One of today’s top challenges for many entrepreneurs is how to hire and create a winning team. Putting together a dynamic group of employees who are passionate about the mission of their company is crucial for success! It can also be very expensive.


Many small businesses lack the resources to pay for expensive testing to determine a potential employee’s fitness for the opportunities available. Same applies to paying recruiters to find you the “perfect” placement.

The advertising, interviewing and training investment you make in each new employee is substantial, costing time, energy and money. If you want to build a top notch team but have a small business budget, you likely can’t steal away the current experts in your field to work for you. When you invest in a new employee, you want to retain the individual to reap the benefits of your investment while offering them unique opportunities for growth.

Yet to those of us who started our operation on a shoestring budget, bootstrapping everything we could, the idea of a “hiring process” seems almost too standard a procedure to use in our fluid entrepreneurial environment. It’s not always possible to maintain an entrepreneurial mindset alongside more traditional corporate hiring practices.


In the early days of my company, when I was its only staff, it was difficult to plan ahead for the time I would hire my first employee, much less an entire team. I was too busy trying to survive. As my company grew, so did my need for help.

My constant question was how and where I would find the people I needed with the knowledge and passion necessary to do the job… at what I could afford to pay.

Even when you are in a desperate situation, don’t make a move toward identifying and hiring your first employee until you’ve defined the overall vibe you want your business to exude. It’s much harder to do so once you’ve hired and have employees in place.

This can make or break everything. The team you put in place becomes part of your foundation, especially in a small business. As difficult as it sounds, you have to know your tribe before you build it. It’s easier than you might think.

First, determine what personality type you work best with. Look at other areas in your life, at relationships. Then think about your own shopping or service experiences. Think vacation. Anyone who’s taken a vacation has stepped into a gift shop or received some kind of service for the first time. Some of them make impressions lasting a lifetime. Others are completely forgettable. Make a list of the things you like most and least when you’re the customer. Use that information to create standards for your own business, as a blueprint for your personal vibe. Write down what you find out, to keep you mindful of and focused on the intentional creation of the workplace culture you desire. You can easily design your specific, written employee guidelines later using these initial benchmarks.

As a retailer, mine included the following criteria:

  • What type of dress is acceptable given your type of business? A potential employee must be willing and able to meet a basic dress code. My guidelines called for jeans without holes and t-shirts. Shirts could be branded but not carry a message. Shorts were fine too, but must reach mid-thigh. Because we unloaded pallets of inventory five days a week, closed-toed shoes were required.
  • What are your values? Honesty, willingness, compassion, teachability and a desire for serving others were at the top of my list.
  • What is your concept of customer service? I am extremely particular regarding this provision. I’ve had great interviews with people who exhibited everything I liked to see, but couldn’t master the social aspect of retail.
  • What kind of learner are you? Written, verbal or experiential? The more staff you add, the more important this becomes.
  • How do you normally solve problems? What happens when the problem becomes a verbal conflict? How do you handle unhappy people?

These are just a few considerations I made before hiring. Understand the requirements you have of an applicant prior to making your first hire will help you build a strong, loyal team of employees with a clear understanding of your needs.


Faced with a need to hire your first employee while keeping in mind your end-goal of building a team you will one day lead, a savvy entrepreneur looks for and hires people who exhibit raw talent and the willingness to learn. Where to find them quickly becomes your new challenge.

Start by looking at the people close to you. I spent almost all my time at work, helping customers while slowly building my company. In the process I came to know a variety of people, many of whom became passionate supporters of my business. It naturally followed I would look to this group first when I hired.

No matter what population you draw from, it is important to evaluate and select the best candidates for your specific industry. Particularly when you choose candidates from your customer base or decide to hire someone who works for a local competitor, use caution. These people may also be influencers, able to directly impact your profitability should the employment relationship sour.

One tool I use is a simple criteria list. The list helps me narrow down who I should approach while reducing the overall number of potential hires. I look for basic things when assessing a person’s readiness and approachability:

  • Do they look you in the eye during conversations?
  • Can they assimilate and recall information? Try a little mirroring exercise to determine their abilities in this area. Ask, “Do you remember our conversation earlier when we talked about _____? How did the information help you at the time?” Simple, unassuming questions give you a clear understanding of how they process information. It also gives you a chance to evaluate their delivery of information.
  • How do they stand? Erect or slouched? In a physically demanding environment, physical core strength is important. Slouching may also indicate low self-esteem. A person’s posture shows more about herself than they might imagine.

