For small to medium businesses struggling to remain competitive and keep their cashflow healthy, HR often becomes an afterthought, or something you only address when an issue has already arisen. Not only can this cause ill-will in the workplace and affect productivity, in the worst-case scenario it can land employers in serious legal and financial difficulties.
But by taking proactive measures to ensure you have the correct HR policies in place, your employees will know exactly what is expected of them, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of where your responsibilities lie.
Ensure clear channels of communication
Miscommunication is the root of almost every HR issue, so make sure your workers know who they can speak to if they're confused about an aspect of their job, and who they can go to if they're experiencing difficulties, either work-related or personal. Make it clear the door is open for them to voice their concerns, and you’ll have plenty of forewarning, so you can address a minor issue before it becomes a major challenge.
Have an employee development / training / advancement plan
High staff turnover is the last thing a company that’s trying to grow needs, and much of the time it’s caused by employees who don’t feel they know where their future with the company lies. Make it part of your hiring and performance review process that you discuss where each employee sees themselves in the future and see where you can work together to make that happen.
Have a clear leave policy
Small businesses often neglect to follow the basic conditions of employment guidelines because of an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach, usually spilling over from the entrepreneurial spirit of the company’s founder. While you might be willing to sacrifice your evenings and weekends, your employees are a lot more likely to burn out if you expect similar things from them.
If you have peak times of the year when you really can’t have staff taking leave, then make sure this is outlined clearly, and that there’s plenty of opportunity for them to take the leave they're owed during other times of the year. Take the opportunity to put together clear and concise sick leave policies, family responsibility leave policies, and any other leave policies which apply to your industry and region.
Use your small size to hire quickly
One big advantage that small to medium business have over larger corporations is their ability to speed through administrative obstacles that can take bigger companies weeks to accomplish. Use this advantage to hire fresh talent quickly and get the best person for the job while your competitors grind through paperwork!
Implement a code of conduct and company dress code
As a growing business, you're probably eager to define the culture of your organization, and a company code of conduct is a great place to do this. You can cover all manner of aspects here, from how employees are expected to behave, what the correct channels are for airing a grievance, to the company dress code. And when it comes to a complex issue like dress code, the more detail you can give the better, as there are few areas more open to interpretation than fashion! Ideally, provide images or even catalogs from a specialist provider like House of Monatic Corporate Wear if that’s the look you want for client meetings, for example.
Have a clear Internet and email policy
The internet has become indispensable for business, so it’s important that you actually state somewhere what your employees may and may not use company computers for. An employee handbook is a good starting point for this and many other company policies. Aside from the rules, you should also clearly state what the consequences for breaching these policies are.
Understand the need to protect your employee’s personal data
Remember that it’s your responsibility to keep the information contained in employee files secure, and if you're keeping copies of any of this data on a cloud-based system, you need to take steps to protect it. For very small businesses, it can actually be safer (and cheaper) to keep paper files in a locked room.
Make sure policies are easy to understand, and updated as your company grows
Lengthy contracts and policies written in complex legalese are an instant source of mistrust, and there’s little point in laying out policies in the first place if your employees can’ understand them. Stick to basic language, phrase complex issues in several different ways, don’t include irrelevant information, and actually take the time to go through these documents with your employees and field questions. As you grow, make sure you update your policies regularly. Follow these basic steps, and you can rest assured you're doing all you can to encourage an open, happy and productive working environment!