Tips for Improving Your Human Resource Functions

In previous columns, I’ve stressed how important human resource management is to the success of a business. I’ve suggested that people are your most important asset and that managing people has become more challenging. This month I will build on this theme.

Technology also offers some solutions to this task. There are many HR software programs available, as well as a number of companies that specialize in small business human resources. You can outsource some or all of your HR activities easily.

Rules & Regulations

Every employee has a right to a workplace that is free of hazards, sexual harassment and discrimination, and federal, state/provincial and local government agencies are working to ensure this.

Many new rules and regulations have been introduced in the past 30 years, and this puts a lot of pressure on owners and managers to stay current. It could take only one miscue to put a small business out of business.

Most of you don’t have an HR background, so your challenge is to become familiar with all of the various government mandated regulations and programs with which your company must comply.

Becoming Family Friendly

Is your company “family friendly?” It better be if you want to attract and retain top performers. Being “family friendly” means that your company’s scheduling and general operating policies take into reasonable account the personal needs of the employees – in particular their desire to balance job responsibilities with family responsibilities.

It’s become increasingly apparent that family-oriented policies do more than simply enhance a company’s recruiting initiatives. They also produce a number of bottom-line benefits – such as reduced absenteeism, fewer disability claims and fewer workplace accidents.

Practices and policies typically found in companies pursuing work and family initiatives include flexible scheduling (flextime), telecommuting, individual arrangements, employee assistance programs (EPAs) and benefit programs that enable employees to select those benefits that are relevant to their particular needs.

The Hiring Process

Hiring is a multi-step process. The first step is to understand your needs. You must identify what position to fill, when to fill it and what the costs will be.

The past several years, many kitchen and bath firms were forced to scale back on staffing. This will provide you with a solid foundation with which to move forward.

All of the signs are pointing to an economic recovery, so you will need to hire people to meet the new demands. The big questions will be: what positions, what qualifications, what experience, what to pay them and how to structure that pay.

Too often owners/managers of kitchen and bath firms make “seat of the pants” decisions regarding who, what, when and how much. They haven’t thought out strategies, written job descriptions or documented compensation plans. You shouldn’t simply be “filling jobs.” Rather, you should constantly be seeking to bring your company the skills, experience and attributes it needs to meet its challenges.

Your company will only be as strong as your weakest employee. That means you must strive to improve your workforce. You must have a written, formal training program. You have to utilize job descriptions and performance evaluations and must be a great motivator. Combine this with a good compensation program and you will attract the very best people.

Once you’ve determined the need and affordability of adding an employee, you should establish the following:

  • A written job description for the position that outlines, in detail, all aspects of the job.
  • A minimum-maximum compensation range to be paid – including all benefits.
  • The details of the type of compensation program that will be used (straight salary, straight commission or salary plus commission).
  • Performance goals for sales, gross profit, number of jobs, etc. This should be broken out by month for a 12-month period.
  • The qualifications and experience required to perform the job (i.e. CKD/CBD, computer skills, selling experience, etc.).
  • Next, it’s time to develop your hiring plan. A few items to include:
  • Identify how to find new people: online or newspaper ads, agencies, word of mouth, etc.
  • Set a time line for advertising, interviewing, checking references and training.
  • Determine if part-time help or a subcontractor could fill the need.
  • Get help from other members of your team.

Competency and skills

Competency modeling is very important to the process, as it determines what particular mix of skills, attributes and attitudes will produce superior performance at your business. This not only applies to hiring decisions, but also to training and development strategies.

For example, the core of your business is designing and selling kitchens and baths. Many owners put design skills ahead of selling skills. Certainly producing winning designs is important, but selling the products and services is even more important. You have to sell something to keep the doors open.

Therefore, the competency model for a design/sales position should take into account the skills, attributes and attitudes of both the design and selling sides.

You may not always be able to fill every position with people who meet the total competency model, but at least you can identify any “skill deficits.” From this, you’ll be able to help close the gaps through training and coaching.

Next, you need to develop an employee skill inventory. This is a list of the individual skills, attributes, credentials and areas of knowledge that currently exist.

The key to developing a practical, user-friendly employee skills inventory lies in how you organize various categories of information. A typical list of employee skills should include:

  • Skills/Knowledge Areas. Business-related functions or activities in which the employee has a special knowledge or a proven record of proficiency.
  • Special Preferences. Employee requests about their career aspirations or other jobs in the company they’d like to pursue.
  • Educational Background. Schools, degrees, credentials and subjects the employee has been exposed to.
  • Job History at Your Company. Details about work history.
  • Prior Job History. Experience and skills at previous jobs.
  • Training Courses and Seminars. Educational experiences that identify employees’ enhanced knowledge/skill sets.
  • Test Results. If applicable.
  • Licenses, Credentials and Affiliations. Work-related credentials, i.e. NKBA certifications, etc.

The bottom line is that being a well-rounded HR manager will help make your company more successful.