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Small Business How to combine Culture & HR?

culturecon Today I attended CultureCon – An event organized by Dyn. An event that is all about sharing best practices when it comes to organization. When talking to many managers and business owners, I realized that everyone is struggling with the same issues. How do we implement and maintain a great culture and how do we prevent it from become “blah”?

It seems that many small businesses struggle with the fact that they think that they should not adopt the same approach as the big companies, but you might want to reconsider this. The story of my company started when I  became involved with a small, owner-operated construction company that was building our dream home. One day when I was visiting the construction site, Ridgeview Construction Owner Shane Carter invited me to join him for lunch and we started to talk. He mentioned that he would love to learn how to create an engaged, high-performing workforce. Excited to help, I jumped at the chance to help him with HR issues, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Would techniques I used for development, human resources and consulting at much larger firms (multinationals) work on this scale? The answer is yes—a small company with a limited budget and without a team of in-house HR professionals can establish robust HR practices that help to move the company forward.

The approach we developed for Ridgeview enabled them to grow at a time that most construction companies did just the opposite. We learned that there are six elements that will improve employee engagement, decrease turnover, and facilitate growth.

1. Identify Where You Want to Go

What do you want to be known for? What is the goal of your business, next to making money? This goal is the ideal, your personal vision. For Ridgeview, it is a simple goal. They want to change the way communities and homes are developed.

2. Understand the Structure and Processes of Your Organization

Even if you have only a few people, look at your organization and determine what is the production side of the business and what is the preparation side of the business (sales, purchasing), as well as what are the supporting functions (bookkeeping, human resources).

Look at the processes of the business. How do the processes support the vision? Do they move from preparation to manufacturing efficiently? Is it a seamless move from manufacturing to sales? By redesigning processes to flow smoothly you increase efficiency and productivity.

3. Know Your People and Their Personal Goals

When was the last time you had a conversation with your employees about their goals? Do you really know? Sit down, ask, and listen. Align your employees to the roles available, ideally keeping them in one of the three pillars mentioned above (production, preparation and support) to improve efficiency in your organization.

At Ridgeview we found that when we encouraged employees to talk about their career goals, even when those goals were outside Ridgeview, the company was able to support many of them. Supporting employees keeps them highly engaged and will ultimately keep them inside
the organization.

4. Know the Law

There are many labor laws and regulations, but only a few apply to companies with fewer than 15 employees. When working on the compliance side of your business, I recommend working with a professional who has strong ties with a labor attorney and will teach the regulations and the risks. Make yourself familiar with the benefits of following the law and the cost and risks of not following the law. For example, staffing an employee instead of a contractor has benefits beyond complying with the law, even though it often costs more money.

Ask questions. When you understand the basics you can implement a package that fits your organization. There is no such thing as a standard employee handbook, as no two companies are identical.

5. Implement Procedures to Support Your People

Only implement human resource procedures and rules that you agree with. Every rule can limit your company in its movements; so focus on procedures that support the performance of people. For example, implementing a performance review process should increase the performance of your employees.

Ridgeview improved their hiring process with a customized application form that focuses on the special traits and experience that an employee needs to fit in to the organization’s culture. The selection process was improved, the quality of candidates that made it to the interviews improved, and the success of the new employee when hired dramatically increased.

6. Eliminate Waste and Redundancy

When the basics are established, it is time to engage with employees and work continuously with them to improve processes. Let them take responsibility by coming up with improvements in their work area and in the processes they touch, making them proud to work for the company.

Creating a great culture is a journey, not a destiny. When following these six steps, reduced turnover and increased employee engagement and productivity are the result.

Mirjam IJtsma is the president of Cultural Chemistry, a human resources firm that supports small-business owners and human resource managers in implementing highly engaged workforces by providing training, coaching and support in the human resources and process improvement areas. IItsma can be reached at mirjamijtsma@culturalchemistry.com or 603-339-7257.