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Does Your Business Need a Social Media Policy

Does Your Business Need a Social Media PolicyOur team spends a lot of time writing and revising handbooks. Many of our clients come to us with no handbook in place or one that hasn’t been updated in several years. For this process we have a standard list of policies that should be in every handbook and then we have a few policies we ask the client to consider based on business, industry or culture.

One policy that usually generates conversation is the social media policy. Our clients usually find themselves in one of two schools of thoughts about social media. They either don’t care entirely and want no policy in place or they want to lock it all down and make sure employees are never on social media at work.

We prefer a policy somewhere in the middle couple with training on effective use.

The reality is employees are going to be on social media. You can lock your work computers down from accessing Facebook or Twitter, but you can’t lock down their personal devices. Social media, like taking a smoke break, has become a routine part of most people’s day and locking it down only make them find some other way to do it. At the same time, giving employee’s free reign, in some environments, can lead to lost productivity or situations where social media is used inappropriately creating larger issues for the company.

Further, as I’ve talked about many times on this blog, small businesses may need their employees to help spread the word about hiring or branding initiatives and locking the networks down only prohibits advertising that could help the company. Your best brand ambassadors are often your current employees and if their social networks are active, you want them talking about your company.

Our compromise is to create a policy that speaks to proper usage of social media. We point out that social media should not take the place of other work being done, but that when time permits we encourage employees to use social media and talk about the company (positively) when the situation allows. The policy highlights a few areas that the company wants their employees talking about; recruiting, fun employee events, big initiatives the company is working on. It also shares areas where social media is not the proper outlet; employee grievances, intellectual property, anything covered by a non-disclosure.

We encourage employers to go over this policy and add training tidbits during employee onboarding. Training employees on the proper use, what will and will not be tolerated can reap major benefits for companies wanting to allow for social connection, but mitigate the risk of that connection causing headaches.

Social media is not an area where an all or nothing approach is the only option. There is middle ground that can and should be found for both parties. Companies recruiting on social can’t expect those employees hired through social channels to live for a locked down social media policy.

Admittedly, I do have clients who still think social media is unnecessary, do not have a social presence as a company and therefore want a completely locked down policy. I can honestly say that in the last two years those companies are and few between and those who used to think this way are starting to change their mind as their marketing departments get more and more involved with social. For the companies still in the social media dark ages, I tell them a prohibitive policy is legal, but don’t expect employees to follow it. Also, expect it to be the first place employees go with grievances because chances are good the company without any presence won’t see it anyway right? It may be legal, but isn’t realistic.

Modeling the behavior you want to see on social, training employees on proper use and having a policy that protects you when things do turn negative is the approach we have seen work time and time again. Middle ground, in this instance, is the best place to be.

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Create a Robust Benefits Package That Makes (Most) Everyone Happy

Create a Robust Benefits Package that Makes (Most) Everyone HappyIn today’s world, people want a variety of benefit offerings from their employers- in fact they pretty much expect it.

Companies used to be considered great employers if they offered decent pay and medical benefits, but that is not the case anymore.  Employees are looking for employers who have the same values as them and therefore make offerings that meet their individual needs. They want more flexible work environments and therefore flexible benefits packages. For example, millennials strife with overwhelming college debt, may be interested in student loan payback benefits. Boomers and Gen X may be  more interested in 401(k) vesting schedules or long term care benefits.

Being an employer that has a robust benefits package doesn’t have to be daunting or bankrupt your business either.  Offering a benefit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to foot the bill.  If you get the right mix of plans it will also help your business stand out and recruit top talent.

So where to start? Here are a few simple steps to help you get started towards a more robust benefit offering.

Create a Benefit Survey

How do you know what people want for benefits if you do not periodically check in with them? While you may already know your benefit offerings for 2018, your may want to schedule a benefit survey for the end of Q1 next year. Ask questions to get a pulse of how your employees feel open enrollment went (the good and the bad). During this time, also ask some direct questions about the current benefit offerings and rank how important this is to them. If copays are the most important, that should be the last benefit you touch and make negative changes to.  After you get some info on the current state, throw in some new benefits the organization are considering. If your employee base is older, they may not find any value in student loan payback benefits. If your population is younger they may be really interested in pet insurance or maternity/paternity benefits. A simple survey can get you those answers and help you offer new plans that really add value and aren’t just another administrative headache.

