Build a Better Business: Human Resources Edition

January 17, 2020

Most small-to-mid-sized companies can’t afford to employ a human resources professional. They also don’t see a need for one, until they’re smack in the middle of a costly and challenging HR problem. However, human resources is central to growing a business successfully. Even if you can’t hire someone full time, partnering with an HR consultant can save you time, money and great people in the long run by preparing for issues before they arise.

Get ahead of HR headaches by following these best practices:

Clearly define each employee’s job. Having clear, written job descriptions for every role might sound tedious. And insignificant. But think about it – it’s the tool you use to attract qualified candidates. It’s how the employee understands their responsibilities and opportunities for advancement, and how managers fairly judge performance. It keeps people engaged, motivated, growing and accountable. Unfortunately, if you have to let someone go for not fulfilling duties or meeting expectations, job descriptions become legal documents used in unemployment hearings. To be truly prepared, employers should view every HR document as a possible legal reference because they might very well become one.

Document company policies and procedures. Upon hiring, employees must know how they’re expected to operate within the company and for what behaviors they’ll be held accountable. I recommend outlining these in an employee handbook and having each team member sign an acknowledgement that they’ve read and understood its contents. The handbook is used to govern certain aspects of employment and provides supporting data to remove hearsay from potential legal disputes.

Keep accurate performance records. Hold annual reviews with every employee to document plans for growth, memorialize achievements and provide direction for improvement. Additionally, if an employee’s attitude becomes disruptive, negatively impacts team members or their behavior puts themselves or others at risk, it must be addressed out of protection for the company culture and work environment. When those discussions take place, be sure to identify the problem, clarify your expectations and focus on corrective steps. Keep notes on your conversation, date and file them – ensuring the employee has signed and retained a copy as well. Remember, employees are people first – with lives, families and circumstances you might know nothing about. Be candid with them, but also be kind. Be gracious. Be on their side.

Pay attention to federal and state regulations. One of the biggest hiccups I see companies run into is accommodating regulations that newly apply to them as they grow. Based on the number of people you employ, state or federal regulations such as the Family Medical Leave Act take effect and must be implemented in a timely and accurate manner. Healthcare requirements, discriminatory practices and other laws are moving targets, so if you don’t employ an HR professional, staying on top of workers’ needs and related regulations becomes a part of your job as a business owner.

Be fair and consistent in following through. None of the above preventive measures will help you if you’re inconsistent about implementing them. What’s done for one employee must be done for all. In the end, equality in execution is what really matters.

Today, human resources professionals are strategic business partners – not merely benefits administrators or crisis managers. They help protect the company, work environment and team members as you grow. Workplaces are dynamic, evolving settings, and they’ll continue to change as technology, society and the political climate progress. If you want people to love where they work and have long, fulfilling careers with your company, you’d be wise to enlist the help of an HR professional and be proactive in these key areas.

 

Blog by Nancy Roeming, Executive Director of Human Resources.

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