An SME manager has little time for a staffing policy busily engaged in searching for new clients, project management, marketing and keeping an eye on the books. Even so, finding the right people and retaining them is more important than ever.
“Up until two years ago, we really didn’t give any or hardly any attention to HR: a staffing policy was something that we did on the side, something to do in the evening,” said Ann Vandingenen. Eight years ago, she established Avento, an IT company that provides mobile CRM solutions. “Our people were approached by other companies almost on a daily basis. They were often tempted by companies with a well-developed HR department that offered them growth and development opportunities.”
Our lack of attention to the staffing policy led to staff turnover. Plus, as an IT company, it’s already difficult enough to find the right people. “So, I attended some seminars and read a lot. Going through UNIZO, I attended the Randstad Professionals workshop on being an attractive employer,” said Vandingenen. UNIZO is the Dutch abbreviation for the Organisation for the Self-Employed and SMEs. This is where she learned about the importance of using employer branding to attract people and about a useful typology for retaining people. “Tineke Van den Bossche, who gave the workshop, explained how each type of employee deserves a different approach. She taught us that you must use the right type of energy for the right type of person.”
Ann Vandingenen went to work armed with this new insight. Today, we are more committed to employee development at Avento. There are development interviews and everyone has their own training budget based on their own aspirations and the company’s needs. “We have also ensured that there is a lot more involvement. Staff propose HR projects and then carry them out. Today, we’re rolling out homeworking. In fact, it’s a sort of distributed HR.”
Do all of these HR efforts get results? Ever since Ann Vandingenen focused more on HR policy, there has not been any staff turnover and the company has grown from nine to twelve employees. “The workplace atmosphere is also more peaceful,” she noted. “The next step is employer branding. We are working with our people now to make it clear what our core values are. This will allow us to clearly communicate the added value of working here. We already differentiate ourselves now with our HR policy. But we still need prospective employees to become aware of this.”
For SMEs, working with external staff is often a way to bring HR expertise in-house in a cost-effective manner. “When you take on a consultant or interim manager, you get someone with experience but without blinkers, someone who works in a solution-oriented and efficient manner. A consultant is less attached to what is already in place when it comes to making difficult decisions,” said Mireille Vandevorst, who has more than 20 years experience as a HR manager. In 2016, she started as an interim manager, freelance senior recruiter and career coach, and Randstad deployed her as such in the same capacity.
Efficient recruitment and selection is more complicated than people usually believe. “Recruitment and selection are constantly changing,” she confirmed. “There are constantly new job boards, more and more opportunities via social media, extensive LinkedIn activity, the latest hypes… Companies often hold on too long to what used to work. A consultant will introduce innovate ways of working and will challenges you to think out of the box.”
However, an external consultant lacks knowledge about the company. “This makes it important to have a good intake interview. Talk with the hiring manager about competencies and talents, the essential responsibilities, company culture, company values, etc. And that's not all, you must obtain this essential information during a brief informal interview with all stakeholders: the team members, the immediate colleagues and indirect colleagues from other departments with whom there’ll be close cooperation.”
Is a consultant in an SME then little more than a bull in a china shop? Absolutely not, said Mireille Vandevorst with certainty. “A manager can simply disregard a consultant’s advice if they want to. An external expert will not be offended, whereas an internal employee might be more sensitive to such a rejection.”