Helping small businesses to handle Human Resource functions effectively without an HR Department

With twenty-five years in Career Development Consulting and a Masters degree in HR Development, I am taking delight in helping SMMEs in South Africa to handle the recruitment and development of staff at a price that is affordable to young entrepreneurs.  One area where you cannot afford to make a costly mistake, is in the field of recruitment of staff.

This is the first of a series of short articles on the steps that you need to take in order to hire the sort of staff that will help move your start-up to a confidently functioning enterprise.  You can do this on your own, or choose to use The Working Life to take you through the process at an accessible price geared to the new small business.



You probably never imagined when you first started your company; sold your first gadget; or furnished your first practice; that the time would come when your success could be measured by your need to recruit additional staff to cope with the growing demands of your business.

Congratulations are in order!  You appear to be doing something very right.  But now you are about to step into a whole new territory that requires a different skills set to the one that you use comfortably every day.  The hiring decisions that you make at these early stages are pivotal to your future viability and success.  A small business does not have the ballast to handle organisational misfits or slackers, nor the time and money to handle disciplinary processes or CCMA meetings.  You need to get it right, but you do not have HR Management training or experience to handle it. So what is the first step to optimal hiring decisions?

  1. Don’t rush into hiring someone who looks promising on the spur of the moment because she happens to be visiting her cousin in town for the weekend.  Never look for a candidate before you have sat down and described the job and all the required skills on paper (job description) and then listed the educational and training background, as well as pertinent personality characteristics eg. ability to handle detail and routine,  that the candidate will need to possess in order to perform the tasks effectively and efficiently (job specification). Do not ask for qualifications that are not, in fact, required for the position either now or in the future. One doesn’t need a bookkeeping diploma just to add up the petty cash. Your requirements need to link to the tasks to be performed or your hiring decisions will not be defensible in a court of law. These two documents will address how you will advertise the position; how you will scan the resumes; what you will look for in psychometric testing; and will keep you more focussed on specifics both at the interview and in the reference checking.

Your task for this week:

Make two lists.

Head one ‘Job Description’ and list all the tasks that need to be performed by the new employee.  Think about what is ‘falling through the cracks’ and what areas you would need to hand over to a new employee in order to free yourself to develop the business further.  What skills do you, personally, not possess, which could be handled better by someone with those skills.

Head the other ‘Job Specification’.  This is more about the person.  What is the minimum education level he/she will need in order to be able to perform the tasks required?  Are there any personality characteristics such as being detail-orientated; flexible in an ever-changing environment; enjoyment of engaging with people?

Work through your listswith someone else who knows your business to ensure that you have adequately captured the requirements of the job and of the prospective employee…… then watch this profile for the Step 2 to be posted on Friday.