Get Quotes and Plan Information

After you have conducted a survey and know what benefits your employees are interested in, start researching what is out there from different providers. Get as many quotes as you can and start reviewing networks and payouts. Many times employers feel like they can’t offer certain benefits because of cost. Remember, they are called voluntary benefits for a reason, and employees don’t really expect employers to pay for pet insurance or universal life, they just want to have the ability to enroll in them and therefore are happy to pay the cost.

If you are taking a look at current offerings, begin talking with your broker about options for the next plan year as soon as results of your survey are back. Make them aware you want to see some costs of changing the plans based on the feedback you received. Maybe your employees thinks their co-insurance is too high, or they want more contributions to their HSA.  This allows you to price out some options and start analyzing the impact on the bottom line. Maybe you make some, all or no changes.

Make a Decision and Rollout

Once you have reviewed all the plan designs including costs and ease of administration, get the right players together and make a decision of what you should add. If you need Finance’s help to reconcile bills make sure you get their buy-in.  Also, be sure to think about the number of plans you want to add. Too many options and you may not get the enrollment numbers you were hoping for and the rollout may flop.

Finally, get together a rollout timeline. For new benefits, you may not want to wait until the next open enrollment and instead would prefer to do something in the summer so you can properly communicate it.  For other standard benefits like medical and dental you may be required to wait unless you want to amend the plan, so it may make sense to look at the numbers and make changes for the upcoming plan year.

And after all is said and done, make sure you communicate that these new plans/changes came from the survey feedback to tie it all together. You might not make everyone happy, but at least MOST employees will know that you take their feedback seriously and a little of that will go along way.

 

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It’s Time to Refresh Your Recruitment Strategy…Or Actually Have One

It's Time to Refresh Your Recruiment Strategy... Or Actually Have OneOne of the topics I speak about at HR meetings is “Getting Ahead of the Recruitment Curve”. Like all of my talks, I tailor it to small businesses or those without a ton of resources or budget. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, I think the opening point of my talk applies to many businesses.

Our recruitment processes have become very reactive.

We wait for the requisition, go to our trusted, yet maybe unreliable resources and pray that it all works out in a time frame the hiring manager can live with. The process for many is on auto-pilot and even if ineffective, we still resort to the same four our five steps each and every time. Our strategy is absent. Our process is broken. The task is a source of frustration each and every time and yet….we keep doing it the same way.

While I can’t give you one recruiting strategy that works for every position, I can give you what I think are the proper components of a recruiting strategy. The areas that need to be considered to determine what outlet works best for your business for finding candidates.

Not just best available candidates but best fit candidates. That’s an important distinction.

Workforce Planning:
We are going to have an entire series devoted to this later in the year, but no recruiter or business leader can do an effective job of creating a recruiting strategy without really understanding the state of their workforce.

Who is leaving?
Who may be leaving?
Where do we currently have gaps?
What gaps do we know we are going to have in the next 90-180 days?

These are just some of the questions workforce planning answers. Without knowing who and for what position you will be hiring, the following steps are a waste of time. And you need to know that in the long term, not just what is happening today.

Measure Effectiveness
The refresh part, for those who already have strategies, happens when we look at what we have been doing and measure it’s effectiveness. I’m often amazed at the number of companies who have purchased packages with job boards when those aren’t really the things that are bringing in the candidates. I’ve heard of companies paying a monthly subscription fee to ZipRecruiter or purchasing a $10K package on Careerbuilder only to realize that those outlets are not what is bringing in the talent in the first place. That is just money down the drain plain and simple.

Learn a New Skill
Sourcing, social media, networking – all effective outlets for finding viable candidates. Effective strategies mix these up and use all of them at one point or another. Recruiters who do not know how to do one of these may assume it won’t work. There are more than enough resources, both paid and free, that can teach these areas. Recruiters who want to get ahead of the recruiting game, must have a wide breadth of knowledge in all possible strategies so they can determine what is and can work for them.

While not all the steps to creating or refreshing a recruiting strategy, this list is a good start. The first step is to realize you have been very reactive, take a step back and think about how you can organize the process to make it more effective and efficient. It’s not bad to have a recruiting process on auto-pilot. It’s bad to have an ineffective recruiting process on auto-pilot.

