Guest blog: Scared to hire your first employee?

We are so pleased to have a guest blog this week from Mandy Hamerla at hr refresh.  For many small businesses that step from working solo to hiring that first person is a scary and big one .. it doesn't need to be and Mandy tells us why ... 

Why hiring people isn't scary

Being a business owner has lots of advantages. You’re your own boss. You do things your way. You work flexibly as you need to.

But, if you’re currently a one-person company, the biggest downside is that you ARE your business. Without you, it doesn’t function. Take a day off, and your business grinds to a halt. And that means no income.

There are currently more than 600,000 businesses in the UK that consist of just one person. And in my HR role, supporting businesses with 1 to 300 employees, one of the most common questions I get, is about hiring for the first time.

The main reason why people find hiring scary

Many business owners have shared with me, in confidence, that they are scared to hire their first employee. There are lots of reasons for this, such as the cost and commitment (can I afford it, what happens if there isn't enough work, what happens if I hire the wrong person), but one of the main reasons is because of a fear of being sued. And when you read some of the horror stories, it’s completely understandable. The cost, the stress, your reputation – are all risks you’d prefer not to endure.

But, let me take this opportunity to set the record straight.

most people don't want to sue you!

Most people want to come to work, do a good job, have some fun and go home to their loved ones.

In my experience of working in HR for nearly 20 years, people will only sue you if you treat them badly or if they feel you’ve handled things incorrectly, which feels unfair or unjust.

If you treat people decently, give them direction, feedback, responsibility and praise –  then it’s likely you’ll never have any problems. 

Take positive action

Although I said it’s unlikely you will get sued, I’m not saying hiring and managing people is always an easy ride.

I would always recommend that you take a couple of steps, to properly protect their business from risk, before making your first hire.  Here's my top tops on what to do, when you're hiring for the first time. 

  1. Create a Job Description – It’s important that you and the person you hire are really clear about what’s expected of them in the role. A job description helps to prevent misunderstandings and conflict before you hire the person and once they’ve started working for you.
  2. Have a robust hiring process – Making the right decision when it comes to hiring is really important. It’s not just about the person having the skills to do the job, but it’s also about the chemistry and ways of working. If you’re going to clash, it’s not going to be a very happy working environment and can end in tears.  So invest time in planning this out and don't rush it.
  3. Have a robust employment contract in place – if you invest in one thing, it must be this. Firstly, because it’s the law and you can be penalised for not issuing one within 6 weeks of someone working for you – but even more importantly, if written properly, it can prevent things like, your employees copying your business idea and setting up in competition, or leaving you and working for a direct competitor etc.
  4. Consider introducing a probationary period – This is another important clause in your contract which means that if you hire someone, there is a trial period. This could be 3 months or 6 months – but ultimately it’s like a get out of jail card if you did make the wrong hiring decision.
  5. Get the essential HR policies - Like bullying and harassment, grievance and disciplinary. Even though you may feel they are not necessary or required, these bits of paper can be the difference of you winning or losing a case at an employment tribunal. It shows you are a responsible employer and sets out the legal process you need to follow.

And if you’re still not convinced that hiring isn’t scary, ask yourself:

‘Can I afford not to hire someone’?

If you never take the plunge and hire someone, then your business growth and profit is limited. You could lose clients to competitors if you can’t keep up with the work you have and you may have to turn work away. You’re in effect chained to your business – which may conflict with the reasons you set up your business in the first place.

Hiring people can feel scary, but this is just the next step in your evolution. Your adventure. Your journey.

Just think carefully about the skills you need, how much you can afford, whether you need someone full time or part time and how this person can free up your time so you can grow your business. By taking proactive and positive steps to make the right hiring decision, and taking your people management responsibilities seriously, this could game changing for your business. 


Mandy Hamerla provides top quality HR support to businesses with 300 employees of less, in a flexible affordable and convenient way. She has a range of clients, from start-ups, to growing businesses and charities. 

Her clients love her refreshingly different approach, compared with Traditional HR Consultancies. Mandy offers valuable advice, an easy online booking, transparent pricing and the choice of PAYG or dedicated ongoing support. 

For businesses with less than 10 people, she also offers downloadable HR tools and templates, designed to help you avoid costly mistakes, solve problems and save you time. This includes how-to guides, and template employment contracts and HR policies. 

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Rachael Savage