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Is it the right time to hire?

By Jonathan Sweet

Tips on when to add new employees – and the smart way to do it

The marine industry continued to improve in 2012 and most of the big players are predicting another uptick in business in 2013.

Most companies have been making do with fewer employees for years as the industry climbs out of the recession, but we’re already seeing an increase in hiring, especially in service departments, says Neal Harrell, president of industry recruiting firm Brooks Marine Group. Manufacturers, dealers and suppliers that work in the under-30-foot portion of the market have also started to make some hires, he says.

“The segment that continues to struggle the most, that tends to be the least likely to be hiring now is the 40- to 60-foot production motor yacht world,” Harrell says.

So is it time to add more staff as you ramp up for the 2013 season?

5 signs you need to hire
While there’s no magic formula – by the time you realize you need help for sure, you’re already well behind in the process – here are five items to look at in your dealership to see if it’s time to hire.

1. Revenue is on the upswing
Increasing revenue is at once the best and worst reason to hire more employees. If business isn’t increasing, it’s tough to justify the added expense, but if additional employees will allow you to create more sales or service work, it can still make sense. Once you include the costs of salary, benefits, training, etc., do the numbers work? How much revenue can this person realistically generate?

At the same time, just because revenue is increasing again doesn’t mean it’s time to hire if the new hire doesn’t help you sell more boats or increase other ancillary revenue streams.

2. Your employees are working too hard
Most companies have gotten an incredible amount of work out of their employees over the last few years as they’ve cut back on staff. But that can only go on so long. If your employees are starting to complain about hours and workload, or you find yourself turning down requests for vacation, you may have a problem on your hands.

And disgruntled employees won’t be afraid to look for a new opportunity. A recent Right Management study found that 86 percent of employees are at least looking for a new opportunity – up from 60 percent in 2009. In another survey from Glassdoor, 23 percent of respondents said their top resolution for 2013 was looking for a new job.

Neal Harrell spoke at the 2012 MDCE on recruiting employees.

If it’s not possible to relieve the pressure right now, make sure you keep employees aware of what is going on, Harrell says.

“Business owners and managers have got to come to the table with employees and have open, frank conversations about the state of the business, the employees’ role, their value, their goals and how the company can help them get there,” he says.

3. You’re not thinking “big picture”
As an owner, the focus should be working on your business, not in your business. That is, thinking about its long-term success, not tying up every minute with sales, service, paperwork, etc. Unfortunately, many owners have had to take on more day-to-day duties, leaving items like business plans and long-term goals in the waste bin. If someone else was, for example, managing advertising, could you identify new opportunities in your business?

4. Your company can’t take advantage of business opportunities
Got a surefire way to make more money? Whether it’s expanding service hours or providing new on-water training, sometimes employee workload or skills are the only thing standing in the way. If it’s workload, the only option may be to hire, but if skills are the issue, figure out if your current team members can be trained to accomplish the new mission. The benefit is that it may also allow you to hang on to someone that you may have feared having to let go. For example, can your under-worked delivery captain take over managing a rental fleet?

“If you’ve identified someone who’s an integral part of your organization and due to market conditions you’re having a difficult time keeping that person busy, maybe there’s an opportunity to cross train them in other areas,” Harrell says.

5. Then again … there may not be a “right time”
Harrell says there is no right time to hire – that companies should always be in a hiring mode.

“I preach that you always have your eyes open for talent and you task your people with doing that as well, from your department managers all the way down the line,” Harrell says. “That’s what the best companies are doing.”

The best companies have taken advantage of the downturn to “up talent” – replacing marginal performers with the best from other dealerships.

Finding the right fit
If you’ve decided to hire, you want to avoid making an expensive mistake.

Between 50 to 80 percent of all hires are not successful, according to Spader Business Management. Depending on the position, Spader estimates that the cost of hiring a bad employee – in lost productivity, strain on the rest of the team, training, etc. – can be equal to two to 12 times the employee’s annual salary.

A successful hire starts with a formalized process that should be applied to every new opening. Someone in the company, whether it’s a human resources director or other manager, needs to be responsible for updating and refining the process. The process should start with the job description and continue through every step down to bringing the new employee on board.

“And that’s one thing companies do not do a very good job of, what I call onboarding,” Harrell says. “You’ve made the hire, he or she shows up on day one, how do you bring them at that point into the organization?”

One of the most common mistakes companies make is creating a poor job description, eliminating good candidates before they ever apply, Harrell says.

“I see companies consistently doing a poor job of selling themselves,” he says.  “In this day and age of online postings and social media, and recruitment through technology, companies can do a much better job branding themselves to the prospective employee.”

The best candidates are motivated by having the opportunity to make an impact in their new position. They want to go somewhere where they can make a difference, so “selling” the company from the job description through the interview process is key. Avoid job descriptions, says Harrell, that say a candidate “must have this or must have that.”

“I tell people to try to tell a story,” he says. “What it’s like to work here, what our company culture is like, why you would leave what you’re doing now to join our team.”


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