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Get Your Employees Excited and Engaged About Open Enrollment

Get Your Employees Excited and Engaged About Open EnrollmentAcacia HR’s Christine Kopp is getting you ready for Open Enrollment in today’s post.

That’s right, the title says get your employees EXCITED and ENGAGED about open enrollment this year. I know it’s August, but now is the time to start planning for open enrollment. Hopefully you have already met a time or two concerning your plan performance with either a broker or TPA and you likely are in wait mode until you get your final quotes in.

So instead of waiting until the last minute to plan everything, start putting together a strategy. I know I probably got a few eye rolls on the engaging part but it’s true. Instead of passing out the proverbial memo or sending a bunch of emails that no one is reading, make open enrollment something employees can get excited about. (Even if there isn’t much to be excited about these days)

With the ever-changing climate of Healthcare Reform and the Affordable Care Act’s future, employees are more engaged in their benefits than ever. Use this to your advantage to really sell all that you do for your employees around their benefits. Its also a great time to make employees feel like you are listening to them, even if listening is all next years budget allows for- and trust me I’ve been there! Here are a few ways that you can make this year’s open enrollment smooth and engaging:

Get ahead of the changes- good and bad

So maybe your plan experienced high claims and your renewal is out the roof.  The company can’t take on more cost so something has to give, hello rate increases and plan changes. Employees may not like it, but they will understand if you explain to them the why part. Understanding the why behind the changes is especially important with the millennial bunch, but really, who doesn’t want to know why the changes are occurring.

Take the guess work out of what is changing by putting together a comparison sheet that explains the changes to co-insurance or co-pays.  People will get upset no matter what, but explaining that you started with a 40% increase to the premiums and got it down to 15% by making changes at least helps people understand that you weren’t some heartless HR person who doesn’t care about employees. (okay, maybe that was just me called that) Don’t let open enrollment disengage employees, instead rally your message about we are in this crazy open enrollment thing together.

Communicate

Yes, you must talk to your employees and even if you have less than stellar news to share, please, I beg you, do not hide in your office all of open enrollment!  You laugh, but I would have HR generalists who would call out sick most of open enrollment or sit behind locked doors on conference calls the entire day and people would be gathered around the door!  I know your other duties aren’t stopping because it’s open enrollment.  If you can’t handle large crowds outside your door schedule time to hang out in the break room to take questions. Just be sure to cover all shifts.

Don’t forget to make sure the communication is consistent and often. Most employees feel like they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision during open enrollment. I used to put together a communications plan including exactly what, when and how we were going to communicate to employees. Share this plan with  your management and operations teams. Define the key messages about the changes and how you want questions handled. I always preferred them to be sent to HR but if you are an HR department of one that might not be an option, so get your managers answering questions how you want them answered.

If you have a communications team, use them. I don’t know about you but I am hardly creative. To me typing something in Comic Sans MS constitutes a fun communication to me. If you use a brokerage firm, see what services they offer, don’t forget, you are paying them commissions.  Smaller broker firms may not offer much else but larger ones may be able to help you draft some communications. And finally, If none of those are an option, there are companies out there who specializes in employee benefit communications. The possibilities are endless.

Make it fun! 

So I promised you that we would talk about getting your employees excited for open enrollment.  I had some employees who couldn’t wait to get into the employee portal and review and make changes. Some call them early adopters… or but to me they were my favorite employees. But not everyone is this enthusiastic about open enrollment, and if you are dealing with a lot of changes that could be perceived as negative you would want to take more of a empathetic tone. You are dealing with many types of employees who want to receive their information in different forms so give it to them. Some want videos, some want one on one time and others just want a newsletter and left alone. Offer lots of variety to keep them engaged.

If you are looking for some fun ideas, try playing some games like benefit bingo during a meeting or watch some funny (yet appropriate) videos that go with your open enrollment theme. If your employees don’t have much use for fun you can still make information interesting and engaging.  If you are sending out a newsletter put in some extra credit questions hidden in it. Then instruct employees to submit their answers to HR and be placed in a drawing for a semi-fabulous prize to see if they read it.  If you have group chats send out one to two sentences about a specific benefit, SMS texting works great for this too. And don’t forget the visual. Posters, postcards are all great, but if you are trying to be more green, change your company screen savers with some information about open enrollment.

