Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Small Businesses Have Big HR Needs - National Post

Where there are employees – be it 14,800 people, 710 people or 43 people – there are HR issues. Most mid to large sized organizations have a Human Resources Department with a number of HR professionals typically covering off most HR functions. Conversely, most small businesses do not have an HR professional at all.  Some do opt to have a junior generalist who fulfills some HR functions such as payroll and recruitment. But what about all of the other HR functions?  Big HR needs do exist in small companies, but what is the best approach to addressing them?
HR functions such as designing performance management systems, developing talent management strategies, creating compensation plans and preparing for terminations are best handled by senior HR practitioners. But there are few seasoned HR professionals want to work in small businesses where they would be the only HR resource and therefore would need to do the highly administrative and more tedious aspects of HR. As well, companies who have 100 employees or less would not be able to keep a truly senior HR professional busy and challenged 5 days a week, let alone be able to afford them. 
The director of a private clinic expressed his frustration due to the absence of an HR professional, “it’s crazy, I’m not a big corporation, but I have human resource needs too but I can’t afford to have an HR person on my staff”. So how do small businesses best deal with big HR issues if they don’t have a senior HR exec? By partnering with external Human Resources Consultants. 
The rationale for this model is that it costs much less for the small business owner and it is the best way to get senior HR expertise on an ‘as needed basis’. This model isn’t groundbreaking. In fact, many small companies adopt this same practice with their finance, marketing and IT needs. The more revolutionary aspect of this model is that an increasing number of small companies are realizing that human resources needs are crucial to success and cannot be overlooked. 
In one particular case, the client bragged that despite the fact that his company is so small, it has a policy manual and employee benefits. This is great except for the fact that when it came to recruitment, he had no idea that there were prohibitive grounds under the Human Rights Code. That is, he didn’t realize it was illegal to ask about people’s age, marital status etc.   Small businesses can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to things like employment standards and laws. Throw in the need for hiring the right talent, motivating them and ensuring they perform in their roles and it’s easy to see how an HR consultant can add a lot of value. 
When filling this HR need, small businesses should look for someone who best suits their organization’s culture and values. Performance reviews, recruitment strategies, the way terminations are handled – these are all processes that require careful representation of the organization. Searching for the right HR consultant should involve thorough reference checks to learn how the consultant conducted themselves, whether they represented the company appropriately and of course to determine whether they had the desired impact. Speaking with other small businesses in your network is a great way to find out who is out there in terms of HR consultants and how they’ve met and hopefully exceeded the needs of a company your size. 

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Recruitment for Small Businesses - National Post

Small business operators may not have the luxury of on-staff Human Resources professionals or budgets for external recruiters that most larger size organizations have. The recruitment process can be overwhelming and cumbersome. It can be less so if a lot of thought and effort goes into the front end of the process. Some of the most critical parts of the hiring process occur long before the face-to-face interviews begin. The more thought you put into the pre-interview portion of recruitment, the more likely it is that you will find exceptional candidates. 
PUTTING IT OUT THERE - Start thinking about who you want to hire when you’re writing the posting. Dusting off an old posting and tossing it on some job boards is the approach of least resistance but it will not yield quality candidates. Take time to write a posting that will let candidates know what you’re looking for. Outline the responsibilities in a way that represents the role clearly and accurately. Include required technical skills, work experience and education as well as personality traits. Speak to internal stakeholders about what qualities they think candidates should possess in order to be successful in the role. Put your marketing hat on - describe ‘what’s in it for the candidate’ - you’re selling the role as much as candidates are selling themselves. 
Research the ideal places to post your role. There are a lot of less well known websites and e-newsletters where postings are cost effective and read by people in specific industries. When you post on an online careers site, you’re only getting the people who are actively looking for work. When you post in an industry magazine or site you’re getting people who are reading the editorial to keep up to date on their field and who may glance at the careers section and apply if something peaks their interest. 
Since many small businesses’ names are not widely known, it’s important to provide a description of what your company does. Feel free to mention the location of the office, especially if it’s on the subway line or in a highly desirable area. Include any other pertinent information such as awards the company has won or positive mentions of the company in the press.  
FIRST GLANCE - Set aside some time over a few days to review resumes that come in. It’s not something you want to do in one sitting, especially if you receive a large number of applications. Organize the applications into categories such as ‘not interviewing’, ‘maybe interviewing’ and ‘interviewing’. Prepare a form with a series of phone screening questions that you’re going to ask each ‘interview worthy’ candidate. Face-to-face interviews should be reserved for those candidates who respond to the phone screening questions successfully. This makes sense because you don’t want to waste time interviewing someone who wants to earn $20,000 more than the role pays - this could have been revealed in the phone screening phase. 
ONE CHANCE - Small businesses often don’t have the brand strength that large organizations may have. Be sure to use the phone screening as an opportunity to make a favourable first impression on the candidates. Keep phone screening to twenty or thirty minutes. That’s enough time to make a choice about next steps. Let candidates know what your recruitment process involves and if they are to hear about a next step, give them an idea of when they can expect to hear from you. Let star candidates know that if they are interviewing for other roles and getting close to accepting an offer they should feel free to let you know and you may be able to expedite your process. Let them know when they’ll have an opportunity to ask questions they may have - it’s appropriate to save that for the face-to-face interviews. 
Put thought into the front-end of the recruitment process and your small business is sure to have a large number of qualified and interested candidates.