Can’t retain good staff? Chances are you’re making one of these three mistakes

workplace culture

Carly Greenwood (SmartCompany) discusses staff hiring and retention with (from left) Performia’s Gareth Jekel, Envato’s Amber Johnson and Culture Amp’s Christian Miran.

Recruiting and retaining the best talent is often one of the most challenging – and expensive – undertakings for small businesses. While a great hire moves your business forward, the price of a bad hire can go far beyond the initial recruitment cost. A quarter of small businesses have been hindered by a bad hire, according to research conducted by SmartCompany in 2018. 

But for small business owners who don’t have the luxury of dedicated hiring teams or recruitment resources, discerning a great hire from a poor one can often be challenging. 

“The hallmark of a great hire is someone that delivers the expected result without the need for external pressure or orders,” says Gareth Jekel, director of Performia Asia. So how do small businesses sort out the top talent from the not-so-great candidates and the downright bad hires? 

Time to re-think your hiring process? Start by downloading Performia’s Hiring Strategy Checklist.

The key is to approach your recruitment with a clear objective and strategy. Here’s how to find and fix the flaws in your hiring process: 

Mistake 1: Offering the wrong kinds of benefits

Compensation still plays an important role in attracting top talent, but it doesn’t necessarily keep them engaged. If you’re offering more money in an effort to keep high-performers around, it’s an indication that there is a problem in your talent management process. 

As the owner of several businesses including marketing consultancy Basic Bananas, Franziska Iseli knows how crucial it is to find the right people for the role. Iseli attracts the right talent by looking beyond purely monetary rewards and instead offering a holistic set of benefits. 

“Allow your team to have a great life by giving flexibilities such as flexible work hours and working from home,” Iseli advises. “Team culture and a feeling of belonging are incredibly important. Appoint a team happiness rockstar to organise team outings to get to know each other and bond.”

Look to attract talent by communicating your culture, values and mission: research shows 90% of professionals have researched the culture of a company before accepting a role. This will ensure you find people who are inspired and motivated to contribute to your organisation, not just those attracted by the initial signing bonus. 

Mistake 2: Writing a generic ‘catch all’ job ad

It can be tempting to appeal to a wide range of candidates with a generic job ad. Or it may be the case that steep job-board listing fees tempt you to get your money’s worth with a lengthy position description. In both cases, quantity does not deliver quality. 

Jekel says that when it comes to hiring, a targeted approach that gets in front of the right people will deliver better results than casting a wide net. 

“Ultimately what’s the goal of the ad? You just need one person to apply who fits the job and is able to execute the mission,” Jekel says.  

When tailoring your job ads, be specific about the qualities you’re looking for – but avoid writing a laundry-list of duties and responsibilities. Instead, outline the mission and vision that a successful candidate will take on. 

Mistake 3: Not properly checking references

You’ve just conducted a great interview with a winning candidate who seems to tick all the boxes. Before you send away an offer of employment, remember to do your due diligence. 

Miriam Sandkuhler, founder of Property Mavens, has learned the hard way the importance of vetting candidates.

“I have made some dreadful and costly mistakes with staff hiring…One disaster ended up with me applying for an intervention order against an ex staff member,” she says. 

“The cost of a bad hire could be as low as the initial cost of the hiring and some lost wages, or as high as a destroyed business costing billions,” adds Jekel. 

According to Jekel, small business owners should look for the following when vetting their candidates. 

  • Record of success: A candidate should be able to demonstrate with hard figures their track record of adding value to a company. 
  • Motivation: Productive candidates that can add real value will be motivated by the challenge of the role, not the perks it offers. 
  • Knowledge checking: Where possible, observe a candidate’s skills in action – whether that’s getting a sales manager to meet with and inspire your sales team, or getting a software developer to spot bugs in a line of code. 

To recruit and retain the best people, it’s crucial that you clearly communicate the culture of your organisation and the mission statement of the role. Once you’ve found that star candidate, doing your due diligence will prevent any nasty surprises down the track.  

Let Performia help you fix your hiring process. Start by downloading their Hiring Strategy Checklist. 


Performia is a global HR consultancy specialising in recruitment tools and strategy with offices in 29 countries. Performia services include strategic recruitment advice and training on hiring processes.

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