10 compelling reasons why a business needs HR Support
- “We’ve never had an issue – we all get on” – a typical scenario represented by businesses with up to 20 employees, been in business for many years, and the argument is that they’ve always been lucky, all the employees get on with each other and never had an issue. The counter argument is that under the balance of probability, an issue is going to arise and it is important to have the processes, procedures and structure to manage it when it happens.
- “You don’t know what you don’t know” – a wonderful expression because it applies to everything in life but in a nutshell, it says that we all think we are doing ok but we don’t really know because we don’t have enough expertise in the specific area. A simple example might be a contact of employment – you may think your contract of employment meets legislation but you’re not aware the legislation has changed.
- Legal compliance – employment legislation is constantly changing and whilst it is easy to get details of new legislation on the website and download policies and templates etc, the important issue is understanding how to interpret it practically and how it impacts on your business.
- Powerful message to the business – employees in smaller businesses don’t expect an HR function but having visible access to HR support sends out a message to employees that the business is professional, manages risk responsibly and has a mechanism in place for dealing with issues such as grievances, unfair treatment, bullying. It can also fosters good relations within the business.
- “Keep it in the family” – so many small businesses are family owned and parents have passed the management of the business to the next generation. In many cases, there has been no management training and they have inherited the family way of managing the business and the sons and daughters regard their parents as role models but this may be an out dated approach and no longer appropriate and the next generation might have more ambitious plans for growth which requires a different approach and set of skills.
- Equality and equity – every business needs a process for dealing with inequality or specifically, they need to be able to show that there is equality of opportunity in a business based on ability and regardless of colour, gender, disability, sexual orientation etc. Smaller businesses tend to have more traditional views, arguably less enlightened and the existence of HR support can influence how these issues are debated at senior level. Similarly, in smaller businesses allegations of inappropriate sexual innuendo or dirty jokes may get passed off as just a bit of banter but if these issues are not managed correctly, they can escalate out of control very quickly and – often at considerable cost.
- Cost v added value – HR is a business support function and has to demonstrate value for money and show that it is self-funding and in many smaller businesses, the perception is that HR is an overhead. Commercially focused HR support – based on business partnership – should be considered as adding value. Also, engaging with HR Support early on will be cost effective because it will give you advice and guidance on how to proceed and can save cost in the long term if employees pursue tribunal claims.
- “Sounding board” – we all need someone to talk to. In smaller businesses, this can be difficult for a business owner who adopts the CEO or MD role – they may have a difficult or sensitive situation in the workplace or conflict amongst the senior team and they need to be able to talk to someone who is confidential, discreet and independent. An experienced HR professional who has a commercial edge and understands the dynamics of the business world can invariably fulfil this trusted mentor role, give a different perspective and challenge the current thought process.
- “conflict of interest” – in many small businesses, HR sits with an Office Manager, a Finance person or often the PA to the CEO or MD and these people do excellent work but often when a difficult HR issue arises, it may be difficult to act impartially because people may have worked together for many years and socialised outside work and may find themselves conflicted by the closeness of friendships. Access to independent HR Support can alleviate these conflicts.
- There are always grey areas – people want Yes or No answers to questions but invariably with HR issues, it is impossible to give a simple Yes or No answer to a question because it will depend on a multitude of factors. “Can I terminate someone for gross misconduct because I caught them stealing?” The answer is probably Yes but if an employee was caught stealing 2 weeks before and wasn’t dismissed, there is an inconsistency in approach and why is it a gross misconduct issue for one employee but not the other. Might it be discriminatory? Even the most straight forward issues can have twists…..
It is a false economy to regard HR Support as an overhead cost to the business. It should be seen as a support function to give advice, guidance, counsel on key issues and over time and with a strong commercial focus, it will more than cover its cost and positively impact the bottom line.
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