6 Top Tips
I’ve just described a smooth expansion of the HR function as a business expands, however unfortunately it doesn’t always go smoothly. I’ve seen many businesses stumble along the way, but here are my six top tips to save you from making the most common mistakes.
1. Separate Admin from Strategy
If you are relying on an HR administrator alone, you will start to notice that you are lacking strategy. Problems will arise around grievances, resignations and staff turnover. It may be that your HR administrator is too busy, or they simply don’t have the skills and experience to work on strategy.
The best way to solve this is to split your HR admin and your HR strategy. These are two separate roles and it’s unlikely that you’ll find someone who can do both. Just as you wouldn’t ask your CFO to do your bookkeeping, you shouldn’t ask your HR Professional to just do admin. It’s a different skill set and a different level of experience.
‘Just as you wouldn’t ask your CFO to do your bookkeeping, you shouldn’t ask your HR Professional to just do admin’
2. Use Software & Outsourcing Solutions
Before you hire your first HR person, you can reduce some of the HR admin by putting in place an HR Information System (HRIS) to collect and store data about your employees. This will significantly reduce the administration workload. You can also hire consultants to assist you with recruitment and WHS. This will free up your new HR person to be more strategic in workplace culture, staff development and retention.
3. Don’t Use HR to Manage Staff
It’s fantastic to bring your first HR person on board, but beware of the big pitfall that can appear at this stage. I often see that small businesses simply don’t have enough strategy work to keep their first HR professional busy.
This is when organisations say, ‘that’s okay, we’ll get the HR person to do the performance reviews, the probation reviews and the check-ins with new staff. They can let people know when they’re performing and not performing.’
This is not a good idea. HR should not manage your staff. The HR person is supposed to be the person in your organisation that is always straddling business and employee needs. If you ask your HR person to manage staff, you will be:
- removing employees’ voice If the HR person delivers performance conversations the employees will just see them as a manager.
- divesting responsibility of managers If managers aren’t having performance discussions, doing promotional reviews, and having those difficult conversations, the employees are not going to respect the managers.
HR should not be the police. They should not be the bad guys. If you find yourself saying things like ‘oh, I shouldn’t say that because HR is in the room’, then you have a problem. You and your HR person should be in it together. Your HR person should be your sounding board and your trusted advisor, and they should fill that role for your employees as well.
4. Don’t Try to Squeeze Too Much into HR Roles
Some people try to fit too much into an HR role, by combining HR and payroll, or HR and WHS, or even worse, HR and payroll and WHS. This can cause people a lot of issues because they are completely different areas of focus.
It’s really important to clearly define your HR role. Sometimes I find that when a business is hiring an HR person, what they actually need is a strong people manager and not an HR manager at all.
5. Use the Right Terminology
Here’s a question I’m often asked: what’s the difference between Human Resources and People and Culture?
Back in the 90s, we used the word ‘Personnel’. Then we moved to ‘HR Management’. Now we’re calling it ‘People and Culture’. But you can’t separate these out – you can’t have an HR person who isn’t concerned with your culture and the best ways to make your people more effective.
To me, the actual wording isn’t that important. But to some people, ‘People and Culture’ seems more forward-thinking, as though you’re making a statement that this is not traditional HR, in a policy and policing sense. Instead, you are interested in supporting workplace culture. However, sometimes people can think, ‘well, if that person is responsible for people and culture, I don’t need to be’. This is not what we want either.
What you call the role is not as important as what you expect from the role. If you hire an HR Business Partner to provide advice to managers, they’re essentially an internal consultant to your business. That means they’re not going to do admin, they are going to be very focused on influencing the leadership team, being the advisor to the owner or the CEO, and will usually have people reporting to them.
It’s important to think your terminology through before you go to market with the job. Will you use HR or People and Culture? And are you looking for an HR Administrator, an HR Manager or an HR Business Partner?
6. Avoid HR Burnout
Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of burnout in standalone HR roles. For businesses under 100 employees, you’ll usually find an HR person working on their own. They may have a lot of people talking to them on a regular basis, including divulging very personal situations. There may be situations where people are disclosing self-harm or psychological distress.
It’s important to think about the support that you can provide for your HR person before you hire them. Is there someone internally that can be a support person for conversations and debriefs? If you don’t have someone internally, is there an external person who can do this?
At Amplify HR, we act in that role for some HR managers, because sometimes in HR you need someone else to talk with, to bounce ideas off and even just to have a whinge! HR is not like other roles. If, for example, you’re the only finance person in the business, there aren’t many circumstances where you can’t talk with your colleagues about issues that come up. However in HR roles, very often you can’t talk to people about what happened in your day.