Hiring your first employee is exciting! And also pretty intimidating. You don’t need a complicated system in place to make your first hire, but you do need to take a few essential steps along the way. Here are some ways to simplify the process of hiring your first employee.
Decide what your employee will do
First things first: You know you’re busy and you have more on your plate than you can accomplish alone. However, do you know exactly what your employee will take off your hands? Before you write an ad or think about a salary, make a list of the tasks and responsibilities you’d like to hand off to an employee. This list will help you hire the right person, and will also help you know exactly how to get them to full productivity quickly.
Write that employee handbook
Writing an employee handbook sounds like an overly complicated, formal process. It doesn’t have to be! An employee handbook can be direct, casual, whimsical, full of pictures, and even interactive. It can also be a simple document of a few pages that covers the important values and rules you need to have in place for all employees, present and future. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a thorough guide to writing a handbook, or you can find free templates online.
Set up a payroll service
In hiring an employee, what’s most important to you is getting work done. What’s most important to your first employee is getting a paycheck. Take some friendly advice: Hire a payroll service to handle the paycheck part of the equation. You will save yourself countless dollars in time and headaches. A good payroll service will provide necessary tax withholdings according to federal and state rules, keep accurate documentation, allow customizable withholdings to be set as needed, and ensure that your employee gets paid on time. All you have to do is go through the initial setup process and put a salary in place.
And for the record: It’s a really, really good idea to pay yourself through a payroll service, too. Missing tax documentation will always come back to haunt you.
Advertise for a great employee
Now you’re ready to start seeking your first employee. Start by writing a great job listing ad. How, you ask? The keys to a great employment ad are specificity and authenticity.
Specificity means that you’ll list the exact tasks and responsibilities that your employee will take on. Don’t use a vague term like “Office Manager” or “Production Assistant” without stating exactly what that means in your business. By making your ad specific, you will automatically filter out the applicants who aren’t qualified or interested in completing the work you actually need done.
Authenticity means that your employment ad should be like you, and like your business. If you’re a casual, mom-and-pop kind of place, don’t write an ad with formal language and overblown requirements for employment. Use first-person language, for example: “We’re looking for someone to work at the front counter.”
On the other hand, if your business is a more formal establishment with a dress code and high-end clientele, reflect that accurately in your advertisement. Use a more formal tone: “Bobkin, Bobkin, and Butters, LLP, seek a qualified office assistant.” The language and tone you use in your initial ad help you attract the type of applicant that will fit well and work well in your business.
Provide initial training
While you’re waiting for the pre-filtered applications to roll in, thanks to your stellar employment ad, get your training materials in place. Do this by going back to that list of tasks and responsibilities that you want your first employee to handle. For each major task, write down the step-by-step process to complete it, well, completely. For each responsibility, list the tasks to be completed and, as appropriate, the timelines, resources, contacts, and other pertinent information.
When you make that first hire, you’ll have the information to start their training. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to do two things: First, provide a copy of the complete training material to your employee, so they can go over it and get a big picture of the role they’re taking. Second, prioritize the tasks and responsibilities and work with your new employee on each one in order of importance.
Set up a system for performance reviews
Ah, the dreaded performance review! Employees don’t tend to love them, and frankly, neither do employers. However, when done well and frequently, reviews can create a working relationship that’s much more beneficial for everyone involved.
Start by letting your employee know that you will provide weekly feedback in their first month, or quarter. This is important as new employees often have no way to gauge if they’re doing the job right and meeting your standards, or not. Not knowing leads to anxiety and tension, which leads to more mistakes, and can create an ugly cycle of stress and mess-ups. Provide clear, regular, weekly (at a minimum) feedback for your new employee for at least their first month.
Thereafter, feedback sessions on a quarterly, monthly, or even a continued weekly basis are the most effective. Annual reviews are too few and far-between to be effective; they have the fun effect of making employees feel blindsided and betrayed. Don’t do that! Instead, provide ongoing, informal feedback to your employee, either in face-to-face meetings or via phone, email, or messaging.
You can provide feedback on a scheduled basis (weekly or monthly, for example) or after the completion of a task or project. In both cases, shorter, more frequent meetings tend to be more helpful. For best results, focus less on “what you did wrong” criticism and more on “specific steps to improve” instruction.
A last note: It’s a great idea to get feedback from your employee, as well as giving feedback to your employee. It’s your first hire, but it probably won’t be your last. Ask your new employee how you can make the process easier and be a better boss; you’ll be even better prepared when it’s time for your second hire.