Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let's Share Your Small Business HR Experiences

I believe that there are unique issues related to Small Business and there is often very little support. You don't need to be on your own. What are your experiences? Let's share with one another and make Small Business stronger!

I will on a regular basis search specific Small Business HR information and post. Please share your info, with the vision of having this Blog as your own personal source for Small Business HR.

Business Partner Succession Question

Q. My business partner is not physically well but will not consider any discussion on succession planning. I am very angry and frustrated. What should I do?

A. It is a sad thing to note that most of us don't like to look at our own mortality and it is especially hard for business owners whose whole life is intricately involved with their work. One strategy is to try to soften "the blow" by ask your business partner to consider and identify individuals within your company who could take on responsibilities if either of you decided to take a three-month vacation. This is often successful in getting the individual thinking along the right lines. If possible, you can than draw up something more formal in terms of succession and present it to the individual for discussion.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

7 HR Tips for an Economic Downturn

Getting the best from existing staff and managing the opportunities and threats recessions bring in terms of employment and recruitment will prove vital to small businesses.

Key survival tactics for the current economic downturn will be achieving financial savings while retaining an engaged workforce with the skills to steer your organisation through the tough times and successfully out the other side.

Adapting HR activities in response to these pressures will contribute to your organisation remaining cost effective, competitive and in a position to exploit opportunities presented by adjustments to labour markets.

As human behaviour generally becomes more risk averse in turbulent times it is likely fewer people will consider a voluntary job move. Review the impact of this change on your planned recruitment and training budgets/activities for 2009/10.

Attendance Management
If you have a higher than average level of sickness absence reinvigorate your attendance management practices, typically this will reduce absence by up to 20%.

Employee Engagement
Maintain through these tough times to retain your competitive edge. Provide clear leadership and direction and engage with your people in periods of change, if making redundancies devise a strategy to ensure survivors remain engaged.

Learning & Development
When evaluating L&D ask if all activities remain current, what new skills & competencies are required for next 12-24 months and consider more cost effective forms of delivery such as developing in-house trainers or e-learning.

Pay & Benefits
Are they affordable and in-line with your employment market competitors? Many employers are reviewing occupational sick pay entitlement, contractual hours and annual increase mechanisms.

Ensure your procedure and selection criteria enable you to retain employees with the skills to deal with the challenges over the next 12-18 months. Consider alternatives such as sabbaticals, secondments and part-time working.

If you have vacancies pursue and exploit the current labour market adjustments. There are big pockets of redundant workers with excellent transferable skills and competencies

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 10 Small Business HR Tips

For many businesses, people are the most important asset;'s Top Ten HR Tips provide advice on how to find and keep the best employees and offer hints on helping them develop.

1. Draw up a job description, no matter how simple or low-level the job.The more information you put down, the better your chances are of getting the right person for the right job. Cover areas such as the level of skill needed, whether training is necessary, and how much experience or responsibility the job requires.

2. Use specialist or trade publications to target your ads. If you are looking to fill a particular position, consider advertising in specialist or trade publications. Find out from people who work in that area what publications they read. If the job is not that specialised, consider advertising in a local newspaper, which will be cheaper. Word-of-mouth can also be useful and cost-effective.

3. Always take up . someone joins your company, ensure you get references. It can be a good idea to contact a referee direct on the phone as they are often more responsive than in a letter. Ask questions such as: ‘Would you re-employ this person?’

4. Get help from your friends and family. Recruiting employees is a costly exercise, both in terms of time and money. Think about whether you need someone full time. Help from your friends and family is also an option, and it won’t cost you a penny to advertise. If you need someone specialised for the short-term, it’s worth paying that bit extra for contract or temporary staff.

5. Make your employees feel welcome. First impressions count and the first three months of employment with a new company are important. Make your new employees feel welcome. Consider setting up an induction into the company with on-the-job training and a buddy system to help a new recruit with any questions.

6. A business is only as good as the people who work for it. As a small business, you can be closer to your staff, suppliers and customers than larger ones. Involve your employees in the work culture from day one and keep them up to date with the progress of the company and any developments that may take place in the near future.

7. Use incentives other than money. A competitive package need not only be about money – flexible working such as job-share and flexi-hours can give you the opportunity to tailor benefits more suited to the individual. Look carefully at what motivates each employees – some may be driven by security, others by ambition. Group days out, or brainstorming sessions combined with a fun activity can also work well.

8. Appraise your staff regularly. An effective appraisal system should allow for realistic, but challenging objectives. There should also be interim reviews to ensure objectives have not changed and to give an opportunity to identify training and development. Consider who is best placed to carry out the reviews – in some cases it may be more appropriate to use a middle manager.

