HR Management: People Are More Important than Ever

For some 15 years I’ve had the pleasure of writing articles on subjects relating to Human Resource Management. I was a business major in college and went on to earn an MBA. That’s where I learned that there are three major segments to virtually every business. They are:

  • Financial Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Human Resource Management

For a business to be truly successful, the owners and managers of that business must be strong in all three areas. I know from years of teaching workshops and doing management consulting that financial and human resource management are the two least favorite areas for the majority of kitchen and bath firm owners and managers. Many would much prefer to be designing, selling and marketing, so they don’t do as good a job as they could in the management of these two very important areas.

Try to imagine a round-top, three-legged stool with no back. All three legs must be the same length and the same strength or you will have a wobbly stool. The same is true for running your business: If all of the legs of business management (financial, marketing and human resources) aren’t equally strong, you’ll have a wobbly business.

And human resources has become increasingly complicated in the last decade or so. In 2006, I co-authored a book, Kitchen and Bath Business Management, with Ellen Cheever for the National Kitchen & Bath Association. We revised that book in 2013 to address the changing needs of today’s marketplace. The book is part of NKBA’s official educational library. It offers more than 400 pages, a quarter of which concentrate on HR management – including 20 forms that you can and possibly should be using in your business.


Acknowledging the Changes

It used to be that you could ask any question you wanted to during the interview process. And, if you wanted to fire someone, you fired them. Not anymore. Now you have to follow very strict rules and regulations, and if you don’t, you can be sued – or even lose your business. For that reason, being knowledgeable about, and following all of the ever-changing rules is imperative.

The rules and regulations aren’t the only things that have made this important management leg of your business more complex and difficult to manage. The changing face of the workplace has been incredible. Workforce diversity continues to change…in ethnicity, gender and age (Boomers retiring and X and Y generations taking over). And, of course, the area of health and medical is now in a huge transition.

Will pensions and Social Security be next? The government seems to be trending toward becoming more involved in how entrepreneurs run their businesses, and businesses need to adapt accordingly.

Human resource management is all about people, and I learned a long time ago that your people are your most important asset. They are more important than the most beautiful showroom ever built. People are more important than all of the fancy technology that’s available today. They’re more important than trucks, tools, furniture and anything else that you can spend that hard-earned money on. So don’t you have an obligation to do the very best job possible managing that all-important asset?


Six Key Areas

Here are six key areas of human resource management:

  1. Do a first-class job of finding and recruiting great people. This is an ongoing and never-ending job. Learn to do this very well right up front and you will enjoy higher productivity, less turnover and a happier workplace.
  2. Develop and follow a well-thought-out formal training program – one that starts day one and never ends. This would include training for every aspect of every employee’s position. For salespeople, that would include teaching selling skills. This area drives me nuts. This is a selling business, and very few of you teach selling skills.
  3. You have an obligation to create a safe, healthy, comfortable and productive workplace. Most folks spend more waking hours at work than they do anywhere else, so the better the whole work environment, the happier your team will be.
  4. Do a great job communicating with everyone on the team. This includes all forms of communication – verbal and written. You should have formal written job descriptions for every position, and you should do regularly scheduled job performance evaluations. Everyone deserves to know what’s expected of them and how they are doing. You should have a detailed written policy and procedures manual that spells out everything about how the business will be operated.
  5. Learn to be a great motivator of people. Too often, this is overlooked. You are so busy with the day-to-day stuff and putting out fires that taking time to say thanks for a job well done gets lost in the shuffle. We’re quick to criticize but slow to compliment. There are some great books on how to become a good motivator. I would encourage you to search them out and to become a student of this important management tool.
  6. Implement a well-thought-out compensation strategy. Again, the K&B Business Management book has a whole section on this, including a number of different examples of compensation plans. I probably spend more of my consulting time helping people in this area compared to anything else. When you have a real plan and strategy on how to compensate people, you’ll have a happier, more productive team, and you’ll see your turnover of employees virtually stop.

When I owned my business, I put a compensation strategy on paper. I was tired of having only very average employees. I wanted to attract and keep the best I could find. When I decided to try and be the best paying kitchen and bath firm in my market, I found that the quality of employee improved dramatically and they were more content to stay with me. You might try this. I’m betting you’ll like it.

Certainly there is a whole lot more to this subject, but these are six of the most important elements. If you will make a commitment to work hard to improve your management in each of these segments, you will have put your business in a position to become more successful than it is today.