two people shaking hands in an interview
From tackling first hire challenges to sharpening the onboarding process, the experts at ADP offer insight on best hiring and onboarding practices. — Getty Images/AndreyPopov

One of the most exciting — and, perhaps, nerve-wracking — milestones for a small business is the moment they decide to hire their first employee. Hiring someone is a big deal, and if you want your company to continue growing, it's important to get this process right from the very beginning.

CO— recently spoke with Tara Wolckenhauer, DVP of human resources at payroll, HR and tax service provider ADP®, to uncover some of the biggest challenges small businesses face in hiring and onboarding their first few employees. Read on for Wolckenhauer's advice on finding the right talent and making them feel welcome and successful from day one.

Common first hire challenges

When a small business is ready to hire its first employee, it's usually because the owner is stretched too thin and needs someone with specific skills to accomplish certain tasks. As tempting as it may be in this situation to hire the first qualified candidate you find, it's important not to rush the hiring process.

Wolckenhauer said it's best to find the right person for your business overall, and strive for a mix of skill and cultural fit.

"Wait for a person who has the potential to grow your business because they have skills that align with your culture and mission," she said. "Be diverse in your selection. Cast the net wide. Don't just pick someone you know or ... someone else knows. Get out there and look. Take your time."

Another big challenge for smaller companies is covering the "basics" of being an employer. A great culture and mission do matter to job candidates, said Wolckenhauer, but competitive pay, benefits packages and total compensation packages also play into their employment decisions.

[Read: The Best Employee Benefits for Keeping Workers Happy]

"The complicating factor is that small businesses sometimes don’t always have a lot of cash flow," she said.

To that end, small business owners should address several important human resources-related considerations before their first hire:

  • Do we know how to properly price our jobs beyond minimum wage, and do we have the money to support that?
  • What do we need to offer for benefits and paid time off?
  • What labor laws and compliance requirements will we need to meet?

Make sure the new hire has knowledge of how to be successful in all aspects of their work.

Tara Wolckenhauer, DVP of human resources, ADP

Developing your onboarding strategy

Once you've found your ideal first employee, you'll need a plan for onboarding them so you can set them up for success.

Wolckenhauer said the most important aspect of onboarding a new employee, especially your first, is making sure they understand your business's purpose and how they fit in.

"Sit with your new hire, talk to them about the business and what you're trying to accomplish, and where they play a role in that," she told CO—. "[Discuss] the importance of the job and how that impacts future success of [the business]."

Next, you'll need to get your new hire acquainted with their day-to-day schedule — the who, what, when, why and how they will do their job. This includes not only their tasks, but the administrative aspects of working for your company, such has their break schedule, how to log their time and where to input time off requests.

"Make sure the new hire has knowledge of how to be successful in all aspects of their work," said Wolckenhauer.

Finally, be sure to set aside an appropriate amount of time to devote to your new employee. If you have other owners, managers or contractors working with your company, Wolckenhauer recommended introducing your new hire to them so they can network with and learn from those individuals.

"If you are hiring somebody, you owe it to them to spend time being present with them," she added.

[Read: Hiring for Your Startup? Follow These Tips from Entrepreneurs]

Tips for adjusting and improving your hiring process

For larger, established companies, hiring and onboarding processes don't often change. However, in a small business — especially one that's just begun to grow and hire — things can be drastically different from one hire to the next.

That's why Wolckenhauer recommends evaluating and adjusting your hiring process every time you bring on a new employee. She advised putting your hiring and onboarding processes down on paper to ensure you're documenting everything and learning as you go.

"Assess how ... their onboarding [went], where you're at in the business, etc.," Wolckenhauer added.

Most importantly, check in with your new hire frequently to ask how things are going, what you can be doing better and other general feedback questions.

"It doesn't cost money," said Wolckenhauer. "It's just common decency [to let someone know], 'You exist and I notice you.'"

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CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published August 08, 2019