Employing Your First Apprentice

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the uphill struggle that small businesses face to keep staff motivated during times of economic hardship. But for many companies, it could be too much of a fight to keep staff – who may well look for higher-paying alternatives elsewhere – on their side in order ride out the current financial storm. In fact, many start-ups may find themselves with their backs against the wall, trying desperately to find a way to keep employees on-board and motivated whilst not being able to fully meet a salary that the current cost of living demands.

Faced with this situation, it’s easy to get demotivated yourself (which, incidentally, will probably rub off on your remaining workforce). So it’s vital that instead, you focus your energy towards finding a cure for your business head-ache. One such antidote could be employing an Apprentice, a move that the mayor of London – Boris Johnson – has recently urged small to mid-sized business to consider heavily when looking to hire new workers.

Rejuvenating the Workplace

Many businesses seem to be put off by the prospect of an apprentice due to the level of commitment required to train them, but instead it may be worth looking at the positives. Personally, when I think ‘apprentice’, I think youth, fresh ideas, buckets of enthusiasm and a positive work ethic, and to me, all of these great attributes more than justify investing a few extra hours per week into their career development. And what’s more, with the Government now providing up to £1,500 worth of funding to firms as an incentive to take on an apprentice, it looks to be a great financial move too.

In the past, I’ve worked for a number of companies who’ve looked towards young talent to grow their business – and it’s proved to be successful in every single case. Not only does it allow small firms to take advantage of the financial rewards offered by the scheme, but it also gives the office a new lease of life to have a young, ambitious and talented, fresh face around.

How to Take on an Apprentice

Now that you know exactly why hiring an apprentice can be both very rewarding and lucrative for your business, your first step should be to contact the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), who can offer advice as to which scheme will best suite your business. There are many different types of apprenticeship programs, so it’s important to choose the right one from the offset.

Next you’ll want to advertise your apprenticeship on the internet. There are many jobsites that allow you to post apprenticeship positions on the web – such as Reed, Monster and Total Job. It also helps to keep your net as wide as possible, increasing the number of good quality applications you receive and allowing you to cherry pick only the most promising talent – take a look at how to post the perfect job advert for more tips in this area.

Finally, you’ll need to put together a training and development plan for your new protégé. You’ll be responsible for the apprentice’s on-the-job training and arranging the supervision, mentoring and support they’ll need whilst working with you, so it’s very important you plan well ahead in order to keep things running smoothly when they start.

Maintain Enthusiasm in Your Workforce during Economic Hardship

The Motivation Monster

You might think that during times of economic hardship that staff motivation should feature second – or even third – on your to-do list. But as we looked at last week, a recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that many small to mid-sized businesses are under heavy strain to bridge the gap between salary and the cost of living for their employees. With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand why many workers in the current climate are finding it increasingly difficult to stay motivated at work; with many feeling undervalued, unenthused and unfocused within the workplace.

And with staff ultimately driving the bottom line of your business, it’s never been more essential to get out your sweats and play the part of Mr Motivator in order to keep your workforce on a high and maximise your employee’s efficiency. Remember, by losing employees, you may well end up losing your business too.

The Motivation Hit List

Okay, there will no doubt be a hundred and one ways to tackle low employee motivation, but in the end it all boils down to the root cause of the problem – in this case financial strain. In the mind of the employee, underpaid is synonymous with undervalued, and if you feel undervalued then you’re less likely to maintain focus or enthusiasm over your work. Obviously, stuffing more bank notes into pay-packets (in this case) is not an option (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article), so instead we’ll look at other ways to strike each contributing factor off the motivation hit-list.

1.    Make Employees Feel Valued

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re of no worth to a company – as if you’re just a cog in a machine that the business could replace on a whim. What’s more, if you have an employee who feels undervalued, you have an employee who’s not shining to their full, gleaming, potential. So, how do you tackle this problem and make them feel more like a pillar holding up the company, and less like a wheel going round and round.

The most obvious answer would be to include them in business discussions; ask their opinion on how the company should run in certain areas; keep them informed as to business direction and, in a nutshell, make them feel like they’re making an active and beneficial contribution to the future of the company.

It’s also important to set aside some time to relate to your workforce on a personal level. By this I mean talk with them on a one-on-one basis not only regarding the business, but about other things too. By opening the door to this employer-employee relationship, you’ll break down all kinds of barriers that may have stopped your employees voicing their opinions and concerns in the past.

In short, communicate with your workforce regularly; make them the one’s you go to for advice, opinions or just a friendly chat, and you’ll find yourself spearheading a team that feels much more appreciated and proud to work for you.

2.    Keep Employees Enthused

It’s not easy to keep your staff brimming with enthusiasm when they’re faced with all kinds of financial difficulties (including job security!), but if you’ve already tackled the first step in making your employees feel valued (see above), then you’ve also taken a giant leap in rediscovering their passion for their jobs. The next rung in the ladder is to bring that passion right up to the surface – so it’s there for all to see. Passion is infectious; get one staff member beaming with enthusiasm, and you’ll probably find the rest start to shine too.

How to discover this hidden passion? For most people it’s already there, you just need to know how to fish for it. Imagine you’ve a customer service team; they’re on the phones from 9am until 5pm every day taking calls from disgruntled customers. It would be hard to maintain any kind of enthusiasm when you’re being dealt verbal blow after verbal blow from the other end of the earpiece. Why not, then, put a positive spin on this? Try running a competition, whereby the customer service employee who successfully solves the most complaints – turning angry customers into happy customers – within a week, wins a small prize. Or perhaps get the marketing team together once a week for a no-rules, crazy, creative, whacky workshop in an effort to come up with a great advertising campaign.

It’s things like this that gets people remembering why they love what they do, and will help to no end with employee enthusiasm.

3.    Maintain Employee Focus

When you’re sat behind a computer desk all day, with money troubles on your mind, it can be hard for anyone to stay focused. However, there are little things you can do to help keep your staff productivity levels high, and apply all of their energy to their work.

  1. Make work fun – I’m not saying blow up a bouncy castle and stick it in the middle of the office, but rather make every effort to ensure employees associate the workplace and work crowd with good times. Hold an office quiz every Friday afternoon, break up the days with off-topic discussions, or maybe even get everyone out of the office for twenty minutes in the afternoon for a coffee break – together. It may seem backwards logic, but keeping things fresh like this means employees don’t slip into other kinds of procrastination, and it also helps a lot with staff attitude and morale!
  2. Hold frequent catch-up and career development meetings with employees. Showing them you like to keep up to date with what they’re doing will have a positive effect on their productivity.

Closing Comments

To summarise, it’s not going to be easy turning around an unmotivated team, but just a little more effort in the right areas could make a huge difference.

Of course, it all starts at finding the right staff for your business – and no-one can help you do that more than HiringMadeSimple.co.uk – check out the homepage for more information.