I’m afraid to hire new employees, only to lay them off… I’m definitely working more than I should be… I’m sure you’ve been in the same place. Ugh! Thoughts?

Thoughts of the Day: Read your note with concern – this is how business owners get stuck.

Decide how much future hiring will be driven by the need to replace employees who leave. Address the issue that most small businesses lack a deep pipeline of candidates. Recognize that small business owners need to do more to move their employees along in the organization. Insure that the company grows by making that everyone’s business.

Glad you felt confident enough to share rather than suffering in silence and allowing your company to get stuck. When small businesses and their owners run out of ideas, that’s when progress stalls. The best way forward is to learn how to do more things.

Start with turnover.

Replacing employees who leave can create opportunity for others to move up, but if it comes at the wrong time, or in the wrong position, it can be highly disruptive.

Look at history – who departed voluntarily or involuntarily.

Break those groups down into employees who didn’t fit or couldn’t grow, and employees who might have had a bright future had they stayed. For the “don’t fit” group, look for weaknesses in hiring and development. Hire for culture and values. Skills are teachable. People who are committed to the principles and beliefs of the organization tend to stick with their employers much longer than people who are there just because they’re competent at performing a set of tasks.

For the group that left prematurely and seemed to be a good culture fit, look for gaps in how the company develops people and encourages personnel to grow. Plan out the company’s future workforce. Describe attributes and skills, leadership roles and job functions. Identify holes to fill and current employees who might be able to move up. Map out individual training plans to get people ready.

Be ready to grow the workforce size as the company grows.

Build a talent bank by constantly interviewing. Keep notes on people to contact in the future. Encourage candidates to stay in touch, and put them on a newsletter mailing list to stay in front of them.

Pay attention to chain of command. 6-8 direct reports is optimal for any manager or supervisor to be effective. In today’s world of flattened hierarchy, look to team leaders and working supervisors to manage small groups.

Build a management training program to get future leaders ready to develop the people who will report through them.

Identify personnel who are looking for a chance to gain more skills. Talk to everyone in the organization about shared responsibility for growth, how that’s a basic human drive that individuals can tap into to better their future and how you as owner will support people who show interest and effort.

Recognize that some people will likely want to grow in ways that will benefit them in the organization, and others may have interests outside the company. Link the two together, and show employees how growing talent within the company will benefit them in their personal endeavors.

Build loyalty connections by helping people build life plans.

As you build your talent pool, it’s inevitable that the business will go through some ups and downs. If growth stalls, rather than dismantling the workforce you’ve worked so hard to build, re-purpose people who aren’t as busy by involving them in business development. Teach everyone that the more they do to build loyal clients and mine those clients for leads to additional good business, the more secure everyone’s future becomes.

Looking for a good book?

The Talent Management Handbook, Second Edition: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage by Selecting, Developing, and Promoting the Best People, by Lance A. Berger and Dorothy R. Berger.