How do you effectively operate your business without a formal Human Resource Department? After all, aren’t those folks in HR the “people people” who handle all those employee issues while the rest of us do the real work? Aren’t they the experts on pay, benefits, compliance, and forms—something the rest of us would never dare to touch?
A well run Human Resource Department can provide an organization tremendous value with their expertise. Having someone to lean on to handle the difficult employee and legal issues can provide any manager peace of mind. However, some companies are just too small to afford a dedicated department while others believe they can operate just fine without HR.
So how do firms successfully manage without a formal HR group? Here are 10 tips:
- Give managers the authority to make HR decisions: when situations occur, managers must be able to act, without the need to have to kick a decision upstairs.
- Encourage innovation: productivity improvements can only occur with a steady stream of new ideas come from the people closest to the operation.
- Train managers in their new responsibilities: before you can hold managers accountable for hiring, retaining, and motivating their staff, you have to train them on how to do it. These are complicated concepts, so education is key to a successful transition. You need to prepare your managers first. If you just dive in, you’ll probably make mistakes.
- Hold managers accountable for workforce decisions: without accountability, nothing good happens. Hold the managers accountable for hiring quality staff, retaining good employees, increasing productivity, etc. And when good things happen, reward them.
- Develop systems that promote consistency: without consistency, productivity, morale and profitability will dip. Develop good systems and standards, encourage lots of communications between the managers, and follow your procedures. When deviations from procedures do occur (and they will), make sure everyone knows why.
- Know the law: state and federal laws change frequently. Have an outside expert regularly monitoring regulations that can impact your workplace.
- Use an outside expert to handle thorny workforce issues: no matter how skilled your staff may be, there are going to be times when you need specific expertise. You don’t want a manager guessing about how to handle a sexual harassment investigation.
- Utilize experts to help with problems and to train and coach your managers: to ensure that your managers have the skills to do handle their new responsibilities, get them the needed expertise.
- Address workforce issues immediately: when behavior issues are handled right away, there is far less stress for the managers and fewer concerns for error and lawsuits.
- Involve your employees: employees are a vast resource that when tapped can offer an abundance of ideas.
Operating without a HR department is not easy. For smaller organizations there is little choice. Regardless, preparing your organization and managers to directly oversee their workforce can be positive for all. Training, systems, accountability standards, outside expertise and the commitment to make it work is the formula to bringing your workforce closer and focusing your managers on your most important asset—your people.
(This article was part of my regular column in the York County Coast Star, November 17 2011 edition)