Hopefully this post will get you thinking about doing a couple of new and engaging things to refresh your open enrollment. Remember this is a time to showcase what you do offer your employees. Make them excited about the good stuff, have fun where you can and most importantly help them understand why there are changes.

 

 

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Encouraging Risk-Taking in Your Employees

Encouraging Risk-Taking in Your EmployeesI have two newish clients who are embarking on very similar journeys. Both are international companies launching their business, or as spin-off, in the states for the first time. Both have decided to launch in California, because if you can get the people stuff right in CA, you can get it right anywhere and both have called my team in to help get them all setup from a compliance and strategic infrastructure (culture/engagement) perspective.

I mentioned last week about the use of pre-employment personality assessments. I am using Hogan Assessments with both groups to understand how potential employees may act in common workplace situations.

A big talking point for both companies is risk taking. All companies have a different view on risk taking, but for both of these companies, employees need to be risk takers. Both are in the tech space, well funded and have aggressive goals for getting their product to market. They need employees who are confident in their abilities and will take risks to move things forward. This isn’t the case for every position, but for the ones where it matters, candidates who are not risk takers may not fare well.

Luckily for these businesses we are able to assess and have these conversations with candidates prior to hire, but for leaders who have already made the hire and now realize they have a non-risk taker in a role that really calls for one, can risk taking be taught? The answer is a bit complicated but I’ll try to explain.

First, let me say that I don’t think you can change someone’s natural propensity to take risks. I believe everyone has an innate level of risk they are comfortable with. Couple that with the way they were raised and past experience around risk taking and by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty settled in our risk comfort level. I do think, however, that risk taking can be encouraged…and that is the biggest thing leaders can do.

Create a Safe Space
One of the things that both leaders I am working with are doing is ensuring that candidates know from conversation one that risk taking is encouraged and expected. The environment they create for employees asks them to take risks in their work and rewards the behavior even if the risk results in failure.

Make it Ok to Fail
This is a big one. Employees may feel comfortable taking risks, but if they know they will be criticized or worse if that risk fails, even the most risk agreeable will hold back. Risk taking has to be rewarded in the face of failure. Leaders must strike a balance between dealing with the failure in a way that doesn’t discourage employees fron taking risks in the future.

Model the Behavior
If leaders want to employ risk takers they must be one themselves. Modeling the behavior you expect is the bet way to encourage not only risk taking, but any other characteristic you encourage in employees. If employees can see leaders take risks and fail they are much more likely to be willing to do it themselves.

Risk taking as a common characteristic in environments that need it can be a difference maker. It is a characteristic that is easy to identify in the pre-hire phase with the right assessment or interview questions. It’s also an easy characteristic to model and encourage for the leader who is willing to make it a priority.

Do you work in a company where risk taking is necessary? How do you or your leaders encourage employees to take risks?

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Manager Mistakes that Could Cost Your Small Business

Manager Mistakes that Could Cost Your Small BusinessLeading people is tricky. Not only do you have to get the work done, but you have to deal with different personalities and characteristics that can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Top all of that off with legal compliance and managers can feel as though they are walking through a minefield every day.

Because leaders are human beings, they are going to make mistakes. They are not always going to get it right when it comes to interacting with their people. Most of those mistakes can be overcome. Some may take a while, but if diligent, a good leader can overcome. Some of those mistakes however, can be financially costly. Here is our short list of manager mistakes that could cost your small business big money.

In the Interview:
A classic line I heard from a leader once who I was chastising for asking about marital status in an interview was, “It’s only bad if they sue us.” While that’s true, someday, someone will and then what? The law is very specific about what can’t be asked in an interview. Crossing the line here will be costly at one point or another. Leaders need specific interview training the minute they assume a leadership role. Company’s can not assume that the questions not to ask are common sense. I have seen leaders with tons of common sense ask questions they shouldn’t and not realize they were crossing a line. Anytime a new law like the salary history law comes up, leaders should be aware and given appropriate ways to have the conversation in accordance with the new regulation.

Employee Relations Issues:
Handling employee performance issues and employee complaint properly is crucial to the success of any business. Not doing so can be financially detrimental, especially to a small business. In 2016, 45% of all claims handled by the EEOC were for retaliation. If you look further down the list you’ll see areas that could have been avoided with proper leadership training and appropriate handling of employee relations issues. Now certainly, some of these cases are frivolous and ended in favor of the employer, but they still had to bare the cost of defending the suit and that can sometimes be costly enough in and of itself.

