In small businesses HR is often pushed to the bottom of the pile. You can't justify a HR role, either full time or part time, and you think that employing an external HR consultant will be expensive. So it often falls on one or two of the managers, or even a secretary, to take charge of HR issues, employment records, documents and compliance. As Julia Roberts famously said in Pretty Woman... "BIG mistake!".
If you're giving HR a low priority - as many small business owners do, at least until there's a problem - then you are definitely missing a trick. Employees can be your biggest asset or your worst nightmare. So, aside from the legal compliance issues, here's what you should be thinking about:
- Recruiting the right people at the outset and not just settling for the first applicant with a pulse.
- Making sure your staff know what is expected of them in terms of the job role and their behaviour and level of commitment.
- Making sure that your employees are "engaged". It's a bit of a buzz word in HR at the moment, but if they're not interested in what the company is doing or how they can contribute, then you won't get the best out of them and they won't feel fulfilled in their work. They have to buy in to what you're doing and they should want to be part of it.
- If you can provide training - even just cross training across different roles - this not only makes the jobs more interesting, but it helps plug gaps if someone leaves the company or is on sick or holiday leave.
- Don't under-utilise your staff's skills. It will just leave them feeling frustrated. Let them shine.
- Reward your staff fairly, in line with market rates. You don't need to be over generous, but don't be a scrooge either. Remember, though, that job satisfaction and loyalty are never the outcome of high salaries. I have been in positions myself where I've been trapped in jobs because of the salaries and perks, but I've hated the role. This causes resentment to build which is not conducive to a happy work environment.
- Ensure that everyone knows the company rules, and that they are applied fairly across the board, without exceptions. For example, timekeeping standards and absence levels must be evenly monitored and any problems should be nipped in the bud. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to address.
- Likewise, performance issues need to be addressed early and support and training should be provided if necessary.
- Hold regular team meetings and swap ideas and news. Make sure the meetings are accessible to all and that all views are respected and welcomed - however trivial.
- Appreciate your staff at all levels and remember your Ps and Qs. "Thank you" goes a long way.
You can't afford to ignore documentation, policies and procedures, but these 10 points should help you make a healthy start. There are undoubtedly many more aspects that you need to consider, and I'd love to hear your views.