Are You Overlooking the True Value of Entry-Level Employees?

By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

You’re always looking for ways to reduce business spend and increase return on investment, from office supplies to office space. But even the most attentive owner or manager may not think about how to spend less and get more when it comes to hiring. Yet hiring smart at the lowest levels enables you to get great talent below budget and above expectations.

Positioned at the bottom of the business food chain, it’s easy to think of entry-level employees as low-value hires because they don’t have much expertise, they’re comparatively inexpensive and they’re likely to leave.

All that’s true. But savvy entrepreneurs and small business owners see those factors as opportunities, not challenges.

“Entry-level people are the foundation of every business,” proclaims John Challenger of Chicago-based global outplacement and career firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “A robust entry-level hiring program is what smart companies have in place — it’s how you bubble up people who really are tied into the fabric of your business.”

Here are four reasons entry-level hires can grow your business with more potential for less spend.

1. A clean slate. New employees come with an open mind and few bad habits you have to untrain. “Training pays two dividends,” notes Barney Cohen, president of the Business 360 Northwest consulting company in Seattle. “First, you get the chance to teach the job exactly the way you want the employee to perform it. Second, the feedback from the training is positive reinforcement for the employee that helps them stay engaged. A structured orientation plan also gives you an opportunity to interact with the employee at specific intervals.” Making sure new employees have the tools they need to be set up for success is also important. Opt for better-value store brands to avoid going over budget. “The new hire will appreciate the attention, and both you and the employee will feel like you are moving forward together,” Cohen says. Employee handbooks also help them learn about your business.

2. A fresh approach. Young employees infuse your operation with new energy. “All organizations experience a life cycle that, like gravity, always finds a way to decline,” explains Jason Carney, human resource director for WorkSmart Systems, an Indiana-based professional employer organization. “This decline is often a direct result of entrenched, comfortable workers who no longer feel the need to innovate. For all of the perceived ‘negatives’ the younger generations bring, one thing they are not short on is ideas — especially those who have an education.” Hirofumi Leung, president of Dragonfly Restaurants in Orlando and Gainesville, FL, says new hires help overcome stagnation and perception bias. “As veteran and experienced business experts, we tend to become pigeonholed into looking for facts to support our beliefs versus the other way around,” he notes. “Therefore allowing entry-level or younger employees to give feedback not only challenges our old beliefs, but works miracles in sending a message to all staff that feedback and trust are part of our culture.”

3. Deeper loyalty. “There’s a reason brands are always looking to capture the 18 to 34 age group,” Challenger notes. “Once you have them, you can have them for a long time because they’re setting their loyalties and commitments now.” Investing in training and development for these young hires creates what Challenger calls “adhesion or stickiness to the organization.” Leung does that with an intentional approach. “We must do whatever we can to over-manage the things that make us who and what we are — culture and values — and role model how we do things. There is a huge difference between over-managing versus micro-managing. One creates trust and engagement, the other does not. This creates emotional engagement that will set them up for continued success.”

4. Leadership potential. “Every business needs to bring in people who learn the business from the ground floor up,” Challenger says. “You can filter your future leaders from the people who start at the beginning and understand your business not from above but from below — those who have lived in it, seen the problems, worked through them and emerged.” The longer these new hires stay, the more return you reap from your investment and the more your operation benefits from their knowledge and dedication to the business.

Entry-level hires aren’t just low-cost seat fillers. These budget-friendly employees can exceed your expectations, and have the potential to grow with your business in the quest to meet your goals.

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