9. Enforce strict ‘absence’ procedures. In order to deal effectively with absenteeism, staff should be very clear about the company policy. A staff handbook is an ideal way to state policies clearly. Areas such as holidays, sickness and absenteeism should be included and clearly outlined.

10. Create a culture of good leavers. Hold exit interviews, particularly for key staff, which will help you identify any problems going forward. The aim is to create a culture of ‘good leavers’: this is the type of person who will flag up any problems beforehand, tell you about concerns with work, and once they’ve left, will not say negative things about the company.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Effective Hiring for Small Business

Effective Hiring for Smaller Businesses
By Julie King
Published February 2008
Is the candidate you are considering the right person for your job? Due to haphazard hiring procedures many small businesses have a 20% chance of hiring the best person. Considering how expensive and time consuming it is to hire employees, those are not good odds.

There are really two key challenges to the hiring process: getting access to people and then evaluating those people. The latter is something that small businesses often don`t do very well.
I spoke with a successful recruitment professional, off the record, to learn the secrets to hiring successfully. At the end of the interview I had an outline of a structured, highly effective five step process that can double the likelihood of success in the small business hiring process. Here is how it works.
Step 1: Write an effective job description.
It takes time to write a job description, but this step in the hiring process must not be skipped. You are making a significant finanical investment in the person you hire; it is well worth it to take the time to establish a position-specific job description that outlines the scope and parameters of the job.
A good job description will clearly state what you are looking for. It will also attract the best candidates, so acts as a marketing tool. Your job description should include position responsibilities, background and skills as a minimum standard. Some companies also include a company description to help attact candidates.
The job description is particularly important if more than one person will be involved in the interview. However, even if there is only one person doing the interview the job description forces you to evaluate each candidate to a constant standard.
Ideally you will use a grid to evaluate candidates against your hiring criteria. This helps you maintain your objectivity and will help you back-up your hiring decision if anyone ever claims that you discriminated against them during the hiring process.
A job description continues to have value once a person is hired, as it can be used in an HR capacity by providing a clear and documented outline of what is expected of the hiree.
Step 2: Conduct a structured, effective interview
When a candidate arrives for an interview, there are three things you need to address.
The candidate's career background.
The candidate's skill as they relate to the skills you are looking for.
The reasons a good candidate should want to accept a position at your firm.
Too often question one is the whole interview in smaller companies, when it should only take up a small part. Ideally, you would structure a one hour interview to spend 15 minutes on question one, 30 minutes on question two and 15 minutes on the promotion of the company. Leave an extra fifteen minutes at the end to make notes after the candidate has left.
Here are some questions and considerations for each stage of the interview.
First 15 minutes:Your goal is to understand the candidate's career background and some of their career motivations. Questions are broad in scope and touch on key aspects of the resume.
"Take me through the context of your career.""Why did you make this career shift?""Why did you decide to pursue [this particular education]?""Why did you leave [company name]?"
Next 30 minutes:Here you want to focus on the skills you are looking for. Your goal is to find out if the candidate has the skills needed to be successfull in the position. Ideally, you will look for concrete examples from their past work that demonstrate their capabilities.
"Give me an example of how you grew revenue at the company you currently work for.""Your resume shows that you have strong project management skills. Tell me about a project that you think best demonstrates how you were able to use those skills in your current position.""Give me an example of how you responded to a client who was angry about [a relevant problem]."
Clearly the questions need to be tailored to the specifics of the job you are interviewing for, but this type of open ended questioning really gives the candidates the opportunity to shine – or to let you find out if they really don't have the skills they included on their resume. Some candidates may not have direct experience, but will provide another example from a similar situation, which gives you the opportunity to evaluate them against their next best example.
Don't be afraid to ask really tough or honest questions. Candidates who have been through this tough process will be more motivated, because it will make them feel that your company takes its recruiting seriously. People are attracted to a challenge and will value a position when they have had to prove they deserve it. However, avoid questions that are too "out of the box".
The final 15 minutesIn a small business, if you like what you heard from the candidate in the first two parts of the interview then you need to use the final part to sell. This is the time for you to explain why your company is great and why the person should be interested in accepting the position. It is better to leave this to the end, because then you can target your information and answers to the candidate.
For example, you may have heard that the candidate is looking for a new job that will cut his or her commute time. You can then emphasise this during the final fifteen minutes.
Step 3: Hold a decision meeting
Let's face it, in many smaller companies the decision meeting consists of the company founder saying "This is how it's going to be." While that is not unusual, neither is it ideal.
A grid is great for discussion. You can have everyone involved with the interview fill in a grid in advance and then compare them. This should never be done in front of the candidate. Discuss the candidates, considering their skills, needs and how they would fit into the culture of your organization. At the end of the meeting you should have a short list of possible hires.
Step 4: Check out your short listed candidates
Never assume that the information a candidate put down on his or her resume is correct. Check their education credentials. Check past employment (but not their current employer) and check their references. Some employers will call the current employer to confirm the person's title and email, but that is a bit sneaky and may be a warning flag to the current employer in a smaller company.
A much better way to check references than relying on two or three names submitted by the candidate, is to ask for a list of the candidate's bosses, peers and direct reports. Keep in mind that you cannot call the current employer, so this assumes that the candidate had other jobs. You can ask if there is someone you can speak with from the current company.
You would then select randomly from that list to conduct your reference check. The key thing is that you want choice in who you ask about the candidate. References should be viewed not as a disaster check, but rather an opportunity to gather valuable information on someone.
The reason this approach works so well is that you get third party confirmation of the candidate's abilities. Keep in mind that this approach tells you about both the positive and negative aspects of the candidate. Look for references to be balanced, but none are perfect. Comments on the person's development needs can help you turn a strong candidate into a fantastic employee. What you want to be cautious of are negatives that become thematic and look like they could be a serious issue if you hire the person.
When you do a reference call, you need a script that lists the 4 to 5 things you want to focus on. These should come from the job description, considering both the hard and soft skills that you need for the position. This approach takes time. If you are not willing to do it properly, don't do it at all.
Step 5: Making the offer
The first part of the offer should be verbal. Before you speak to the person, you should know what they are currently earning. Most candidates will provide this information during the interview.
When you speak with your choice candidate, explain your reasons for the offer. This is an opportunity to put the offer in context with what the position means to your company.
Try to get a verbal understanding before you put the offer on paper. Paper is just the formality. If things are all good you can send the written offer with the start date and get a signature back. Congratulation; if the process worked well you will have just added an excellent person to your team.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Goal Setting

