Without them, your business is nothing… quite literally. Your people – assuming you employ staff – are your most important business asset. But finding the perfect employee can be a headache and an expensive one at that, especially if you hire an recruitment agent to find the ideal person for you. So how can you find the perfect employee without bankrupting your small business?

How to find and keep brilliant people without shelling out a fortune

As unemployment rates plummet, it tends to get harder to find the perfect employee. Good people are always in demand, and they’re the first to be snapped up.

Let’s be honest – corporate loyalty is a bit of a myth. No matter how much you love your boss and adore your job, if someone else offers a better deal or things go a bit pear shaped where you work, you will probably leave. Especially when the employment situation is looking up, like it is right now.

How can you find and keep the best talent to keep your small business on an upward trajectory, without breaking the bank?

5 ways to identify the perfect employee

  1. Create a truthful job vacancy advert laying out the role honestly, warts and all
  2. Ask people in your business networks if they can recommend someone perfect for the job
  3. Ask existing employees if they know anyone who’d be suitable, offering a ‘reward’ if the person they recommend gets the job and lasts more than 3 months
  4. Be realistic – do you really need someone with an MBA to do your office admin, or will they get bored and leave within a few weeks?
  5. Is someone already working for you the perfect candidate? Never overlook internal promotions

And here are 13 lucky tips for keeping hold of the people you value most.

13 ways to hang onto your best people through thick and thin

  1. Provide a detailed job description and be honest about what the role actually involves. There’s nothing more off-putting than being promised the world only to realise, when you start work, that it was all a big, fat fib
  2. Be open and honest about what an employee can expect. Don’t lead them down the garden path, telling someone they’ll be on the Board within a year then breaking your promise
  3. Bear in mind that a job interview is a two way street. You want to find out about a potential employee, but they also want to find out about you
  4. Make it more than just a job. Give people a future. When you provide training and ongoing personal development, workers are more likely to hang around because they feel appreciated, more likely to feel they have a bright future with your company
  5. Be loyal to them and they’ll be more likely to be loyal back – loyalty, if there actually is such a thing in a corporate context – is a two way street
  6. Treat your staff like intelligent human adults. There are few things worse than a working environment that’s like a school, where the boss ‘tells you off’ all the time as though you’re a child. There’s a way to treat grown-ups, with respect, and it doesn’t involve talking down to them
  7. Provide incentives, either financial or otherwise, for people to aim for
  8. Meet your people regularly for a one-to-one chat about how they’re doing, how they feel, any challenges or issues they’re coming across… and if you can do something to make things better, do it. It’s no good being all talk and no action
  9. Create a culture where it’s OK to stand up for yourself, say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests and make complaints when things are going off track. It’s much better than creating an atmosphere where everyone’s too scared to raise issues because you’re such a monster
  10. If possible, give the people who work for you as real stake in your business’ success to help motivate them
  11. Make work fun, stimulating and enjoyable instead of dull and boring – there’s always a way
  12. Teach yourself the finer points of man management, or go on a course. Very few of us are born leaders but it’s something you can learn, and it’ll make everyone’s lives a whole lot easier when you know how to treat people, how to motivate them and how to do everything else you need to do to keep them happy
  13. Think about in-work benefits. Big businesses can afford all sorts of perks, but can you offer any benefits thing that might make all the difference? How about things that won’t necessarily cost you hard cash, for example flexitime or a four day week?

What’s the shortest time you ever worked for someone, and why did you leave so quickly? Feel free to comment and share your experiences with our readers.