Classifying Employees Incorrectly:
For a while now, the issues of exempt, non-exempt, employee or independent contractor has been a thorn in the side of employers. Employees who are classified as salaried in an effort to avoid paying overtime may be due tremendous amounts of back payment if found to be classified improperly. Independent contractors who should be classified as employees can be due not only back pay but all other rights employees are afforded such as benefits or payment for time off. Small businesses should check with a knowledgeable resource whenever creating a new position to ensure it is classified properly. If there is any doubt that current employees are classified correctly, a full audit should be conducted.

Inconsistency:
Closely related to dealing with employee relations issues is inconsistency in word and deed. This inconsistency could manifest in the way one employee is treated over another or by a handbook that highlights benefits employees actually do not receive. Inconsistent behavior, however it presents itself, is an easy gateway for a lawsuit. Handbooks should be reviewed annually to ensure they are up to date and leaders should be trained on focusing on equality and consistent behavior.

As mentioned several times throughout this article, the key to avoiding many of these costly mistakes is proper training. If your company does not have some level of leadership development program, or at a minimum, a leadership orientation, then one should be considered. Any one of these issues can be taken to the point that can be financially crippling for a small business.

At the same time, these are issues that can be easily mitigated with the right processes in place. It is one of those areas that the time it takes to ensure compliance and consistency is much less than the time it takes to defend the reverse. It’s time well spent for any business.

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How Pre-Employment Personality Assessments Can Help Recruiting Efforts

How Pre-Employment Personality Assessments Can Help Recruiting EffortsFor a long time now there have been great debates about the validity of personality assessments. Myers Briggs, DiSC and others have been regarded as useless in determining the way a person really thinks and/or works.

I tend to disagree.

I have been using personality assessments for over a decade and find that, at least the more well known assessments, do consistently resonate with their test taker and offer up great points of conversation for team building discussions and pre-employment. It is the pre-employment use I want to talk about today.

More and more team dynamics play a role in how effective and efficient a department is. One or two bad apples and the whole team is dragged down. Often, the bad apple isn’t necessarily a poor performer, but more often there is a personality conflict between that person and another or even the entire team. And that is difficult to manage and overcome if it gets out of hand.

For leaders, thinking about team dynamics in the hiring process is essential. It is not enough to simply look at how a person’s skill set and past experience is going to fit into the position, but how the person’s personality is going to mesh with the rest of the team. Since the interview process usually produces the best of a person, meaning they are not being their total self in an effort to impress, simple questioning can prove fruitless in figuring out how a person truly works and interacts with others.

And that is where pre-employment personality assessments come in.

Let me be clear. I believe pre-employment personality assessments can be a part of the recruiting process, not the whole thing. I also believe you have to go with a personality assessment that has been validated for pre-employment. Neither Myers Briggs or DiSC are validated for pre-employment. Finally, you have to have someone certified to be able to review the results with the candidate and leader. Someone should be trained in how to interpret the results and highlight what is important for the candidate/company to consider.

I am a certified coach with Hogan Assessments and really like the assessments they offer, the results that are provided and, most importantly, provide great discussion point to review with the candidate and leader. Below is my process for administering and reviewing personality assessments in the recruiting process.

Determine the Right Positions
I don’t think all positions need personality assessments as part of the recruiting process. I believe crucial leadership roles or the first few roles in a small business/startup are usually perfect for a personality assessment step added to the process.

The Assessment is a Final Step
If not the final step, the assessment piece should be one of the ending phases of the recruitment process, meaning only your top candidates take it. You don’t want to make hiring decisions early on based on a personality assessment. If you have results that tell you what their personality may be like before you’ve gone through any other stage of the interview process, you are making a decision without the full picture.

Review the Results
The most important step is to fully review the results with both candidate and leader together. This is where it’s important to have a certified coach who can help interpret and discuss the results that may impact the workplace – both positively and negatively. This conversation must be open and honest. It should allow the candidate to describe how they may act in a workplace setting when certain situations arise. It should also allow the candidate to get an even better understanding of the workplace they will be working in and determine if it is right for them.

