Taking on new staff - Why the offer letter is just the start!

I recently wrote a blog post about a presentation I did on 'Effective Recruitment and Interviews'. The process of finding, interviewing and appointing staff is one that many business owners’ dread.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

There are many points at which you can fairly easily go wrong and even with the best interview technique, you can never really tell whether a newly appointed member of staff will fit in with the rest of the team or perform their duties to the required standard until they actually start the job.

One of my points during the seminar, therefore, was that recruitment does not end when you send out an offer letter. In fact, this is really just the beginning! Whilst it can be tempting to leave your new member of staff to it, allowing you to get back to your day job, this is not the most effective way of ensuring that the time you have invested in finding your new team member has actually been worthwhile.

Here are some best practice ideas you should consider.

Training and induction In order to give your new employee the best possible chance of hitting the ground running, ensure that you take the time to arrange or deliver proper training. Larger organisations often have dedicated training materials, such as DVD's, induction packs, IT training and seminars to ready new staff members for work. Smaller businesses, however, often lack the time or resources to put such materials together.

Do make sure that an adequate level of training is provided in at least the basics of the everyday role. Assigning a more experienced member of staff to look after new recruits could be one option that will not only save your time, but may give a responsibility boost to another member of staff.

Health questionnaire You often know very little about a person when you decide to offer them a job. In addition to their ability to perform the job and their personality fit with others in the team, health can play a pivotal role in an employee's overall performance. Issuing a confidential health questionnaire as part of the induction process can be a useful tool to help employers get the best out of their staff.

Whilst you cannot of course discriminate against an employee on the basis of a health condition, the questionnaire can highlight any issues which you may have to address - either immediately or at some point in the future - to help keep employees in the best possible health.

Targets and probationary periods It is sensible to build in a probationary period when taking on a new member of staff. You need to be very clear about your expectations during probation, setting out any targets or objectives you expect the employee to achieve so they have a clear understanding of how their performance will be assessed during this time. Obviously, it would be sensible to avoid any overly onerous targets straight away.

If it all goes wrong and the required standards are not being met, having written objectives or expectations will give you give clear grounds if you choose not to retain the employee after the probationary period.

Get your employment contracts out early When you agree to take on a new employee, you are effectively entering into a contract with them. Whilst the law states that you only need to issue the employment contract within 8 weeks, I would always advise to do this at the earliest opportunity; preferably along with the offer letter.

Employment contracts serve an important purpose for employers and help to protect against a number of issues that can arise, such as data or intellectual property theft. It is also understandable that the candidate will want to know what they are agreeing to before accepting your offer of employment. I, for one, would not accept a job offer without seeing the contract terms I was expected to agree to.

Tick all the boxes As an employer, it is your job to undertake the necessary checks to ensure that an employee you take on has the right to work in the UK; you can be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000 per person if you are found to be employing illegal workers.

Anyone found to have ‘knowingly employed’ an illegal worker could incur a custodial sentence. As an employer, you have an ongoing responsibility to check an employee’s documents at least once every 12 months if they have a limited right to work in the UK, or ensure that you diarise when visas or work permits are due to expire. It is worth pointing out that an illegal worker could also be a student who works more hours than they are allowed to.

Scheduled and structured reviews Within the first few months of an employee's time with you, reviews can be extremely useful as a way of keeping the new relationship on track. When you are busy running a business, it can be easy to let internal appointments slide. However, reviews are invaluable for identifying any issues, therefore helping to ensure that new staff members perform to the standards you expect.

Ideally, you should set out in writing any reviews you would like to have with your new employee at the earliest opportunity after they start. A brief review after 2 weeks to see how things are progressing and to address any glaring problems, along with more formal reviews mid-way and a couple of weeks prior to the end of probation are sensible. Keeping a written record of such reviews is an advisable precaution in case the employee fails the probationary period and you choose not to continue their employment.

Taking new staff on can be a time consuming process. Following the steps above will help keep the process as smooth as possible and give you and the new staff member the best chance of making a success of the appointment; helping them to build a rewarding career and contribute to the success of your business. For tailored advice specific to your business, please contact us. We offer a free one hour consultation to any business that is new to KMC HR.