The Basics of Human Resource Management

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I’ve had the pleasure of writing for Kitchen & Bath Design News for a number of years. I’m really not sure how I got started on the topic of Human Resource Management. When I ran my own business, we had about 40 employees and I evolved into a pretty good HR manager – but it really wasn’t my main area of expertise. However, being faced with six or so monthly deadlines on the subject every year, I’ve made the subject a real focus of study. I’ve accumulated numerous books, CDs, videos and other material on the subject, and I keep learning. I have to stay current because the laws and rules are changing every day. You have to stay current, too.

For this column, I’m going to borrow some information from one of those books – my own Kitchen and Bath Business Management. This is one of the publications in the NKBA’s recently published “Professional Resource Library.”

In the book’s introduction, I state that virtually every business is made up of three parts: financial management, sales/marketing management and human resource management. For a business to be well balanced, it has to be equally strong in all three areas. However, my experience has shown me that, in the kitchen and bath industry, this usually is not the case. In general, most business owners are pretty strong in sales and marketing, but weak in the other two important areas. In this column I want to focus on the basics of HR Management, using some of the information from my book. (After all, I do have the author’s permission).

AN ART AND SKILL

Large companies have separate HR departments dedicated to managing this important part of the business. In contrast, the kitchen and bath consists of thousands of small (15 or fewer employees) companies which don’t have the resources to hire a specialist to manage personnel-related issues. As a result, the owner ends up doing everything.

Employees represent the intellectual capital that can make or break a firm’s ability to remain competitive. You’ve heard that stated many times before: People are your most important asset! On the flip side of the coin, if your employees are not well managed, they can also be your single greatest liability.

As business becomes more complex, so does the human resource function which now encompasses everything from addressing staff needs more strategically to launching effective training initiatives, interpreting federal and state/provincial codes and implementing policies and benefits that safeguard workers while protecting company interests. The stakes today are high. The legal and economic consequences of a major human resource misstep can be enormous.

For many kitchen and bath business owners, human resource management is an intimidating prospect. But if you’ll make the effort to learn all you can, possibly aligning yourself with an outside professional resource, you’ll not only become a better people manager, you may even start to like it!

You’ll also come to realize that good HR management is both an art and a skill.

Most people in business agree that being sensitive to – and doing your best to the meet “people needs” of – your employees is in your best interests as an employer. However, debate exists concerning just how much responsibility a company must assume with respect to those people needs, and how much time and money a company must devote to the needs and priorities of employees, as opposed to those of its business operations and customers.

That’s where you come into the equation. As the owner, and probably the HR manager, your job is to focus on the practices and policies in your company that directly affect the welfare and morale of your employees. It’s up to you to strike an optimum balance between the strategic needs of your business and the basic needs of your employees.

Most business owners in our industry would agree that this task is not only more difficult than ever, it’s more important. For one thing, today’s market for employees with the skills that growing technology-driven businesses require is extremely competitive. Consequently, your ability to attract good employees relates more closely than ever to the “human” side of the day-to-day working experience (the general atmosphere that prevails in the workplace) and the extent to which your company helps people balance the pressures of work and home.

UNDERSTAND THE BASICS

Whether you call it “human resource management” or “personnel administration,” this important facet of business is generally described as “the decisions, activities and processes that must meet the basic needs and support the work performance of employees.”

The common areas of responsibility that fall under human resource management include:

  • Staffing: Strategically determining, recruiting and hiring the people to help operate your business.
  • Basic Workplace Policies: Orienting your staff on policies and procedures such as schedules, safety and security.
  • Compensation & Benefits: The salary and company services that ensure your staff stays with
    you and strengthens their knowledge and experience to help your company grow.
  • Regulatory Issues: This includes what your company must do to stay in compliance with the ever-increasing number of federal, state/province and local regulations.

Human resource management, however, is really about people – finding and recruiting them; training and developing them; creating a safe, healthy, productive place for them to work; communicating well with them; motivating them, and compensating them.

I maintain that if you do each of the above areas better than your competition, you’ll enhance your chances of being the best.

As it happens, every company – regardless of size, location and purpose – must deal with human resource issues in one way or another. The only exception would be a self-employed, work-at-home designer. Since most small business owners function as the HR manager, it is you who is responsible for personally overseeing and conducting all HR functions at your company – and you need to become adept at this function. Read books. Attend seminars. Take classes at your local college.

And consider outsourcing.

Recently, I’ve completed three comprehensive consulting jobs and two of those companies outsource their HR needs – including payroll. I was impressed by what I saw. If you’d like the name of a few outsourcing companies, e-mail me at cod5@juno.com and I’ll send you the information. You can also check the web for companies in your area.

Outsourcing is a growing trend in HR management – especially for small businesses. These professionals can help handle operational functions such as payroll and benefits. They can give advice on almost every human resource issue that may arise –and they are very cost effective and accessible.

Remember – this column was meant to address only the basics. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder of how important human resource management is. If this is not one of your strong areas, then make the decision to become better – starting today.

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