Editors Note: This is a guest post by Nick Hedges. His opinions are his own.
SMB’s with up to 150 employees often don’t have an in-house HR specialist to deal with situations that can arise with employees in the workplace. The general nature of companies employing people means that a wide range of people are brought together and while some personalities can gel, others can clash.
Many people think of HR only when it comes to recruitment but there are many crucial times when HR can help small and medium sized businesses to appropriately manage their people and to achieve mutual satisfaction. By engaging an external HR specialist, businesses can receive all the advantages of having their own in-house HR but without the cost of having a full-time employee in that role.
Here are 3 common scenarios where an external HR specialist can help your business overcome an obstacle.
1. Dispute resolution
Disputes are common in any workplace setting, both inside an organisation and with those external to an organisation such as customers and suppliers. Managing disputes effectively is key for managers and business owners who strive to minimise disruptions and maintain a positive workplace and organisational culture.
Situation: Two senior managers were constantly clashing within a company, often opposed to each other’s ideas and strategies, and the owner was caught in the middle. One of the senior managers enjoyed risk, the other was conservative. Their differences in opinion were causing a strain within the company and the owner had tried to talk to them but had no luck. The owner was considering enacting a retrenchment to restructure the roles however decided to get help to move forward from an outsourced third party.
HR Solution: An outsourced HR consultancy advised against retrenchment, given the circumstances, and a third party mediation session was held for the two senior managers. Once HR had spoken with the owner and established the background and context of the situation, HR then spoke individually with each of the senior managers. When HR knew the objectives and issues of each of the employees, group mediation began.
Result: The senior managers found common ground and became increasingly aware that they both shared the goal of bettering the company. Their relationship strengthened and they developed a greater level of respect for each other. Overall, the organisation is more united and there is a cohesive atmosphere. There is a sense of respect, appreciation and understanding across the management team, improving overall productivity and performance.
2. Bullying and harassment
Although general disputes and conflict are common in a workplace, there are times when a situation escalates and crosses the line to be categorised as bullying or harassment. Bullying and harassment can have serious effects, such as causing psychological damage, and should be resolved as soon as possible. One difficult aspect for management is that bullying and harassment often occur discreetly or even covertly so it may not even be apparent and more difficult to detect.
Situation: There was a business with a high turnover of admin staff and where a bullying culture was tolerated. Many of those who resigned complained to management about the other employees, particularly those from a specific department. This department operated in an intense and high-pressure environment which created a workplace setting that was unusually emotional.
HR Solution: A seminar/training session was run by an outsourced HR consultancy for this department, aimed at showing them how to channel their emotions within the work environment. Key perpetrators were identified and coached one-on-one, paying particular attention to enhance their perspective on the causes and effects of workplace behaviour and a deeper understanding of bullying and harassment. HR also improved the hiring process to create a better fit between the organisation and the employee.
Result: The workplace is calmer and the level of professionalism has risen. To date, the employee who was hired is still with the organisation and happy in their role. Management says that the training gave staff an opportunity to become more communicative and the company’s reputation is also on the rise.
As a business grows, the need for more formalised HR systems is likely to arise. One essential area is compliance, ensuring that an organisation is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. Some businesses will also require specific HR policies that are relevant to their industry whereas other businesses can use a more generic approach.
Situation: There was a business that grew rapidly and the company’s formal HR and employment related systems and practices had not evolved quickly enough. The person looking after HR also had other roles which were more pressing on a day-to-day-basis. With increasing growth, the daily demands on HR became overwhelming, to the point where the company was unable to operate at the level necessary to support its growth in the long-term. This presented a major risk to the organisation as no clear guidelines were in place.
HR Solution: The company hired an external HR consultancy to revise all policies and procedures and then create, implement and maintain the changes and best practices in order to proceed in the best way possible. Procedures were introduced to ensure a compliant, efficient and educated workforce. A formal employee induction training program was introduced and workplace documentation was revised to ensure ongoing compliance.
Result: With a solid foundation and a set of guidelines, the business is in a strong position to minimise risk and grow to its fullest potential and it is already leveraging this position. Employees have handbooks outlining policies and procedures to ensure consistent decision-making, fairness and compliance into the future.
In many cases, management can handle the individuals within their organisation on a daily basis and they don’t require additional help but there are times when situations can get overly complex and very difficult to handle. Many business owners are comforted to know that they don’t always need a full-time in-house HR person or department. If necessary, businesses can always reach out to an external HR specialist to help them overcome obstacles and move their business forward successfully with a positive, cohesive and productive workforce.
Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners.