Chapter 9: HR for Technology Freelancers: Choosing Values, Not Just Skills
If you're just launching your business this week, you can probably skip this chapter. After all, human resources is not something you're going to have to worry about in the next few weeks.
But a substantial portion of our clients subcontract work to others or have employees. That's maybe not surprising: in the world of IT consulting, demand for your services can change overnight from next to nothing to more than you can handle. And because it's possible for demand to dry up just as fast, the logical move for many professionals is working with subcontractors.
So how do you choose the right people to help you grow your business? Marc Prine , an industrial organizational psychologist who helps businesses solve problems in HR, strategy, performance management, and leadership development, recommends looking for two sets of qualifications: skills and values.
Here's a guide to doing that, based on our conversation with him.
Questions to Find the Right Worker for the Job (and the Business)
It may feel funny at this point to think of your freelance work as your "business," but that's exactly what it is. And when you get to the point that the business is bigger than you, it becomes essential to have a defining set of values and goals so that it evolves into something you love. That may sound like pie-in-the-sky stuff, but when you're agonizing over two highly qualified candidates for a position, knowing that one shares your long-term ideals for the business will make the hiring decision much easier.
(Note: if you've invested in the messaging platform we mentioned in Chapter 8, a lot of the grunt work of defining your business values is already done. Hooray!)
Before posting a job description or hiring anyone, Prine recommends figuring out answers to these four questions:
- Where do you want your business to be in a year? In five years? This is like the retirement planning exercise in Chapter 7. Decide what you want your business to be and work backwards: what skills and abilities will your employees need to make your vision a reality? What kind of attitude will they need to have? Hire with the future in mind, and you'll be a lot happier when the future arrives.
- What behaviors and values do your employees have to demonstrate to help you achieve those goals? You know they need certain technical skills. But will your employees also need to be creative? Flexible? Adaptable? Comfortable communicating with clients? Able to multi-task? Maybe you need someone who's good at things you struggle with. Make a list of the qualities your dream employee would have and start looking for those traits.
- How can you test for these behaviors and values during the interview process? Testing for values and attitudes is trickier than testing for technical competence. For example, if you need someone who can adapt to changing client demands, have them do a sample project during the interview and change the requirements halfway through. If you're pressed for time, bring someone on for a single project, pay attention to how you work together, and then make a decision about whether you want to work with them on future projects.
- What will the job you're advertising look like on a day-to-day basis? You'll want your best candidates to like working for you so they stick around. To increase the odds of that happening, Prine suggests creating a realistic job proposal (RJP in HR shorthand) and posting it on job boards. While people like reading about the perks of a position, it's much more important to most people to know exactly what they'll be getting into on a day-to-day basis.
If you're reading this at a time when you really need additional help because you're so swamped with work, you may be thinking, "I'll never have time to do all this legwork — I need someone now!"
The good news is that you can always outsource the hiring process. While this will require you to pay an HR consultant, it will also free you up to focus on what you do best so you can do even more of that in the future.
Next: Chapter 10: Tracking Metrics: How Data Analysis Can Help You Use Time Better