No matter what your industry, you've likely experienced a bad hire. Maybe you met your perfect candidate at a networking event, hustled through the interview process and made an offer, only to learn all too soon that in your haste, you overlooked something that left you regretting your hiring decision. You're not alone; hiring a top-notch team is one of the most difficult and critical functions you perform for your business.
And for us social entrepreneurs, the hiring process becomes even more difficult. It's extremely challenging to build teams that not only share your social passions, but who also boast the business experience needed to maintain a healthy bottom line.
When building your social dream team from scratch, consider the following:
1. Determine your needs. Before you start making calls or reaching out to recruiters, think about your ideal candidate. What skills do they need to bring to the table? I try to select candidates that perform job functions better than I do; surrounding myself with the best extends my organization's potential and helps me grow my own skillset. In addition, you also want to consider the overall diversity of the team you are building. Studies show that companies who bring together diverse groups of people are able to successfully tackle creative tasks such as product development or expanding into new market segments. By prioritizing diversity during your internal needs assessment, you will actually field better candidates overall. "We found that the engineers who are excited about the fact that we are trying to recruit women--that we have that as a value--are the people who we actually want to be hiring," said Etsy CTO Elliott-McCrea in an article for The Atlantic.
If you're just starting out and have the added pressure of having performed most corporate functions yourself for quite some time, you're likely feeling overwhelmed. Creating a well-thought-out list of positions you're looking to fill will help you emerge from the daily details and develop a strategy for building your team.
2. Cast a wide net. Once you've outlined your needs, take a step back and think through the connections you have. Make a list of peers to whom you can reach out and tap in. Attend networking events regularly to make even more connections. And when you attend, focus on quality conversation; think about ways you can help others at the event and make that your only goal. Then stay connected. Cultivating those relationships built over time will leave you with a large reservoir of talented folks willing to help you--or even join you--when needs arise.
3. Find your balance. Here's the million-dollar question: how do you find people with the ideal balance of social passion and business experience? Our corner of the world leaves us with the unique challenge of discovering partners with a for profit mindset who are driven by a nonprofit mission. Some social entrepreneurs believe this is most attainable with young candidates, who also come with lower salary requirements than their more business-experienced competition.
I've found that social passions and the desire to influence change transcend age. Finding the talent I need for my eco-friendly cleaning company is always my first priority. I screen dozens of experienced cleaners, but I only hire those whose personal values align with our standards and mission. It takes a bit more time to determine if someone has the right balance for your team, but it's well worth it. Checkout the book Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy--great ideas for non-traditional interview questions and job postings that will help you find more qualified candidates--not only in skill, but in attitude.
4. Consider a trial run. There's no law stating you need to commit to a full-time employment relationship with potential hires. Instead, consider working together on contract. Start small and work closely with potential hires, getting to know them and sharing your own leadership style. Build the relationship by assigning larger projects over time.
During the trial period, look for signs of a true team player and high EQ, while watching for red flags of lone wolf behavior. Use this time to see their social passions in action. If your gut tells you that the relationship won't work long term, there's no firing necessary, just don't assign another project. If things feel right, invite them to join your team full-time.
5. Don't stop. You've invested time, money and major effort into choosing the best and brightest for your team and you should be proud of what you've built. Don't lose the headway you've made by sitting back on your laurels. Treat those hard-earned employees like gold. Make sure they know they're family members, not just employees. Have fun and give back as a team on a regular basis. Build them up and help them grow their talents, continuing to invest in them as long as they're under your employment. If you do, they'll pay you--and your social cause--back in spades. B Corporations are already reaping the benefits of this philosophy--especially those companies recently recognized as leaders in creating high quality jobs by B Lab. "With Millennials' increasing demand for work-life integration, B Corps are winning the talent war," said Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder B Lab.
As a social entrepreneur you care deeply about your work and your cause, but you should also care deeply about your people. This is the key to building a team that will help your business--and your social mission--succeed.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.