This is a very quick tip for those of you who are setting Goals - useful for performance reviews department goals and general setting of personal goals.

SMART Goals:A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants, SMART usually stands for:

S Specific
M Measurable
A Attainable
R Relevant
T Time-bound
For example, instead of having “to sail around the world” as a goal, it is more powerful to say “To have completed my trip around the world by December 31, 2015.” Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand!

Common Appraisal Errors

Apart from the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the nature of a given performance appraisal system and the relative dislike or distrust that may be felt by the appraisees and/or appraisers as we have discovered, there are errors of implementation that can be made no matter what techniques you use. In fact, the way that a performance appraisal system is administered and the training given to the managers using it, probably has more to do with the effectiveness of the appraisal than any other factor. Some performance appraisal systems prevent or even encourage these errors more than others.
The most common appraisal errors are:
1. Inadequately defined standards of performance
2. Over-emphasis on recent performance
3. Reliance on gut feelings
4. Miscomprehension of performance standards by the employee
5. Insufficient or unclear performance documents
6. Inadequate time allocation for the discussion
7. Too much talking by the manager/supervisor
8. Lack of follow-up planning/action(Except: Taking the Performance Initiative)

Bully Boss or Victim?

We've frequently talked about bullying in the workplace - including research on the topic and discussions of how the bully boss takes a toll. Now, a new study by an Australian researcher looks at the topic of bullying from the perspective of the accused, finding that alleged bullies were just as affected by the experience as people she had interviewed for an earlier study on victims of workplace bullying.
Moira Jenkins, a clinical psychologist in Australia, is interviewing managers accused of workplace bullying. Jenkins found performance or behavioral issues with subordinates often appeared to trigger a bullying complaint against managers, sometimes giving rise to something that one accused called "upwards bullying." Jenkins notes:
"Bullying, when it does occur, is a serious problem. But some workers might be too quick to frame conflict as bullying. Human resources takes more notice when the word 'bullying' is used." She defines bullying as repeated, targeted behaviour towards somebody that is likely to humiliate them and undermine their confidence."
Does the term "bullying" get thrown around too lightly? Certainly, as with any other problem employment practice, such as harassment or discrimination, bullying accusations against managers may be unfair or mislabeled. Managers who were interviewed by Jenkins seemed to think that they were just doing their jobs in enforcing company policies. In some of the cited examples, it appeared that there was no suitable internal system of organizational conflict resolution or grievance procedures for the accused to address the charges against them. While some work cultures seem to actively foster bully managers, it may more often be the result of poor management skills or a lack of management training.