When done well, these pre-employment personality assessments allow both candidate and leader to walk into the employment relationship with a head start on how they might work together. Both are aware of areas of synergy and areas that may create conflict. They already know how they might adapt to one another’s style. Information that will also help the leader integrate the new hire into the team as a whole.

For all the debate over personality assessments and their validity, this consultant is a fan. They do require care in administration and execution, but with the right help and facilitation can provide insight now found anywhere else in the recruiting process.

*this post is not sponsored or affiliated with Hogan.

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Do Your Employees Really Have Autonomy?

Do Your Employees Really Have Autonomy?A common conversation I have with small business leaders centers around the idea of autonomy. How much authority is given to employees to do their work the way they see fit? Autonomy in it’s most simple definition is independence. How much independence do employees have?

In my experience, leaders and employees often answer this question very differently.

In many small businesses, autonomy is a selling feature for potential candidates. One of the cool things about these environments is that things are moving so quickly that leaders often don’t have the time to micromanage. They also know they need employees who have expertise they don’t have to get the work done which naturally leads to more autonomy. Especially in the very early stages, these environments are rich for highly autonomous work.

But often, the independence gets stripped away.

Maybe it’s by the leader who wants to be copied on every email. Or the one who wants his employee to “check in” at least once a day with project updates. There are always reasons why this is necessary – at least in the leader’s mind.

Or the leader who gets angry when an employee decides to work from home instead of the shared space. The employee does all the work and is available throughout the day via technology, but the leader is upset they aren’t in the office. No performance issues, just an idea that everyone should work from the office.

Now, let me be clear. There is nothing illegal about having rules around being copied on every email or never being able to work from home. A little defeating maybe, but not illegal. A leader can create almost any rules they want for their business.

But you can’t have those rules and then say that you support an autonomous environment where you trust employees to get the work done.

It reminds me of the Margaret Atwood quote from “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

Many environments I have both worked in and walk into these days are a bit like a maze. The leader has sculpted visible and invisible walls that employees are not allowed to venture outside of. Some of these walls are necessary, others, not so much. Either way, the more the walls, the less the autonomy. When we do culture work in an environment with these walls, the gap between the level of autonomy a leader thinks they give and the level the employee feels they have is often quite large.

It’s a question worth asking of autonomy is important to you and your recruiting efforts. How much autonomy do we really offer and do our thoughts about what we already offer line up with our employees? It is my thought that autonomy is only going to become more and more important in the years to come. Thinking about where your business sits on the subject now and ensuring those thoughts are carried out into action can only help the business in the long run.

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HR 101: A Guide for Small Business

HR 101: A Guide for Small BusinessEarlier this week I talked about the importance of HR in a startup. Whenever I talk about this topic I receive questions about what exactly I’m referring to when I say HR. Is it just the legal stuff like paying employment taxes or is there more. It’s a good question with an answer that would probably differ depending on who you asked. Here is my idea of HR 101 in a small business or startup environment.

Essentially there are three things that I believe small businesses need to think about in the very early stage of their people development. I do believe it is important to start thinking about these things with the very first hire. The degree to which you should build strategies around these areas grows with every hire.

Compliance:
The baseline nature of HR is tacit. The role was invented to ensure compliance. While it has evolved in the last few decades to much more, the necessity to ensure legal compliance remains, especially in states like California. Setting up and growing a business dictates the need to be legally compliant in hiring, payroll, performance management and more. This is HR at it’s most basic and the bare minimum of what all small businesses should consider.

At this stage, companies are figuring out what payroll service provider they will use, acquiring unemployment tax ids and workers’ compensation insurance and ensuring workplace posters are legal documents are available to all employees. This is where ensuring you understand laws around documents required at hiring (tax forms, I-9 etc) is important. Writing handbooks, understanding the law around required benefits (if any) and making friends with legal counsel are all important parts of the compliance area of HR infrastructure.

Hiring:
Quite possibly the most important step for early stage small businesses is figuring out the recruiting process. It’s not enough anymore to just place an ad and hire the first qualified person you see. Small businesses have a lot at stake. The first few hires are crucial. I encourage small business leaders and especially new founders to really think about the type of person you want to hire beyond the job description. This requires thinking about what type of environment you want to build in the long run and what intrinsic characteristics a person needs to help you get there.

