So how do you turn up the HR? Unfortunately, many small business leaders think of HR as a pawn or at the very most a lame rook that always hides in the corner (no diagonals!). You’ve got to start thinking about HR as a strategic player. You’ve got to realize it’s your queen, and let it get to work.
A great place to start is to make a great hire. Many small business leaders try to save on personnel costs and task the office manager with the basic HR duties: payroll, record keeping, benefits and compliance, and maybe a little recruiting. If you’ve got the budget to hire someone, do it the other way around! Find a talented HR professional who can also handle office management duties.
Thinking of HR merely for operational (or administrative) tasks will hurt you; you don’t hire a CEO because she’s great at signing checks. And you don’t use the queen in chess to only protect the king. Treating HR strategically will help you build and sustain a lasting culture as well as create systems that give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace—such as recruiting efforts that effectively attract talent and retention efforts that effectively retain them.
Let’s use onboarding as an example. Every organization should have the objective to find and keep great talent. And studies have shown that new employees who undergo a well-structured onboarding program are 69 percent more likely to stay with that company as long as three years. Here’s what a strategic onboarding system might look like:
You’ve made it through the recruiting process and your new hire has signed her offer letter. A week before her start day she receives a customized welcome packet via email. The packet walks her through all necessary paperwork and even lets her sign them electronically, so she’s ready to jump right in when she shows up. The packet also helps her fill out a get-to-know-you form that is sent to the rest of the staff via email. Because the form includes questions like “what are some of your hobbies?” and “what is your favorite vacation spot?” her new coworkers make instant connections with her when she comes in.
An automated onboarding checklist helps IT get her computer and desk ready before she starts, and since the welcome packet included a “Mac or PC?” question, she shows up and feels truly welcomed (and prepared to work). She’s impressed with how organized her new employers are, she’s making new friends right from the get-go, and instead of doing boring paperwork she’s learning about her new job, the culture, its nuances, and all the how-tos.
Then, when she leaves work and talks to her friends or family about her first day, she doesn’t say, “Hmmm, I mostly just filled out paperwork and got my desk ready.” No, no, no. Thanks to a thoughtful, strategic HR process she’s going to simply say, “I love it there; I’m so happy they hired me” (or something like that).
Running a business, like chess, is best played when you think ahead. Not just one move or even two moves ahead, but many moves ahead. By preparing every step of these crucial HR processes and matching them to your company culture, you’re setting yourself up for positive results.