In the end, you have to decide based on ALL the information you gather, the challenges you can work around when hiring. Once I decide to offer someone a position, they are subject to a 60 trial period. During that time, if either of us felt they weren’t the right fit or the job was not as they’d expected, either of us could end the employment relationship, no harm done.


Once you’ve found your perfect new hire and they’re ready to come on board, what can you do to set both you and them up for success?


From your first hire to your last, look for people you already have a good relationship with, who understand what your company does and why. I recruited most of my top talent this way.

It’s important for both parties to keep in mind the changes that must take place in your relationship when hiring someone you know. Boundaries change when a customer/business relationship becomes one of employee/employer. Roles must be redefined clearly. Methods of communication also change. What might have been a very fluid relationship is now more structured.

After several mistakes and losing two key people, I learned it is necessary to have these issues addressed in writing as part of an employee handbook, operational guidebook or in a form suited to your particular type of business. Bottom line, get clear on what you need as an entrepreneur and employer before hiring.

You’ll make changes to your operating guidelines over time. Your first concern is easing the transition from customer to employee. The smoothest transitions are made when both the person hiring and the candidate being hired are on the same page. In time, you will create an extraordinary team of employees who love what they do and the people they work with.


Training a new employee isn’t as daunting as it may sound. A new employee is going to have deficits, skill sets they haven’t developed yet or have no aptitude for. From the first day, communicate consistently with your new hire, their mentor, and the rest of your team. During their first few weeks, check in daily with the mentor you’ve assigned to get feedback and keep your new hire’s training on point. Your concern should be how can you set them up for success.

  • First, as the owner or CEO, introduce your new hire to the rest of the staff or your team. They need to feel welcome and as comfortable as they can be on their first day of work. Once they’ve met the team, as the day goes on, introduce them to customers. The best way to build a new relationship is taking the first step to creating it by facilitating communication. Plus, your new hire will immediately start to feel part of your team.
  • Partner your new hire up with a seasoned employee whose strengths best match the needs of your new employee. This mentorship begins with an understanding of what you as the employer expect from a mentor. Provide a list of what you’d like your senior employee to focus on while mentoring a new hire. A mentor can act as sounding board, offering suggestions and advice to the new hire, as well as direct training.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm your new hire. Start training on the basics first, for example, teaching them how to answer the phone or emails. If you have a standard greeting, ensure they’re aware of it by putting it next to the phone or providing an email template. You might also provide a list of the most commonly asked questions, with answers.
  • Teach them to greet people, the way you want them to be addressed, as they come into your business or contact you online. This is the first impression most customers will have with your business, so I was particular about this skill.
  • Test their technology skills on the first day, whether it’s running a spreadsheet or using your company’s software. Measure their starting baseline. Most people catch on quickly. Some take more time and a few just can’t get tech. If you have hired someone who cannot get the tech side of the job, you’ll have to determine if there is another position in your organization they can fill or if, despite the thoroughness of your interview process, your new hire simply isn’t a good match.
  • Have a basic guide to the products you carry or services you provide, why they are unique and any selling points. This is especially important if you specialise in a certain service or product market. For example, I owned natural pet food stores and the learning curve for a new employee was at least six months. Don’t set your expectations too high. Everyone learns at a different pace.

These are but a few training strategies. Consistent communication between your new hire, their mentor, your existing team, and your customers, will help you quickly identify and act on any potential training challenges.


Make it a practice with all your employees, whether you have one or 1,000, to notice and appreciate what they do well. Touch base with them often to strengthen the relationship you’ve worked so hard to develop. An appreciated employee is more likely to speak up when she knows they’re a valued part of your team, even as a new hire.

Happy, motivated employees communicate openly, making an easier time of addressing areas in need of improvement. A team of employees who know the business owner respects and considers their opinions, will give their much-needed feedback during a hiring cycle.


Once hired, set your new employee up for success by using these techniques. Work to build relationships, provide strong mentors, offer a well-designed training program, manage expectations and keep channels of communication open.