Let me give you an example from my own business. I started this business because I wanted to be able to navigate being mom and worker. I wanted the utmost flexibility, beyond what even a 100% telecommuting job would give me. I wanted to be able to completely own my schedule. One thing that has made me successful in doing so is that even though I may not sit down and work a typical 8-5, I am extremely responsive to my clients needs. This means I may be taking calls at swim practice or answering texts while grocery shopping, but responsiveness is important to my clients and so I make it a priority. When I started to think about hiring employees, I knew this was a trait I needed in them. I don’t care when, where or how they work, but when I or a client reaches out, I need them to be responsive. That doesn’t mean stop everything and do what the client asks, but it does mean giving some response to let the client know you are on it. Beyond any skill set they may have from their past experience, this trait is the most important for me.

I have clients who say they need critical thinkers or individuals not afraid to push boundaries. Whatever those things are, the hiring process should seek them out. The process has to be thorough enough to sift through a person’s experience and character to make the best decision.

Organizational Structure:
I’m often impressed with business leaders who know ahead of time the type of organizational structure they want to build and then are very deliberate in keeping it so. What normally happens is that leaders let business growth, or the ideas of other leaders, dictate the type of organizational structure. With that, you either end up with too many leaders or not enough. Small businesses can go through times of explosive growth. With that comes decisions around how to break out departments and how the reporting structure should be. While this can be organic to some degree, thinking about how this builds out early helps focus development.

Regardless of what other consultants may say, there is no one right structure for small businesses. Some of my clients are very flat while others have multiple layers and leaders even though they only have 100 employees. While I prefer a more flat organization initially, that doesn’t mean it always works best. Much of what works is dictated by the founder or CEO’s personality and preferences. How involved do they want to remain in the minutia and how much are they willing to let go.

I often lump leadership development in this as well. As you think about organizational structure and potentially adding layers to a business, it’s imperative you also think about how you are going to develop those leaders you hire or promote. Assuming they need no development is short sighted. All leaders need continual development opportunities and the need for this doesn’t change because a business is small. In fact, I would argue it increases.

While HR infrastructure is so much more, these three areas are the most important for new businesses or those in an early stage of growth. Thinking about them early rather than waiting until they are broken will prevent so many headaches down the road. In future posts we will break down these areas one by one to give more detail and guidelines on how to build strategies in each area to set you on a path of success with your people processes.

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The Case for Human Resources in a Startup

The Case for Human Resources in a StartupI met with a HR professional thinking of branching out on her own last week and had a great discussion around startups and human resources. The question we were pondering was why startups, and in my experience many small businesses for that matter, not think about HR early in the process.

I’m not sure we have the answer.

In my six years of running this business I have come across two types of businesses. Those that do think about HR right away and want to build infrastructure as soon as they make their first hire and those who think about HR after they have received a letter from the DOL. There are far more of the latter than there are the first. The first are typically more successful – anecdotal on my part of course, but my experience nonetheless.

My stance is and always has been that founders should start considering people practices from the minute they make their first hire. This doesn’t mean they need to implement complex programs right away, but their are people implications that should be considered before that first hire hits their first pay day, and I’m not just talking about the legally required stuff.

The biggest case I can make for building an HR infrastructure early, lies in the way the business grows from a headcount perspective. Once a startup receives it’s first or second round of funding, it usually has hires it wants to make immediately. Depending on the size of the funding, a startup could double in size in a matter of months. Because this all moves very quickly, the recruiting process, onboarding process and culture establishment is usually muddled, convoluted and often non-existent. Mistakes can be made in the hiring process, new hires aren’t trained properly or at all and the environment that is established is not what the leader intended.

Thinking about people infrastructure early in the process does add one more thing to a founder’s plate. It does mean they have to be deliberate about how they hire and how they move through every other phase of the employee life cycle, even if they only have five employees. But fixing mistakes later is difficult and painful.

It is the epitome of the old adage which I’ve heard phrased a million different ways, but I like this one.

“Take the time to do it right the first time or be forced to spend the time doing it over later. The choice is yours.”

So my plea to startup founders or small business leaders who have never really thought about the people infrastructure and have just been winging it – think about it. If you are struggling to hire, struggling to train, struggling to get people on the same page, you need to put people strategies in place to fix all of this. The longer it goes without attention, the harder it is to create what you actually intended in the first place.

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