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Keep It Professional: 5 Tips for Managing Human Resources

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When you set out to grow a business, your team is just as important as the product. Employees transform a business from an idea on paper to a living, breathing enterprise. But there is some responsibility involved. 

Like every other resource, a business needs to manage human resources effectively to stay productive and an enjoyable place to work. HR is a core function of business management and has a direct impact on both reputation and success. Here are several tips for getting started with HR. 

Have a Plan From the Start

HR managers typically handle many of the most crucial administrative tasks, from recruiting to training and payroll. They also help prevent and manage complaints, and they play a major role in helping you set the tone as a professional operation. 

Most craft breweries, wineries, and cideries are small businesses, and small companies don’t always have a large enough budget or team to justify having a dedicated office manager or HR representative. In most cases, those responsibilities fall on the business owner or another trusted member of the team. More than half of small businesses manage employment matters themselves, according to SHRM. 

This dynamic needs to be clearly defined because there are specific local, state, and federal laws that govern issues like sexual harassment, discrimination, and workers’ compensation claims. If a business is around long enough, it will likely encounter a complaint or lawsuit, justified or not. Wherever a business is in its life cycle, it needs to develop a competent HR strategy. 

Businesses who serve alcohol especially need to have some procedures and rules in place, since alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and actions. Don’t think of it as being a buzzkill — it’s just looking out for others and yourself. Structure is good for everyone.

Communicate Your Expectations (And Document Them)

Think of employment as a set of promises. A person is hired to do a job. You have expectations on how you’d like them to work, and they have expectations on how they’d like you to treat them. For instance, employees expect to be paid on time, to work in a safe environment, and be treated with respect. All is well so long as both boss and employee hold up their end of the bargain.

To keep everyone on the same page, create an employee handbook. In it, document all rules and processes, such as how to request time off, the dress code, and who gets to control the office stereo. It can and should be customized to your business. 

Once written, this handbook can be a crucial reference for the future. At the outset, it may seem daunting to create a handbook, but the reality is documentation saves time in the long run, since you have a handy reference. Usually, it’s best to consult with or hire a professional to create one for you, so you know the legalese is solid. 

Always Stay Compliant 

Compliance is a crucial responsibility of HR professionals, whether it’s collecting I-9 forms to verify employment eligibility or ensuring income tax is withheld. HR has a paper trail, and a business absolutely needs to stay on top of it or risk a wide assortment of penalties.

The administrative work begins when an employee joins your team and can continue well after they are gone. Employee benefits, such as health insurance, require attention to function appropriately, and you should always be aware of any new legislative changes. It can be difficult to monitor compliance updates, so consider working with an attorney or industry association to stay informed. 

If you’re managing HR yourself, consider blocking off time on a regular basis to complete any and all outstanding tasks and review upcoming developments. 

Reflect On Your Culture

A job should be more than a paycheck. Today, employees, especially younger generations, want to work at an employer with a mission or purpose. To attract and retain talent, you need to define your company culture and live it out.  

Culture is when your team becomes greater than the sum of its parts, aligned around a mission and a set of values. Consider it your personal constitution for how your company does business, treats employees and how employees should represent the company. These ideals should be communicated to your employees with reminders every so often. 

HR is your opportunity to document and implement these values from the time your company is founded and with subsequent hire. Give some thought to a mission statement, your philosophy and values. With the right approach, employees will spread the word and you can develop a good reputation in the industry. And be sure to ask about culture in job interviews to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your organization.

Be Willing to Ask for Help

Business owners frequently have a lot on their plates, but it’s worth noting HR is not an area where you can afford to be spread too thin. Certain HR tasks, such as hiring, can be quite time-consuming. For instance, the average job posting can receive as many as 250 applications. That said, there’s often a gap between what is too much for a business owner and what can justify a full-time role. 

Fortunately, there are many great resources for small companies to lean on for HR support. Hiring a consultant or fractional HR talent can help you deliver much of the same value on an hourly or term basis. 

If you have a deep need for talent, staffing firms and professional employer organizations (PEOs) can provide you with broader solutions. These companies tend to specialize in sourcing and managing temporary workers or independent contractors, and because these companies can sometimes act as the formal employer of record, they shoulder some of the risk. Outsourcing HR to a vendor can sometimes help you provide more comprehensive benefits, since these vendors have greater buying power in the marketplace. 

Above all, if you find yourself struggling to keep up with HR, don’t be dismayed. Growth is a good thing, and bottlenecks happen from time to time. With the right approach, it may be time to hire just one more person to help. 

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