For many businesses, the only way to grow your business is by taking on staff. While you can use consultants, contractors and freelancers, you only really have the control you need once you start hiring the right people for the right roles, and they are as passionate about your business as you are.
Many business owners are scared of hiring because of the potential risks but done right… employing staff will take your business from surviving to thriving.
Top 10 HR tips
Here are top 10 HR tips for successfully managing employees in your business.
#1 – Create a robust job description for each role
This is one of your foundation blocks and requires a bit of thought before hiring. It should be used to identify the tasks which need doing, the skills and experience required and the ideal person for the job.
As a business grows, the job descriptions will change, and a job description should be updated on a regular basis. If there is someone doing the job, discuss the need for change with them. It may be that the job is taking on more responsibilities or that it is being split in two due to the volume of work.
Use the job description to hire, manage and, if necessary, fire staff. The job description provides clarity for you and your employees by setting clear expectations.
#2 – Give every employee a contract of employment before they start work
This is a legal requirement, but one which many small business owners still don’t comply with. The law has changed over the years and there used to be a two-month grace period, but today, providing employees with their statement of terms and conditions on or before day one, is essential.
One of the best ways to provide a statement of terms and conditions is in the format of a contract of employment. Many small businesses do not have, and do not need, an employee handbook. The contract provides business owners with a mandate to manage. The company’s key policies and procedures are documented so that both the employer and the employee have clarity about what they must do to maintain the working relationship.
A contract should be customised for each business so that accurately reflects the way in which the business owner runs the business, with policies and procedures reinforcing the values and culture.
#3 – Put together a structured induction process
Think of all the things the employee will need to know to really understand your business. How will they become effective as quickly as possible? This goes beyond their job. Who else do they need to meet? What do they need to understand about the business? What roles do others do? How does their job support the entire business? What does it feel like to work in this business?
Put together an induction plan for the first 2-4 weeks. Enable them to really understand the business, to attend meetings, conferences or exhibitions. Even if these things aren’t directly related to their role. The more understanding the employee has about the organisation, the better they will be able to play their part.
The induction period should include day one, week one and month one actions and development. Allow personal “study” time as well as structured learning time. How to do their job, where the toilets are and where to go for lunch are just the basics, a robust induction process goes far deeper than that.
#4 – Put in a probation period and stick to it
A probation period is an opportunity for both the employer and the employee to make sure they are a good fit. Even though someone is fantastic at their job, does not mean they are right for your business. Having a six-month probation period is essential. It gives someone the opportunity to learn their role fully and then to demonstrate that they can do it.
In most cases, there will be a shortened notice, disciplinary and capability processes during the probation period. However, it is important to remember that you must be fair and that an employee does not need two years’ service to bring a claim for bullying, discrimination or breach of contract.
During the probation period, you should have regular meetings, set realistic goals and provide feedback to the employee.
>See also: A guide to outsourcing HR
#5 – Performance reviews
Many businesses hate the annual appraisal process as providing feedback nine months after an incident is pointless. However, having robust processes in place to measure performance is essential. It ensures that there are regular discussions about goals, aspirations, training needs, support required and achievements.
There are lots of different ways to review performance and finding what works for your business is part of your company culture. Make sure that it is a formal process and that it is agreed and documented. If there are performance issues at some point in the future, you may need to refer back to the conversations you had in the performance review meetings, so honesty is essential.
#6 – Lead by example
Many business owners struggle to help employees understand their company culture. It is often hard to put into words “what it’s like to work around here”. The best way to get people to behave and perform the way you want them to, is to lead by example. There is no point in turning up late for work each day and then telling others off for their timekeeping. If you want people in suits, then you need to be in a suit. If you want people to leave the office by 5:30, then you need to leave by 5:30.
Respect goes a long way in business and earning that respect and setting an example will enable you to build a better, stronger business.
Lead, don’t follow. Lead, don’t manage.
>See also: Outsourcing HR v inhouse HR management
#7 – Health and safety
At this point everyone groans, but health and safety has changed significantly over the years and is increasingly important in the modern workplace.
Covid has had a massive impact on health and safety in the workplace, but so has employee wellbeing. Mental health is now one of the leading causes of workplace absence, under performance and staff turnover. Society is now more willing than ever to discuss mental health and this is no different in the workplace.
Employers are legally obliged to ensure that they provide a healthy and safe working environment. This is both physical and psychological. This obligation extends to all places of work, including after work drinks in the pub and the employee’s home if they are a home-based or hybrid worker.
No longer is health and safety just about first aid boxes and fire doors, it is now about bullying, harassment, wellbeing, menopause, pregnancy, domestic abuse, annual leave, working hours and work life balance.
Ignore health and safety at your peril, if you want to grow a successful business.
#8 – Give and take
As an employer, you need to position yourself as an employer of choice. Your staff can choose to work anywhere, so you have to give them a reason to choose you. By creating an environment of “give and take”, or “work hard play harder”, you are able to recruit and retain top talent.
How this manifests itself in your business, will depend on the nature of your business. It may be flexibility over working hours or working location. It could be that the give and take is in working patterns or breaks. Being able to work at home to be there for the kids or at certain time for appointments. Making sure that the work gets done when it is needed and to the required standards is essential, but how can you achieve this and give back to staff when they need it… and without being taken advantage of.
#9 – Seek feedback
Asking your clients, staff and business network for feedback is hard. Taking on board their feedback is even harder. However, if you want to have a really successful business, you need to learn to ask for feedback and, perhaps more importantly, how to respond to it.
Net promoter scores and feedback from customers, employee engagement surveys from staff and 360-degree feedback are all great tools for improving you, your business and your processes. Your staff are often at the coal face, so make the time to really listen to them, and if you have enough staff to make it anonymous, you will get even more value from it.
#10 – Communication
I can’t stress enough how important communication is. As business owners, we are often working at 100 mph and don’t have time to ensure that others keep up with us. However, having clear policies and procedures which are documented and communicated will often resolve many issues before they even arise.
Holding regular team meetings, briefing people on ideas, achievements, losses and business health will all ensure that you have buy-in from your staff when you need it. If people understand the “why”, they are more likely to engage. Doing a task or a project they see no value in leads to resentment, poor execution and bad results.
The better your communication, including your listening skills, the more successful your business will be.
Donna Obstfeld is founder and HR specialist at HR practice DOHR