HR support for small businesses

Why future-proofing should include HR

How high is HR on your business agenda? If expansion and development are key to your business goals, then future-proofing is probably a term you are familiar with. The early stages of business set up can often feel like one long phase of investment, but if your vision is one of growth, then you need to make absolutely sure that what you are investing in today (in terms of both time and money) will still service your business’ needs as you expand. Any business consultant worth their salt will be encouraging you to think long term when it comes to how you invest in your technology, or how you develop and market your business brand. But there’s something else that it’s also critical not to leave off your agenda: HR.

It may feel like you are light years away from needing an in house HR specialist. And, if your employee headcount is still reasonably small, that’s probably a fair analysis. But it doesn’t mean you don’t need an HR strategy, however basic. The fact is, if you employ anyone else in your business, other than yourself, you’re exposed. That is, of course, unless you can say with 100% certainty that you have dotted all your legally compliant ‘I’s’ and crossed all your best practice ‘T’s. And given that new employment legislation is passed at least twice a year, keeping up to speed isn’t easy (especially on top of everything else that goes with running your own business).

We’ve highlighted just a few HR areas which every small business owner should ignore at their peril.

Recruitment

If you’re hiring already, that’s brilliant news. It can only mean one thing, and that’s growth and expansion. But it’s crucial that you set up the relationship under all the right terms. Legal compliance is a must, but if future-proofing is your goal, then best practice is advisable. This means:

  • Conducting a fair, valid and reliable recruitment process – one which results in hiring best fit candidates, and which does nothing to jeopardise your (employer) brand.
  • Issuing contracts that are legally watertight, delivered within statutory deadlines and up to date with latest employment legislation.
  • Paying wages in accordance with the constantly evolving legal minimum levels.
  • Writing robust job descriptions which clearly outline and reflect role requirements.
  • Carrying out ‘right to work’ checks, thereby avoiding the risk of hiring illegal immigrants.

Onboarding

Ensuring that you have an up to date and detailed employee manual is something that will stand you in good stead in the long term. Granted, whilst your team can all fit round a small coffee table, it may seem extreme. But growth can happen rapidly, and when it does it can become hard to find the time to create policy documents. Besides which, introducing such measures later down the line can appear to existing employees like somewhat of a draconian culture change. Far better to start as you mean to go on. Engaging a professional HR Consultant to help with creating (and maintaining) your policy manual can not only save you valuable time, but will also ensure that you are clear on:

  • The must haves – those policies which you are legally obliged to outline to all employees.
  • The should haves – policies which are not a legal requirement, but which it is deemed best practice to include.
  • The could haves – a seasoned HR Consultant will be well placed to advise you on any additional wording or clauses which, whilst not legally required, may well serve to protect your rights as an employer in the event of any future employee disputes.

Performance & people management

The way we see it you face two potential scenarios. Either you are still in start-up phase, operating with a small and close knit team, much like a family … which means that tackling performance issues can feel awkwardly uncomfortable. Or, you’ve grown well beyond that and have evolved into a firmly established business with a larger team. In which case, there’s a risk that your poor performers could be lurking unnoticed in the shadows. Either way, a proper process of performance management can help, provided, of course, you implement it fairly and consistently. Consider, for example, your procedures and practices around the following issues – and whether you know your legal rights and obligations:

  • Managing probationary periods
  • Setting and managing objectives
  • Structure and timing of performance reviews
  • Tackling under-performance
  • Monitoring and managing sickness absence or unauthorised absence
  • Handling grievances and disciplinary procedures

HR administration

From employee files to audit trails, getting your HR admin ship shape can be an insurmountable task if you are trying to establish it ‘after the fact’. This is another example where starting as you mean to go on will save you a fair few headaches further down the road. Every employer should ensure the following basics are in place, preferably from the moment you make your first hire:

  • Employee files – maintained in an organised and up to date manner.
  • Audit trails, referencing and recording any communications which could, either now or in the future, impact employee relations issues.
  • Data protection compliance – following the letter of the law is critical, and many businesses are unaware of just how wide reaching the implications can be on how they manage and store employee and candidate data.
  • Health and safety / risk assessment compliance – a must for all businesses, but in certain industries there will be very specific requirements
  • Equal opportunities / diversity monitoring

HR support for small businesses

We’re guessing that getting bogged down in all matters HR probably wasn’t the stuff of your business focused dreams when you started out. At Business Clan, we help with all these issues and more. Our raison d’etre is to provide the services every small business needs, but has neither the time nor expertise to manage ‘in house’. So, whether you simply need help in drafting up to date and legally compliant employment contracts and policies, or you need more specific employee relations advice, we will support you. And we’ll tailor that support to suit your needs and your budget – from one off project delivery to more structured HR outsourcing solutions.

Besides the obvious legal obligations, there are so many reasons not to sideline HR, even when your business is in its relative infancy. HR underpins and defines your organisational culture, it ensures consistency and fairness of approach, creates a framework for managing performance, and above all significantly reduces the headache, cost and stress that can arise out of any employee relations issues. You may not envisage any HR issues arising in your short-term business future, but preparedness is key. And, think of it like this: your people will most likely be your most expensive asset. Isn’t that an investment worth protecting?

Naomi Scoffham, HR & Recruitment Consultant