1 Easy Way to Fill Entry-Level Positions with Great Employees

Do you find yourself in the position of constantly hiring for entry-level positions, and feeling frustrated by the poor quality of the applicants?

Many small business owners struggle to fill entry-level positions with great employees. Competition for labor often leaves small business owners feeling pressured to compete with wages paid by larger employers in their area. When you are maxing out on the wages you can afford to pay an entry-level employee and still remain profitable, it’s time to consider other perks.

Small businesses have a KEY advantage over corporate employers, but very few owners recognize it, much less leverage it. The advantage is this: a great employee has the opportunity to advance their career much more rapidly in a small business than they ever could in a larger corporation.

Many businesses advertise the “opportunity for advancement.” What does this really mean? Very few small business owners give much thought to what this really means. Even fewer have articulated a clear path of advancement from an entry-level position through the ranks of the company.

The best employees are interested in advancing their career, even when they are starting out with you in an entry-level position.  Even though you may have a vague idea of how an employee would advance in your business, your employees may not be clear about this. You are at risk of losing your best employees when they are unclear as to how they can advance their careers with your small business.

The next time you are hiring an entry-level employee, here are some questions to consider:

  • What is the next promotion for this employee?
  • What is the pay increase for that promotion?
  • What criteria must that employee meet to receive a promotion?
  • What personality strengths are needed to perform the duties of that next position exceptionally well?
  • What skills are needed?
  • Will you provide the training needed to acquire those skills? If not, how will you support that employee in acquiring the necessary training?

Keep asking yourself this same set of questions for each promotion as an entry-level employee advances in your company. Once you have answered these questions, you are in the position to tell an applicant about real career opportunities with you.

Consider the difference between telling an applicant, “We start you at $10/hour and you have the opportunity to advance with us” versus telling an applicant, “We start you at $10/hour and if you work hard, over the course of the next 5-10 years, we’ll support you in moving up into a management-level position, with the opportunity to earn $80,000 or more annually.” The second scenario will be much more attractive to a career-minded applicant, making it much more likely you will attract and retain an A-Player employee for your entry-level position.

TIP: Make the first promotion easily achievable for an employee who is a real go-getter. This is psychologically motivating and will increase your odds of retaining that employee over time.

Sabrina Starling, Tap the PotentialWritten by:

Dr. Sabrina Starling

2 replies
  1. Jon
    Jon says:

    Thanks for the great article! Because of the nature of my industry (manual labor, outdoor, dog waste removal) I find it very difficult to find high-quality employees, which are essential because the job is 99% unsupervised (each scooper works independently).

    Personally, I’ve found the best solution for MY business is to hire 2 part-timers each time a full-time job is available. Inevitably, one of the two hires will flake and fall away, and the other usually digs in and works into the FT position within 3-6 months. The bump to FT comes as a type of promotion, as does a set of incremental raises at 3 and 12 months. At 6 months, my scoopers PTO accrual doubles from 1 to 2 weeks/year.

    Finally, and most importantly, I treat my team members with the utmost respect, dignity and in all interactions I imagine they are my sister (who not long ago was a single mother working an entry-level position in a coffee shop). After a few months on the job, the ones who work out, REALLY work out and the ones who don’t (usually due to immaturity that makes an unsupervised position untenable) figure it out and leave of their own accord.

    All 3 of my current FT employees came that way, and one former employee who, after a few years working for me bought out my interest in my sister territory (Oklahoma City), moved there himself and now has his own franchise :-)

    • Sabrina Schleicher PhD, PCC, BCC
      Sabrina Schleicher PhD, PCC, BCC says:

      Hi John,

      Thank you for sharing that. I love the solution you have found. You have built in a lot of positive reinforcement to reward good employees and help them move up. Hiring 2 part-timers definitely increases your odds of at least 1 of them working out. You’re right that A-Player employees gladly step up when asked to do so!

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