In doing so, you create a rock-solid foundation on which your business will continue to grow. Well-trained, bound together by a common desire to serve customers and the larger community, this incredible team you built will shine!

Robin Aldrich is the founder of Robin Aldrich, LLC, Healthy Hound, Inc., and the Boomerang Business Project. A U.S. Navy veteran, she offers 30 years of military, nonprofit and business leadership to her clients. With a focus on Servant Leadership, building Entrepreneurial Mindsets and Personal Development, she consults with corporations and individuals passionate about building strong relationships, both personal and professional. She is published on Addicted2Success,Thrive Global and Medium.

Have your employees lost confidence in their ability to do their work?

Perhaps the company is working with fewer resources on bigger projects.

Maybe employees have had to take on more responsibilities.

Or perhaps the company structure has changed due to a re-org or new leadership.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve noticed employees are less engaged or less productive, they likely could benefit from more confidence at the workplace. As a leader, you possess the skills and some might argue, the obligation, to encourage your employees’ confidence. Not only will they be happier in their jobs and more likely to be retained, but in challenging situations, their increased confidence will help ease transitions, reduce tension and increase motivation. Here are my five suggestions for how to increase confidence in your employees.

1. Open lines of communication

Keep the lines of communication open with all employees, at all times. According to The Carrot Principle by Adam Gostick and Hester Elton, your very best performers are also often the most insecure people in the organization. Talk with employees about their work environment, even those exhibiting no signs of stress or lack of confidence. Don’t assume you know which employees will benefit the most from this conversation. Have it with all of them and have it often. Specifically address:

  • The company: What’s important to the company at this time? What are the business objectives?
  • Their role: How does he/she make a difference? How do his/her efforts align with the business objectives?
  • Their motivation: What’s in it for him/her when he/she does make a difference?

2. Set Clear Expectations

Ensure employees understand what is expected of them. Link these expectations to benefits for the company as well as the employee personally. A best practice is to write them down and regularly review to measure progress and course correct when necessary. Confidence in the workplace involves trusting and believing in the leaders. In turn, make sure you understand what the organization and your manager expect of YOU.

3. Be Conscious about Recognition

It is important to notice and recognize when employees meet their personal goals or achieve steps toward meeting goals. Recognition does not have to be expensive or take a lot of time – sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. It’s important to be specific about the behavior or result being recognized and to connect it back to the company’s goals. It’s also important to give recognition evenly and consistently. Strong leaders will find something to recognize in each employee based on their daily job performance and contributions to the overall business goals.

4. Encourage Idea Sharing

Encourage employees to share their ideas and create forums where these ideas can be easily exchanged. Be fully in the moment during these sessions giving your employees and their ideas your full attention. Adopt the philosophy, “There is no bad idea in idea sharing.” Listen closely and take opportunities to build rapport across the team, group or company. Having a voice and having it heard is important in boosting confidence.

5. Reduce negative talk

As I recommended in Increase Your Self Confidence in the Workplace, changing the little voice in your head that says, “You can’t do that” or “You’re not smart enough for this” into more positive thoughts eventually helps your brain change the interpretation of the situation. As you become more optimistic, you build self-confidence about your abilities to handle the work. Similarly, replacing negative talk with optimism will help employees build more confidence in their abilities to do their job and motivation to work toward the team and company’s goals.

Taking these simple steps will help boost employees’ self-confidence in their ability to do their job well and feel confident about their value to the organization. By building their confidence, you will make a difference in your employees’ commitment to their work and establish more positive outcomes for the company.

An unknown source said, “With confidence, you can reach amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond our grasp.”

What amazing heights will you help your employees reach today?


Linda O’Neill is the vice president of strategic services at Vigilant, a company dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve their most complex employment issues. Linda is a certified executive coach and organizational development expert who works with Vigilant members companies to create high functioning organizations, at the individual, team and systemic levels. Linda is graduate of the University of Oregon, BS in journalism and public relations.

One of the biggest mistake recruiters and HR professionals make is failing to consider the weight that company culture has on the value of a candidate. It’s not hard to find someone who possesses the required education and several years of industry experience – the real task comes in finding someone who is all of that and more. Sometimes, finding a cultural fit is more important than finding someone with a wealth of experience. It’s amazing what an impact that can have.

