The Job Coaches: Human resources and small businesses

When you think about the dream of owning your own business, you may marvel at the thought of being your own boss, and you may be surprised by the hours that you have to put in. In fact, many small business owners say that they work much harder in their own business than they ever did when working for someone else. The difference is that you’re working hard for yourself. It’s like buying vs. renting.photo

You start thinking about your product and what makes you different from your competition. You consider what your location will look like, how you’re going to advertise and all the other necessary details. If you’ve been in business for a while, you may be thinking about what special you’re going to have next week or how you are going to gain new customers or clients. However, some new or tenured business owners are not thinking about employees much beyond salary.

Employees are the heartbeat of any business and even more so when it comes to small businesses. You want to hire people you can trust who will represent you in a positive way whether you are present or not. If a customer or client has a negative experience with one of your employees, they will remember that a lot longer than they will any positive interactions. You’ve got to have the best people on your team.

I went around town and asked some small-business owners about employee relations, training, conflict resolution and how they found their staff. Every owner had a different point of view, and the findings were interesting.

The first question was, “When you thought of having your own business, did you really think about the HR stuff such as compliance and employee development, or did you focus only on hiring and budgeting for employees?”

I was surprised that most said they had not thought about the human resource aspects of the business. One owner said he knew that scheduling can be a little tricky sometimes because most of his staff was part time, but he wasn’t expecting the “miscellaneous” things such as customer service training, personal feelings/needs and employee development. A more tenured owner said that she always has had a great staff but wasn’t sure how to enhance the position of the employee who is doing a stellar job and has a world of potential. She knew that if she didn’t do something she’d lose her along with her skills and knowledge.

I learned that even though some of the challenges were specific to the industry, type of business, environment or length of time the business has been open, the human needs were the same. Their staff members wanted to feel needed, cared for, respected and appreciated.

Here are a few tips on employee relations:

Matchmaking: When you’re interviewing, ask situational- or behavioral-based questions. Probe for real examples of how they have handled situations in the past.

It’s all clear: Write a job description. Make sure the potential hire understands what will be expected.

All ears: If you say you’re going to have an open-door policy, do it! Really listen and ask them what they think. They might have some solutions. Just because you’re the owner doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers.

Invest: Teach them skills that they will not only use in your business, but that they can take anywhere. This will show your employees that you truly value them and care about their personal growth.

Put it to action! Have some ideas of how you can enhance the duties of your star employees. As Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” You want the best employees to be keepers.

Slash the trash: A grad student once told me this when I was preparing for a multiple-choice test. Create an exit strategy for employees that may not be in the right position or industry.

Recruitment: Have a Plan B, a reserve list of potential employees. That will save money on turnover costs and is good for growth.

Owning a business comes with a long list of responsibilities, and as an owner you have many hats that you wear. I hope these tips are beneficial to you, your business and, most of all, your interaction and development of your staff. After all, they are a direct representation of you and your business.

Pat Eardley is an H.R. adviser with more than 16 years’ experience in human resources management. She supports small-business owners, allowing them to have more time by focusing on creating a successful business environment for them and their employees.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, May 7, 2010.

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