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Small Business HR – Think like a big corporation!

Small Business Human Resources

Implementing big company processes into a small organization on a budget

A few years ago 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 do something different, I jumped in, 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 in this scale? The answer was a resounding yes! The approach we developed for Ridgeview enabled them to grow at a time that most construction companies did just the opposite.

The following 6-Step model is what we worked from to improve employee engagement, decrease turnover and facilitate growth at Ridgeview.

1. Identify where you want to go

What do you want to be known for? I.e. what is the goal of your business, next to making money? This goal is the ideal, your personal vision. With Cultural Chemistry we want to change how business owners perceive their human capital. Ridgeview wants to change the way communities and homes are developed.

2. Understand the structure and the 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, what is the “preparation” side of the business (sales, purchasing), and what are the “supporting functions” (bookkeeping, human resources)?

Look at the processes of the business. How do the processes support the vision of the organization? Do they move from preparation to manufacturing efficiently?  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? Think again, 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 under 2.) to improve efficiency in your organization.

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

4. Know the law and the cost of not following the law

There are many labor laws and regulations, but only a few apply to companies with less than 15 employees. When working on the compliance side of your business, I recommend that you work with a professional that has strong ties with a labor attorney and will teach you about the regulations, show you what the risk is, and then help you based on those risks to limit them as much as possible.  Make yourself familiar with the benefits of following the law, and the cost and risk of not following the law. For example, staffing an employee instead of a contractor has benefits beyond complying with the law.  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 there is no such thing as another company like you.

5. Implement procedures to support the people

Only implement human resource procedures and rules that you agree with. Every rule can limit your company in its movements; therefore 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 focusses 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, redundancy and rework

When the basics in points 1-5 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 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. Start your journey today and enjoy the ride!

Mirjam IJtsma is the president of Cultural Chemistry, a Human Resources firm that support 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. Mirjam can be reached at [email protected] or (603) 339 7257.