With new hiring in the U.S. this year predicted to hit record levels since 1999, an increasing number of small business owners across the country are swinging quickly from "I can't afford to hire" to "I can't get new hires in here fast enough." It's a good problem to have, but it is a challenge. Finding great talent and then getting them up to speed requires real time and resources. We're feeling that pain at Mindflash as we currently have several open positions. If you're among the growing ranks of companies planning to hire in the next several months, what can you do to ensure rapid time-to-productivity for your new employees?

Consider Hiring for Attitude to Hire More Effectively
U.S. employers are taking longer--25 working days, on average--to fill open positions, according to the Dice-DFH Vacancy Duration Measure. The time to hire for companies with 5,000 or more workers is even longer, at 58 days. Which makes sense to me looking backward to the Great Recession. When you have a very limited (maybe one) new salary you can afford to add, with limited (maybe no) capacity in your current staff to train the new person, you're likely to take an extended period of time to find the "perfect candidate" who possesses both the critical soft skills and the right hard skills the role requires. It can be the best route to getting someone who can hit the ground running. But it can also restrict your company's growth until this elusive "unicorn" materializes...or you eventually hire for attitude anyway. According to a recent report by DeVry University's Career Advisory Board, only a mere seven percent of hiring managers said that "nearly all" or "most" candidates have the right mix of skills and traits that companies desire in a new hire.

That's why at Mindflash we've made a conscious and critical shift in our hiring approach that has paid off tremendously. We follow a "hire for attitude, train for skill" method. In many of the roles we're hiring for, we first and foremost look for candidates who have the ability and passion to learn and who are also strong cultural fits. Then, we invest in training them in the necessary skills once they are on board. This has led to some untraditional hires, including a former restaurant manager we recently hired in a software customer service role, and both a former professional cyclist and chef that we've hired onto our sales team. This approach has swung open the doors to wider talent pools for us, leading to faster and more successful hires. Our company is growing at 3X the rate of our peers, so we feel that this approach is working.

Train from Day One
As we recently reported in a Harris survey, a shocking 41% of U.S. workers report having received no skills training from their employers at all in the past two years. I'd highly suggest the other extreme: make sure you are providing some training starting on a new employee's first day. Why? I've found it to be a really compelling signal that the company is invested in that new recruit's success. It can be as simple as having the new sales guy shadow a sales call or, as we do, providing a short self-guided online training course covering some basics about our company in our own voice. We call it our "Welcome Wagon" course and it's pretty popular. The person we hired yesterday has his Certificate of Completion on his desk, making a good conversation starter with all the tenured employees who pass by.

After the Day One training, it is key to have a training plan for each employee for the weeks that follow. A 2012 survey of 500 HR executives showed that more than 25% of new hires choose to leave within the first year with new company. Be sure you're helping them become and feel productive, and you can reduce or eliminate the high costs of employee turnover.

If you're unsure of how to get going, professional tips on building an effective training plan, quickly, include:
1. List your top three measures of success from training (e.g. close $10,000 in sales per month in month 3, etc.).

2. Define three training topics required to effectively train for each goal (e.g. basic product knowledge, pricing and discounting policies, identifying and overcoming common objections are key to reaching the monthly sales goal). It is a best practice to involve your most successful people, and your newest hires, in determining the training content that is most valuable.

3. Delegate the job of creating the first three courses to a combination of subject matter experts and training professionals to ensure you get content that's authentic, relevant and well-designed. Aim for interactive courses of no more than 20 minutes in length.

4. Identify how you want to deliver the training--online, mobile, offline or a blend. Match the medium to the message. In our experience a hybrid approach of live and online training is most effective to combine the benefits of in-person interaction with those of self-paced learning. Also, match learning channels to your audience. Never before have so many generations worked together so be sure to customize your training delivery based on if you are speaking more to millennials versus baby boomers.

5. Learn from your new hires' experiences with the first courses and apply those insights in crafting the courses that follow.

6. Track training results and correlate with business goals to determine any needed revisions in goals and/or training for the next period. Share outcomes with course creators and new hires to create motivation for ongoing participation in this critical activity.

Training is a mutual commitment between employer and employee that results in bottom-line wins: increased productivity, reduction in errors, boosted sales--not to mention the engagement and retention that comes from employees feeling that you're truly committed to their success.

A training plan helps ensure consistency in the process and sets you--and your team--up for success in the long term. As we hire, let's do right by our new talent and by our own investment in them from day one.