HR 101 for Small Businesses

How to create an HR plan when you don’t even have a real HR department or you’re barely keeping up as it is.

There are two kinds of people who read this type of post: the ones who read the title and think, “Excellent, I can create an HR plan” and those who read the title and think, “How on earth am I supposed to create an HR plan when I barely have time to actually do HR as it is?”

When you’re swamped with the day to day of just keeping your business running, even doing HR can slip down the priority list, much less creating an HR plan for the year. But if that sounds like you, I’d really encourage you to rethink your perspective, because good people management is one of the cornerstones of a strong business. And with that in mind, I’m going to simplify HR planning for you as much as possible.

Here’s what absolutely has to get done.

Let’s be absolutely honest here — in most cases, no federal, state, or local authority is going to demand that you complete performance reviews, engagement surveys, supervisory training, or even an HR audit of your business. But they do require you to follow the letter of the law when it comes to compensation and benefits. (AKA how and when you pay employees and offer benefits.)

The key to compensation and benefits is paying all employees fairly and consistently. Many of the compensation laws we follow today stem from the 1930s, when labor unions were established to save employees from having to work long, dreadful hours without breaks, without overtime and for very little pay.

Nowadays, break periods and overtime requirements have been legislated federally and in many states as well. When it comes to benefits, we’ve had important acts like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) among others to protect employees, as well as the more recent Affordable Care Act.

All of these compensation and benefit requirements must be followed closely. But aside from those…

Setting federal and state compensation and benefit requirements aside, you’re pretty much free to determine whether you will have other types of HR practices in your company, including performance reviews, employee engagement surveys, or training.

That being said, after nearly 20 years as an HR professional, I can tell you that these can make or break your company.

When you have these types of HR systems and structures in place, it’s not only better for your overall workplace culture and productivity, it’s also a great foundation for a defense against employee complaints or worse, a dreaded lawsuit. But, as I said, it’s not strictly required.

So at the very least, you need to think about whether you need to include these things in your calendar…

HR planning
Supervisory training
HR audit
Employee engagement surveys
Non-harassment training
Non-discrimination training
All employee off-site meetings
Leadership retreat
Performance reviews
1:1 meetings with direct reports
Employee handbook review
Workforce communications
Leadership training
Regular staff/team meetings

Your next step:

With the items you selected from the list above, begin to pencil them in on you calendar. Even if some of them aren’t happening for a few months, it’s nice to have a plan in place.

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