Fail to plan, plan to fail. It may be a corny old saying, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up a huge section of the New Zealand economy, but many are time and resource poor and therefore miss the mark when it comes to recruitment, viewing it as an ad hoc role-by-role requirement instead of as part of an essential operational plan.

So, what do you need to consider when you’re looking to take on new talent, and how will you know what’s right for your business, size, and industry?

Questions to ask of your business

Do you even know what you want to plan for? Before you start your recruitment planning, consider the following four issues to help you understand what you already have available in your business.

What is impacting my industry sector and resource?  

The latest data (June 2021) from the online employment marketplace SEEK NZ presents a snapshot of the rise and fall in the number of job ads listed by various sectors. These include consulting and strategy business (down 13.8%, a whooping shift from the month prior when this sector was up 7%), call centre and customer service (up 2.1%), information and communications technology (up 2.6%), administration and office support (up 12.4%), and banking and financial services (up 4.4%). Of particular interest is the finding that had its highest ever number of jobs advertised for the fourth consecutive month, while the number of applications per advertised job fell 9% month-on-month. “This fall in jobs applications is not limited to one industry or a specific region," says Rob Clark, country manager of SEEK NZ. "There are staffing challenges in nearly every sector, with month-on-month applications per job ad down in 18 of the 28 industries SEEK monitors.”  

Not who but what?

When was the last time you performed an organisational review of employee skills, alignment to job description, tasks performed outside of those roles, departmental Venn, and skill gaps? You may have had all the best intentions in the world to discuss some of this in individual performance reviews, but projects and client needs took precedence, and you ran out of time… again.  I recommend you make this a priority.

Are you getting value for money, or are you underpaying?

Ouch, this issue can be confronting. I am an advocate of staff reviews that double as salary negotiations, and, equally, an advocate of organisations obtaining value from employees for the role they perform. At Customise Talent Group, we have worked with customers who have elected to provide counter-offers ranging from around 10% to as much as 40% over the past eight months. Although figures at the higher end of the spectrum are outlying examples, they have been increasing in specific technology and executive cases to ensure resource and organisational knowledge retention. Benchmarking is one part of the solution offering. Another way to understand what’s involved is to search “NZ Salary Guide 2021”. There are also a number of other sources online to benchmark your salary offerings against others in your region. 

Are you doing what you’ve always done?

The market, candidates, and environment have changed, and yet many businesses continue to use the same recruitment processes that were successful in a completely different market environment. Some may have chosen not to engage a recruitment agency historically, driven by fee consideration, but then spend hours scrolling through a wad of 200 candidate applications. This takes them away from their core role and business before they arrive at a shortlist of quality candidates. Recruitment agencies are here for a purpose. They specialise, creating time and cost efficiencies for your staff and business. If you do want to power on ahead by yourself, however, read on for my five-step starter recruitment plan for your SME.

It’s worked before and it’s not broken, so why change?

We have seen many shifts in the recruitment market since covid first hit, and especially since the country started emerging from the impact of the lockdowns. Michael Viner, managing partner and owner of Customise Talent Group, says there has never been a more important time for SMEs to have a sound and strategic recruitment plan. “The ultimate goal is to manage staff resources so workloads are appropriate, thus reducing the chance of employee burnout, or worse, staff attrition, and ensuring that growth targets are achieved.”

Having a plan puts you in control. It allows better conversations with staff and ensures a focus on recruits working well with employees who are already well established in their roles. As teams face exhaustion and increased stress, higher employee turnover and reduced optimism are often the end result.

The one plan to rule them all

Okay, so that concept is not entirely accurate, but as humans, and in business, we do tend to overcomplicate things that can be simple and effective. Here is my five-step starter recruitment plan for your SME business:

  • Create accurate job descriptions: Is it the chicken or the egg? Either way, you have to crack this so you know what skills and team traits you need in order to perform your best organisational work. Don’t be afraid to review as people come and go. Just as an individual will learn and grow into a role, so should the business, to understand the skills and qualities that best fit with team and resources still in place.
  • Understand your story and culture: People want to work in cool places on cool projects and make great money, but not all roles or industries can feel that way. Culture is tangible; the same job, in different environments, can allow someone to thrive, or wilt. Employees and candidates can find fulfilment and drive in unexpected roles using their transferable skills, so be open to talent from new sources.
  • Know your departmental / annual budget: Just like the housing market, some organisations are feeling a little low on budget when it comes to the candidates they want. It doesn’t have to be all about the dollars. What other benefits – leave, development, exposure, mentoring – can you offer? Get creative.
  • Keep looking: A great candidate won’t be on the market for long, so keep an eye out, ask for referrals, work with an agency you trust, and/or create a talent pool of those you think may be a great fit for your business. If you have roles with churn, where were your last great hires from? Leverage what has worked, but as mentioned earlier, also be open to new types of people in roles with transferable skills, a great attitude and curiosity.  As Jacqui Bradler, chief people officer at suntan and skincare company Bondi Sands, says in episode 17 of the Rosey on Recruitment & Career podcast, “They may not have worked in the industry but those fresh eyes might be fantastic.” Indeed, they could be a game changer.
  • Streamline your process: Just as a great candidate won’t be on the market for long, they also don’t want to go through a one-way interrogation to work for you. Figure out what’s important in your process, and what can be outsourced or consolidated, before a candidate meets your people so they can be prepared and the impact on their workday is minimal. Really think about how you can ensure you’re only spending time with quality candidates in the best way, and turning that feedback around as soon as possible. What can be done in the background so an offer to your preferred candidate can be expedited?

Ponder this: If your organisation doesn’t have a recruitment partner or a plan for your people and direction, how well are you supporting your current team, and your future possibilities?

What to do next?

If you need a little more help, get in touch with Customise Talent Group for personalised support with your recruitment plan and needs.  We are a New Zealand-owned and -operated agency with an innovative and unique recruitment business. Our partners are a team of individual business owners who aspire to deliver exceptional service to both clients and candidates. We’ve developed many long-standing partnerships – based on trust, transparency, and professionalism – with a range of recruitment solutions, from talent resourcing and executive search across a broad range of disciplines, to recruitment process outsourcing [RPO] on-site solutions.