HR Success for Small Businesses

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HR Success for Small Businesses

Generally speaking, Human Resource Management involves planning, developing and administering policies, programs and practices that have to do, in some way or another, with an organization’s human resources…in other words, it is that part of management which is concerned with the people at work and with their relationship within the organization.  Since people are involved in almost every aspect of any organization, this means that most everything that happens in that organization is a human resources issue.  Consider just some of the topic titles for “How To” guides from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the most prominent professional organization devoted to the subject:

How To:

  • Establish a performance improvement plan.
  • Develop an employee handbook.
  • Handle communicable diseases in the workplace.
  • Establish salary ranges.
  • Determine regulatory requirements for safety.
  • Make sure you are not overlooking skilled talent.

There are dozens more!

What does this mean?  The larger the organization, the greater the likelihood that there will be a Human Resources Manager, a person (or persons} devoted to seeing that all the various HR roles and functions are met.  For the small business owner, however, it usually means doing it all…managing not only the operations of the business, the financials, the marketing, but also all the many interfaces between the employees and the business, generally without the HR skill, training or experience to do it well.  Fortunately there are several HR resources for the small business owner and I’d like to highlight some in this blog.

The SHRM website itself is a treasure trove of information-check it out!

The SmartBrief blog deals with a variety of small business issues including human resources.  They use this expression to describe what they do:  “We read everything.  You get what matters.”  A recent SmartBrief article highlighted some thoughts from the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.  The article, “What can you do to keep morale high during a rough patch?” offered these suggestions, among others, from members of the Council:

  • Address any negative rumors…keep your team focused on what is going right and any wins that occur no matter how small, rather than letting negative talk take over.
  • Keep your own morale high…it can be tempting to wear your sentiments on your sleeve when your business is weathering a storm. Your attitude will be mirrored by those looking up to you.
  • See things for how they are…one of the keys to strong leadership during difficult times is to be able to see things for what they are, not worse than they are.
  • Don’t panic …the worst thing you can do is overreact. Avoid asking your team to operate with urgency as that can quickly drain morale. Continue to create a work atmosphere that appreciates their efforts and one that also respects their personal time.  Treat them fairly and they’ll reciprocate.

In another SmartBrief article, Paul Larsen, a professional performance coach and an experienced leadership consultant, offered “The 3 ‘B’s’’ of Leadership: BE Present, BE Deliberate, and BE Grateful.  Larsen suggests that leaders should be keenly aware of each moment so that they are actively attending to what is going on around them.  He goes on to say, “With distractions easy to find and hide behind in today’s workplace, leaders need to create an environment that is spotless from any such diversions.  Set aside a period of time each day that is considered ”sacred and sterile” and focus on the person, team or situation you have in front of you.  Listen to what they are saying.  Listen to understand and not to reply.  This attention to being present will, in turn, pivot your perspective from a reactive to a proactive mode.

Larsen urges leaders to create what he calls, “Spotless Seconds,” short bursts of time (i.e. seconds) that are free of any interruptions.  Using these moments, Larsen guarantees the practitioners will see a difference in their clarity of thoughts and subsequent actions.

Small Business Trends, another online newsletter, considers itself the premier source of information, breaking news and advice covering issues off key importance to small business, including HR. Check out their BizSugar site and the Tweak Your Biz site for some stimulating articles, containing valuable pieces of HR advice.

In a recent article and video, Akim Vann, owner of the Bakery on Bergen, describes how her attitude toward work and family is a big part of why her bakery is so successful.  She says, if it makes sense, leave your work at home. But if you’re like many people and also have to work from home, try to work only during pre-scheduled times, and create a workplace that’s separate from the rest of the goings on in the house.  By setting and respecting boundaries, you’ll reduce stress and your family will always know when it’s work time and when it’s play time.

Finally, check out www.smallbusinessbonfire.com, where Alyssa Gregory (no relation) offers an online community for small business owners that also includes a blog and a weekly small business newsletter with actionable tips and advice.  A recent blog post referenced an article written by Lars Dalgaard, from the NY Times Sunday column called “The Corner Office.”  Mr. Dalgaard believes that the more human you are, the more successful you and your company will be.  Among his key points and lessons:

  • Allow yourself to be human. It starts as the top.  The old image of a CEO as a macho, tough guy, who if he showed emotion (beyond anger) was weak.  A strong leader allows their personality to shine through, flaws and all.
  • Don’t hide from reality. Reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, nor the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are.  In essence, deal with it.
  • Humanize the hiring process. As you are interviewing prospective employee, focus less on WHAT they did and more on HOW they did it.  Learn more about what makes them who they are.
  • Build your company like Lambeau Field. As the home of the Green Bay Packers it has loyal fans and some of the most challenging weather conditions in the US, so the field was built for bad weather.  Dalgaard’s lesson here is to create a company and a culture that can anticipate and withstand the rocky road ahead when you launch your startup.  Be prepared for the harsh conditions that markets, economies and fickle customers can bring.

Bill Gregory

Bill Gregory is a Business Advisor for the NW-ISBDC. He works primarily with businesses and start-ups in Lake County. His responsibilities include assisting clients in business planning and execution, planning, identifying and promoting conferences and workshops that benefit small and start-up businesses, working with businesses to secure financing for start-up and growth, coordinating with Chamber of Commerce and economic development organizations to impact the communities that we serve. Bill has more than 30 years of business experience in a variety of management development and training roles. He most recently was Executive Director of the Center for Management Development at Indiana University Northwest. He has been active on the Economic and Business Development and Education Committees of the Gary Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the board of Tradewinds Rehabilitation Services, and on the town council in Ogden Dunes. Bill earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and master’s degree in Sociology from Miami University.
Bill Gregory can be reached at bgregory@isbdc.org.
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