As a consultant, I have conversations with small businesses daily. These businesses have made a decision to outsource HR to a PEO - a professional employer organization. But even before they outsource, I receive questions from acquaintances starting a business that are not at a point to outsource. Human Resources can often be overlooked and seen as "overhead" and unnecessary. I couldn't disagree more.
- We help keep you compliant (even when you don't like it). There are many laws and regulations and it is an HR professional's job to stay on top of them. A good HR professional will tell the employer the risk associated with potential decisions and how they could play out if challenged by an employee. Ignorance is not a defense. If I had a dollar for every time an executive or founder told me, "when I was at Large Co., they never did it that way" or "how does Large Co. do this then" I would be retired and living in Hawaii. What another company does is not relevant to your business, nor is it a defense. An HR professional's job, while perceived as being conservative, is really about risk mitigation and helping you stay in business for the long-term.
- We impact culture. You have five employees and you want to provide lunch daily - we can facilitate that, but not without asking if it is a sustainable practice. What seems like a great idea for five employees, may not be feasible once you've grown your business to 25 or 50 employees. Employees do not like it when you take away benefits. Perhaps it is more sustainable to offer snacks versus meals. A good HR professional will help you evaluate alternatives.
- We are your eyes and ears. A good HR professional will get to know the employees. Good HR professionals have high emotional intelligence which helps them identify issues before they become problems. A willingness to listen to our observations and your decision to take corrective action can save time down the road. Too many companies let performance issues go uncorrected because managers do not want to address them or do not have the skills to address the problem. Performance issues rarely go away without intervention. They must be addressed, or they may get worse. This in turn can lead to issues down the road when an employee needs to be terminated and there is no documentation of insufficient performance to support the termination. We all know when a person is a bad fit and causes morale problems, but unfortunately employees can bring forth any claim they would like and the employer is left to defend their actions. A good HR professional will communicate that to you, so you understand the risk you are about to take.
- We are your sounding board (if you let us). Have an idea or a business strategy you want to embark on? Let us know. We can help you decide if you have the right people in place. If you need to hire more. If you need to reduce staff. A good HR professional is a business partner, not just a cheerleader for the business. We can help you realize the people implications of your business decisions BEFORE you make them.
- We save you money. Want to fire that person, but you have no documentation - we are going to recommend that you do not. This can save you money from a potential lawsuit or agency claim for wrongful termination. Want to deny a leave of absence because you think the person is faking a disability? We will ask you to go through the American's With Disabilities Act interactive process first to determine next steps (even if we agree with you). If you don't do it the proper way, you may be dealing with a lawsuit or agency claim for disability discrimination. Want to demote the person who just filed a Worker's Compensation claim? Think again, unless you want to look at a retaliation claim. Your investors do not want to see their money wasted on lawsuits.
A good HR professional is here to help you, not hinder you. We do not want to make your life difficult, but we want to see the business succeed and help you avoid the landmines that are out there by virtue of being an employer.