As a small or midsize business (SMB) owner or manager, you wear many hats. While we don’t recommend going it alone in trying to navigate complicated HR regulations, providing benefits or managing the complexities of payroll or insurance, we do think it’s worthwhile to understand some basic HR principles. Knowing these tips can help you retain your employees, give them the opportunity to flourish and, inevitably, lead to your own business success.
1) You are HR too
A manager skilled in human resources is a great asset. HR can’t - and shouldn’t - be everywhere. A manager who understands the company’s policies and basic labor laws, and deploys policies effectively, is helping your company mitigate risk. If you’re a manager and you don’t have a basic understanding of your company’s policies, I strongly suggest you get up to speed quickly. Make sure everyone is reading—and rereading— your employee handbook at least annually.
If managers are unfamiliar with basic labor laws, promptly get them training. At TriNet, we call our training session “HR 101.” This training covers important HR information that a manager needs in order to effectively manage the HR components of the employment life cycle, from interviewing a job candidate to exiting an employee.
2) People leave their managers, not their jobs
Time and time again, exit interviews show the strong influence managers have on the workplace experience of their team. That’s a lot of pressure! Those same exit interviews also talk about how the small stuff really matters. It’s interesting how many times employees have told me their manager rarely greets them, never says thank you, doesn’t recognize them for a job well done or doesn’t show any interest in who they are as a person. These employees often end up in the HR department discussing how they are ready to move on to the next opportunity.
Managers are under an immense amount of pressure and sometimes fail to pause. As you rush from the elevator to your office answering emails on your smartphone, thinking about the conference call that’s coming up and the meeting after that, take the time to put down your phone and say a genuine, “good morning” to your team. Manage virtually? Take a few minutes on Friday afternoon to place a call to each member of your team. Tell them “thank you” for the great work they did that week. This will be incredibly meaningful to them.
3) You are the ambassador of rewards and recognition
Perhaps your company has a few rewards programs that are growing dust on the company intranet? These programs tend to be launched by HR or upper management with a lot of fanfare and then get forgotten as deadlines and to-do lists take precedent. Challenge yourself to maximize these programs, whatever they are. Submit the name of your direct report, colleague or peer who helped you beat a deadline, provided great customer service or found a solution to a challenging internal problem. What if you don’t have a rewards program? Start your own. A thank you email to someone’s manager, a gift card for a cup of coffee or lunch on you qualifies as a "program." A great side effect of recognizing others is it makes you feel better too.
4) You are a manager 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
HR professionals navigate and mediate a number of workplace concerns that stem from something that happened outside the workplace but directly impact the office environment. Whether it’s the holiday party, an offsite team-building activity or a post-work cocktail hour, what happens at these events does not stay at these events. Having fun with your team is important. All the policies that dictate professional behavior, protect against harassment and promote safety are likely relevant and need to be followed even if you are not onsite at the time. You are also setting the example in these situations. Your professional tone, alcohol consumption and discussions about the company are being carefully observed by your team. Please celebrate and enjoy time with them, but remember: you are still at work.
5) There are times you need to punt to HR
The employee who comes to you complaining of discrimination, the explicit email that gets forwarded to you inadvertently, the candidate who reveals a medical condition in the interview process - these are all occasions when it’s important to immediately involve your HR professional. Don’t try to investigate a workplace issue on your own.
HR is your adviser, sounding board and a champion of providing a workplace where managers can do their best work. Your HR team is there for you.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.