The Benefits of Finding the Perfect Cultural Fit

Hiring for culture comes with some distinct benefits – benefits you may not get when you hire based on other priorities. In the long run, hiring for company culture purposes might be more efficient. Culture is a huge factor for a number of reasons, but a few stand out above all of the rest.

Employees who mesh well with culture are more willing to learn and grow in their environments. Those who don’t may not be patient enough to wait it out and learn to navigate your office.

Cultural Fits Need Less Oversight

If an employee is a cultural fit, it isn’t hard to keep that person on the right track. They understand what they’re working towards and the goals of the company. They embrace their environment, and they’ll get along better with their coworkers. Think of it like a chorus where everyone is in perfect harmony. It’s easier to empower these employees when they feel like they’re a part of your mission.

Cultural Fits Stay Longer

What happens when you hire an employee who doesn’t relate to your company culture? Not much. That employee won’t fit in, and is more likely to gravitate to a different place. Employees who mesh well with culture are more willing to learn and grow in their environments. Those who don’t may not be patient enough to wait it out and learn to navigate your office.

Incorporating Your Company Culture into Your Job Description

Start early. If you don’t know whether or not someone is potentially a cultural fit before you get them in the door, you’ve wasted time and resources drawing in the wrong candidates. Your job description should touch on your company culture, and emphasise its importance.

Use Company Culture to Make Your Description Stronger

A great way to frame your culture is by contrast. Read a few Gumtree posts about similar jobs. What do your competitors say? Are the messages generic? Infusing your job description with key points about your company culture and work environment will help you stand out from your competitors, encouraging potential cultural fits to prefer your opening over similar openings.

Provide Rich Examples

Words are great, but pictures and videos speak a little louder. What’s important to your company? How do people work together? Do you have an unconventional office that offers a unique opportunity? Showcase everything you have to showcase. You want a candidate to feel inspired to apply, rather than obligated. The people who ultimately respond will be people who will be happy to work with you. They’ll envision themselves in those photos and videos interacting with other members of your team. You’re helping them capture the passion before they’ve ever met a member of your company, and you can’t beat the enthusiasm that comes along with that.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to tell who is really a cultural fit until they’ve spent a few weeks in the office. As long as you have a decent grasp of what you’re looking for and how to get it, you’re far more likely to wind up picking the perfect candidate the first time.

Winona Chandler is a blogger based in Sydney, writing for several online magazines and managing a small marketing team at With a background in IT administration, she likes to cover tech and startup topics. She loves to travel and discover new cuisines.

The business world is buzzing with the news that Richard Branson has announced unlimited vacation leave. From Branson’s blogI’m delighted to say that we have introduced this same (non) policy at our parent company in both the UK and the US, where vacation policies can be particularly draconian. Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch”.

Branson says he was inspired by Netflix – “simply stated, the policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!

It sounds like an employee’s paradise – no need for leave forms, or accruals, just take the time when you need it, as long as your work is up to date.

I am a big fan of Richard Branson as an entrepreneur, but I do believe that businesses need to consider carefully before they emulate him on this. Absolutely, it can work, but you need to have the right culture for it.

If you have any of the following underlying assumptions in your company culture, unlimited vacation is not likely to succeed. Does your culture expect your people to:

  • Avoid mistakes, work long hours and keep on top of everything, all the time.
  • Compete with each other and work against others to fight their way to the top.
  • Take charge, always be in control and make autocratic decisions
  • Gain status and influence by being critical, looking for flaws and challenging others ideas.

If it does then people are not going to take leave unless they absolutely have to. This culture creates workaholics and micromanagers, and taking leave will be frowned on. Or if people DO take leave they risk their career by “not being around when we needed you”, or “you weren’t here, so the big project went to someone more committed”. You are likely to end up with burned out employees who NEVER take any time off.

Or does your culture expect people to:

  • Avoid being blamed for mistakes, to do as they are told and to clear all decisions with someone.
  • Conform, follow rules, do the right thing and make a good impression.
  • Agree with and be liked by others.

