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The Secret to Successful HR in Small Businesses

Carol Anderson

Founder, Anderson Performance Partners

Small companies often come to the conclusion that it's time to hire HR when the hiring process becomes burdensome. It makes sense—the hiring process is time consuming, loaded with administrative and compliance tasks and no one wants to make a costly mistake in hiring the wrong person. The clear solution is to bring in an HR manager, right?

Yes...and no. Hiring is a great place for HR to start: The new HR manager has to quickly learn the business, build relationships with managers and establish a process that meets both the compliance and the talent needs of the organization. And managers gain a partner in seeking, selecting and onboarding talent.

It is important, though, for a new HR manager not to get so focused on administration and compliance, that they neglect placing themselves in the strategic partnership of selecting talent.

Let's start it off right, and define how HR can take the lead in defining the partnership and in adding real value to the hiring process.

1) Start With Education

Chances are hiring managers realize that there are compliance and regulatory constraints in hiring employees, which is part of the rationale for bringing in HR. But chances are also good that the hiring managers don't really understand what needs to happen and more importantly, why.

This is the perfect opportunity for a new HR function to frame the "why" not as "we have to," but as "this is the business reason for creating the process in this way" and for engaging hiring managers in designing the process.

This is also the time to make sure that the leadership team realizes that responsibility for the ultimate design of the process belongs to them. Each step is, in reality, a choice that leadership must make and they need HR's help to clearly understand the consequences of each choice.

2) Ask Leadership to Define Strategic Workforce Goals

Ask the leadership team to define the workforce they believe will propel the organization's growth (we'll assume here that growth is a strategic goal). Push them to talk about the behaviors that will create a highly productive workforce, and the behaviors of leadership that will shape performance.

As an example, get them thinking about the importance of working across business functions. In other words, is it okay that employees work within their silo, or should they know and understand the bigger picture? If the bigger picture is their choice, that may point to a hiring process that involves a cross-functional team.

3) Engage Leaders in Designing the Hiring Process

With this dialogue, you have created a link between the business and the behaviors of employees and leaders. This will serve as a strong foundation for engaging leaders in designing the hiring process.

For example, let's say your initial dialogue resulted in agreement that the workforce must be capable of working across all areas of the organization, but managers don't want involvement from others in the hiring process. You can help them understand that unilateral hiring decisions by one manager may not result in the cross-functional teams that they are looking to build.

4) Link decisions to a Business Reason

You will be well served to start teaching your operational leaders right; that they are responsible for the people and performance of the business. You are there to help and guide.

If you educate them well, and provide concrete consequences of any decisions they may make, chances are good that they will make the right decisions. But, even if they don't, they will own the decision, and you can hold them accountable to their own decision.

Photo: Creative Commons

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