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Is Word of Mouth the Best Way to Source Staff?

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Is Word of Mouth the Best Way to Source Staff?

Bringing together the right team for your small business is fraught in any setting, but how do you source the right people when the pool is somewhat smaller?

If your small, regionally based business is like many I know, when you need a new employee your first point of call is to ask someone you know if they know someone. After all, as regional Australians, we know that opportunities are more likely to be conveyed via word of mouth; ‘it’s who you know’.

Perhaps you’ll cast your net a little wider and use an employment agent or Job Services Provider, putting just a little bit of trust into the recommendation of that external source. Even in this case, I bet you can’t help but do a Facebook search to see who your candidate knows that you know and make your decision accordingly.

And the word of mouth loop repeats.

There is a lot of logic involved in employing people close to your circle of trust. After all, you want customers to trust your business, and you want employees you can trust. What better way to find a trusted person than to ask someone you already trust.

But it can go pear shaped, and when you live in a small community, particularly when you do business in a small community it’s just a little more difficult to escape people you don’t want to run into.

Am I trying to say word of mouth is the wrong way to employ people in regional communities?  Absolutely not, it’s better the ‘devil you know’, right?

However, I do suggest you consider a range of ways to engage your team for the following reasons:

  1. When you rely on recommendations from your peer group you are perpetuating more of the same. We are living in dynamic times, and it’s time for businesses to innovate, expand thinking, try new things. More of the same doesn’t necessarily perpetuate this.
  2. There are few things quite as awkward as a soured relationship in a small community where it is very difficult to ‘not’ run into someone.
  3. Building on the previous point, it’s not only the former employee you may not want to run into, a regionally based Small Business owner I recently spoke with told me a gruelling story about being spat on in the street by the wife of a disgruntled former employee. Remember, your employee also has a trusted circle, and word of mouth doesn’t always convey positive news.
  4. There are pockets of disadvantage in every community. These are the people who probably won’t benefit from word of mouth, and if they do come up in conversation, it could be for all the wrong reasons. Yet, there are enormous opportunities in breaking down these silos and the intergenerational unemployment and poverty often associated. Your job can change lives, not only the life of your individual employee but also their families and circle of trust.
  5. The above-mentioned point isn’t only about stardust and moonbeams (i.e. doing the right thing). Engaging with new sectors of your small community can also expand your customer base and at the very least increase the flow of money through a community via the creation of employment (e.g. spending power) where it may not have previously existed.
  6. When an individual passes the word of mouth test, one may assume they have the built-in morals and values implied by the recommendation. Relying on this belief and ignoring basic human resource practices (read as becoming complacent) can easily lead an employer to a potential fair work dispute.

So, before you start your search for that new team member, take just a little while to answer the following questions:

  1. What are five possible ways I can find a new staff member?
  2. How can I include at least three candidates to the interview pool who aren’t connected to people I already know?
  3. What values do I expect my staff to carry?
  4. What are my expectations of my staff?
  5. What skills/attitudes/dispositions do I want in my organisation that I don’t currently have?
  6. Where is my organisation going and what role will my team play in taking it there?

Remember, it’s not only you as the employer who uses word of mouth to make decisions. Your employees will also have an impact on the way the broader community thinks, talks about and interacts with your business.

The right team can make or break your business so choose your team consciously and for the right reasons.

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