This culture is very “nice”, we all get along and have great relationships. But this creates two potential scenarios; people who don’t take time off because they don’t want to let the team down, or add to anyone else’s workload by not being available. If you have a small team and you take time off, someone else needs to pick up your work, right? And “I couldn’t do that to the team”. Or you get people taking lots of time off and work not getting done, because managers are ineffective at setting good goals and performance indicators and managing people who don’t meet them.

So what does your culture need to look like for this to work?

  • High trust, across the board, with everyone.
  • Employees who are highly motivated and engaged with their work.
  • People have a proven track record of effectively managing their time and workload.
  • Your people are supportive, constructive and sensitive to others needs.
  • Everyone has autonomy and empowerment in the way they choose to work.
  • You also need to ensure that no one person is critical – that you have at least one back up person for every role.

Is it working well for other businesses? Yes. But they got the culture right first.

What do you think about unlimited holiday leave – yay or nay? Let us know your thoughts as an employer or employee in the comments below!

Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Visit to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ e-guide to Leading Change. Written for managers who are tasked with leading organisational change, the guide presents practical steps to leading successful change. Ros also runs the Shaping Change Inner Circle, an exclusive membership network for driven leaders around the world who are passionate about making a difference, building successful businesses and leveraging the talents and skills of their people.

Photo credit: Eason C

​As a supervisor or manager, one of your key tasks is to manage the employee relations within your organisation. So, what are ‘employee relations’ and how exactly do you manage or indeed improve them?

Employee relations encompasses the overall management and wellbeing of your organisation’s employees including, but not limited to, their behaviour and morale. It is the common denominator when creating successful engagement initiatives, whether it be around performance management through to workplace health and safety.

To generate improvement in this area, and gain happier and more productive staff members, follow these 5 key tips for a manager to improve employee relations within an organisation.

Improving Employee Relations

1. Communication

Stop sending essay-length emails and get back to basics. Use bullet points and, where possible, pick up the phone or walk over to your colleagues to disseminate information. Check out this eBook on how to communicate to increase your productivity.

“Reward good ideas and keep staff updated”

2. Career Development

Create plans that include career pathways and succession planning, with input from your line reports and potentially their staff. Institute tuition reimbursement for recognised and relevant education

3. Vision

Ensure your company vision is not only part of your day to day culture, but that your staff live and breathe it. Share plans, and get employees excited about the organisation’s future. Ask for ideas on what can make the company more productive – a good way to do this is to narrow down the areas that you wish to see improvement in. That way staff have some direction around where to harness their creativity. Reward good ideas and keep staff updated.

“Ensure that each staff member knows what their boundaries are, what success looks like and the expectations of both their immediate manager and the team as a whole”

4. Motivate

Employee of the Month programs are great, as are incentives and rewards. However, they are short term behaviour changers, and you need to get the fundamentals right. Ensure that each staff member knows what their boundaries are, what success looks like and the expectations of both their immediate manager and the team as a whole. The absence of any clear guidelines or feedback can be detrimental to ensuring positive employee relations.

5. Good Health

Encourage a work/life balance. Give staff some control (where possible) over their schedules by offering flex time or working from home options. Stagger start and finish times to avoid peak traffic. Provide education around healthy eating, exercising and managing stress. Don’t pay lip service – lead by example. Encourage breaks and suggest walking meetings to get some fresh air as opposed to stuffy boardrooms where possible. Companies can face a big cost in terms of managing absences due to stress, so ensure you identify the signs early and step in quickly to alleviate any long term problems.

“Don’t pay lip service – lead by example”

Essentially employee relations are all about your investment in your people. Your people are also the key to your business success, so don’t take them for granted otherwise your productivity and in term your profit will diminish.


Featured photo credit: InternationalHouseManchester via photopin cc


Kathie-Kelly-Leaders-in-Heels-bio-img-finalKathie Kelly
Kathie Kelly is the Director of Square Pegs Consulting which provides assistance to not for profits, businesses and individuals with recruitment and HR projects along with sourcing funding and developing corporate partnerships for charitable organisations.

Kathie has spent a number of years in recruitment/workforce planning, marketing/business development and corporate partnerships/fundraising in both New Zealand and Australia.

An ex ballet dancer and a keen supporter of the arts, Kathie has also been on the board of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, absolutely loves to travel and is an avid rugby league follower. You can connect with Kathie on LinkedIn at or follow her on Twitter @1KathieKelly.