With today's leaner staff and budgets, every new hire counts drastically. Badly conducted hires will yield you staff who amount to little more than a cost of doing business. But although the money you spend on payroll could well be your largest cash commitment, a staff of properly hired and maintained employees can increase your profits far beyond their cost. Your staff is therefore an investment - easily the most important investment your business ever makes.
Most businesses in the printing industry have two major common expenses: equipment and personnel. Best practices suggest that when evaluating your capital equipment investments before purchase, you first calculate your exact return on investment (ROI). Often, as a sales tool, manufacturers will even help you determine your ROI on their own brand of equipment.
Similarly, with this article we want to suggest that you consider your staff as human capital. So, as with equipment, can you measure your ROI equally effectively on your personnel investments? The answer is a qualified yes--even though personnel expenses can be less predictable. Variables such as salary demands, employee benefits, education, training, and job-market conditions can throw off projected employee budgets considerably. Also, since many returns on personnel investment do not result in a tangible product, their measurement requires more subtle calculations - but nevertheless they can still be measured to a useful degree.
As with equipment, when you prepare to invest in human capital, you first need to evaluate the potential fit between your new hire and your company's needs. Simply put, you can do this by determining what your company does best, then hire for matching skills in job candidates. Similarly, you can identify areas where your business may have serious shortcomings and seek new hires who can fill in these vital gaps. Additionally, your customers have certain requirements your company must meet in order for them to give you their business; so you need to analyze and hire for the staff skills that will give your customers what they want.
Ideally, you could integrate all the above concerns by charting a comprehensive workflow strategy that maximizes your business’s efficiency and productivity while enticing customers to come back for more. Keep in mind your equipment - tools that will only perform if operated effectively and according to an efficient production plan. Next, define what levels of staffing your company requires to execute the strategy at the senior, intermediate, and entry levels. Use industry guidelines to determine an appropriate ratio of your gross billings against staffing count. Then hire accordingly. Above all, remember that the productivity of your labor force leverages all your other assets. It is pivotal in executing a business strategy and improving profitability.
Other factors to ensure a good return on your human-capital investment are:
Evaluating potential employees means assessing their ability to perform their job, including whether they possess the necessary technical or "hard" skills, appropriate certifications, and work experience. But don’t forget about the so-called "soft" skills — skills that are not so obvious from a candidate's resumé.
Often soft skills are loosely defined as interpersonal skills. (Remember the phrase from your report-card days: "Works and plays well with others"?) And in practice, these skills often translate into such practical and varied benefits as courtesy, teamwork, effective communication, and conflict resolution. But they can also include learning ability, adaptability, work ethic, self-confidence, capacity to handle pressure, or any number of task-specific abilities. Also among the most beneficial soft skills that excellent employees can contribute to your business are energy, initiative, and the drive to search for solutions and strategies to help the company grow ever more profitable. And at their higher levels soft skills can also encompass leadership ability to encourage other staff, gain their confidence and cooperation, spark their creativity, and inspire them to contribute more to the business.
Research has proven the value of soft skills. For example, after American Express provided some of its financial advisory staff with soft-skills training, the portion of the staff who received the training saw an immediate increase in sales — 12 per cent more than the control group, to be precise.
So how do you measure a candidate's soft skills for yourself? References are an excellent tool. While most candidates aren’t likely to offer you reference contacts who would speak negatively of them, you can still gain valuable insight by asking the right questions. Firstly, inquire about candidates' ability to work in functions similar to those you will require of them. Secondly, try to assess the quality of candidates' working relationships with co-workers and subordinates. Thirdly, remember to ask questions about candidates' behavior that are geared specifically toward eliciting both the qualitative and quantitative information you are seeking. For instance, "Can you tell me some ways that Mary was able to motivate other staff members?" will probably gain you more insight than, "Did Mary get along well with others?"
Once you've hired wisely, six further essential steps you need to take to maximize your staff ROI include:
Without question, defining and implementing the right hiring and personnel-management practices is a tall order. If you have qualified human-resources professionals on your staff, empower them and give them the tools they require to do their job right. If not, assign the tasks of human-resources management to your existing staff--perhaps one or more department supervisors or a team of key players from each department - and allocate the appropriate time and resources for them to do the job right. If neither option is viable, then hire an independent consultant who is well versed in our industry to guide you through the process. Do whatever it takes to attract, hire, cultivate, and retain the right people - because your efforts will show up immediately on your financial statements as a measurable contribution to your bottom line.