website, AllBusiness.com.
Recently, the site published a list of things to keep in mind and do in hiring support staff. The basic message: Put the same kind of care into hiring your “troops” as you would anyone else. Because any chain of command, whether it’s in the heat of battle or the heat of business competition, is only as strong as its weakest link.
We’ve paraphrased and condensed some of their advice.
–Don’t rush. Because support staff is often urgently needed and relatively cheap in payroll impact, it may be tempting to simply go out and hire the first candidates in the door. Not a good idea. Instead, make a list of the specific skills and characteristics you’re looking for, whether it’s proficiency in certain office systems or a cool attitude to fit in a pressure situation. Then make sure your job ad clearly projects your needs.
–Screen, as you would for any job. Who needs to spend time comparing resumés and calling references for a file clerk? You do! These screening steps are as essential for support jobs as for any other and will help you whittle down the field to the best candidates, without going through a lot of unproductive interviews.
–Bring others in. Support staff usually interact with a lot of people, so it’s wise to call on others and get their needs and preferences before hiring and to invite them to meet or even interview your top candidates. And don’t hesitate to test skills. If the skills are technical in nature, such as computer operations, have the testing done by the relevant manager.
–Don’t overhire! When things are piling up and everyone’s screaming for help, it may seem wise to hire as many support personnel as you can. Remember, though, that crunch time is the exception, not the rule. You can always bring in additional support staff (perhaps through temps). It’s a lot harder to let people go, or worse, to spend your time coming up with things for them to work on when things get slower.
–Retention counts for support staff, too. While you’re dreaming up uber-benefits to keep your CEO or CFO, don’t forget the folks who turn their grand plans into reality. Assemble the best benefits package you can for your top support staff, then use those perks as a recruitment and retention lure.
–Don’t be stampeded by cries for help by your internal clients. Sending them a bad hire is worse than sending them no hire. Work diligently to find the right candidates and those cries will soon turn to cheers.
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