Startups Are Enjoying Human Resources A La Carte

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The definition of “a la carte” is: separately priced items from a menu, not as a part of a set meal. I am seeing a trend in my business that suggests that HR has a value in businesses still, but the need and delivery preference is more “a la carte” in nature. This means that smaller companies and startups don’t have the capital, need or want for a full-fledged HR department, but will seek out different aspects of HR expertise as the need arises.

How does this work?

Let’s just say you have a startup and you have five employees currently.  Perhaps, you operate your business in multiple states and have a mix of both contractors and employees. At some point (hopefully not when it is too late) you are going to need to understand if you are complying with all of the employment laws. Moreover, you will want to know that you have a sound plan for managing people as you grow.

If you own a startup and you already recognize what you don’t know – you may opt to bring in someone with HR expertise to audit what you have done to date and help you figure out what the right roles are as you continue to expand your business. That HR person doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent fixture within the company, but they are a call away if some other “people” related concerns crop up.

This option of a la carte HR services is a flexible option for startups and smaller companies. When you initially start your business, money is scant. You are lucky if you have enough to bring on someone for a couple of hours – let alone a full-time HR Generalist. Bringing in HR expertise as it makes sense for your company not only keeps you in compliance, but ensures that you have someone looking at your growth through the lens of your people.

Let’s take something as simple as recruitment. You are a startup. You’re using multiple sources to create buzz for a few new roles you have within your company. It has been my experience that recruitment efforts are made constantly without a look at whether the company is getting the biggest bang for their buck. Now this oversight isn’t specific to startups and smaller companies, but the impact of those missteps are much more visible and palpable when you are in a growth state.  There are also cracks and/or bottlenecks in their hiring processes that get overlooked. Again, not a mistake that hasn’t been made elsewhere – but a mistake that can hinder your growth as a startup before your business begins to gain traction.

How do you build an empire without considering what people you will need to get there?

This is the one question every founder should be asking themselves. As a founder of my own company, I am fortunate to have the big ideas and have a deeper appreciation for utilizing HR practices to enhance my business. I have that advantage since I worked in HR for ten years prior to going out on my own, but what about those founders who aren’t like me? Are they shooting themselves in the foot by not having some HR expertise in their back pocket?

My answer is: Yes.  You may not love what HR has stood for over the past 30 years. For that matter, I am not a fan of the stances we take when it comes to certain organizational issues. However, I think we can all agree that ping-pong tables, unlimited time off and flexible work schedules haven’t exactly solved the unhappiness at work quotient if you speak to people working at startups.

Startups are often regarded as the anti-establishments working in mostly unorthodox ways that don’t conform to a specific business standard. In many ways, it has been helpful to see something other than the usual corporate modus operandi at play; but perhaps there are some fundamental things we can’t wish away. I think one of those fundamental things is HR. You may wish HR didn’t exist, but there is virtually no way for a founder to be successful in growing their business without a plan for how you will manage the people that will be pivotal in helping you grow your empire.

Here are some things you need to do now if you don’t have an HR consultant on speed dial or an in-house HR person:

1) Look at your current roster of employees and consider whether you are complying with all of the employment laws in your state and federally. If you can’t answer a resounding “yes” to that question,  you need to find someone to look at your workforce immediately.

2) When you find the HR authority for your business, don’t just look for a popular blog, do some research. I shouldn’t have to tell you how popular “faking it until you make it” has gotten. Be sure that you vet your HR person’s expertise and feel comfortable with their approach to your needs. This can be sorted in a consultation. Do your homework.

3) If you’re looking to keep this endeavor budget-friendly, choose one area that touches your workforce and allocate funds for that. Focusing on improving one area that can have a positive impact on your company is better than doing nothing at all.

3a) While we’re on the subject of budget, make sure you allocate budget for HR in the first place. I don’t care if this is for a cluster of consulting hours. HR expertise for your specific needs is not free. Having some budget can get you the right professional.

For those of you who have been reporting that HR is dead, it appears on my end that it is still very viable and much needed. We may need to rethink how we package it, but we are far from being six feet under.

If you don’t believe me, even Fast Company agrees. Check out their May 2016 8 minute read article about it here.

When There Are No Resources For Your “Human” Resources

When There Are No Resources For Your Human Resources

I completely get that there are many businesses that continue to feel the pinch financially. With that “pinch” it requires cutbacks in certain areas and in some cases across the board. One of the areas I am seeing some less than reasonable cuts in is: supplies and tools. You may be thinking that this is extremely reasonable to do in a time of strained budgets, but it really isn’t.

Please know when I say “supplies and tools”, I’m not talking about the kind of cutbacks that result in getting rid of the colored post-it notes to go with the budget yellow ones. I’m talking about cuts to supplies to the extent of employees not having enough resources to do their jobs.

Still in the dark? Here’s an example.

A world-renowned law enforcement agency with millions of dollars earmarked annually for its operation has a printing paper deficit. In many of its departments it is a requirement to print various pieces of information to complete several of their processes. The printing paper deficit has gotten so bad that employees hoard reams of paper when they are ever lucky to receive a shipment. The hoarding of paper means that many employees are left without any paper which then causes them to beg and barter among themselves for company resources to get their jobs done.

To make matters worse, there are two said printers in some of the departments with high-volume printing work, which means there are constant interruptions to the flow of work to wait for other printing jobs to finish before retrieving their own work.

One day, there was very little paper, computers were having a moment, and one of the printers was out. Keep in mind that there is also a quota looming over these workers heads for having to have a certain number of queries done on new hires per day. With no letting up on the queries despite the severe deficit in office supplies to get the job done, the employees are left thinking: ” What do you want me to do?”.

Let’s talk systems and tools.

How do you have employees show up and expect them to work without access to the very systems they need to get the work done? In a recent instance, an employee went almost four months without having properly assigned codes and access to the systems they needed to get their job done. Instead, they had to use the usernames and passwords of a co-worker to complete work. During this time of sharing usernames and passwords, the co-worker changed codes frequently without sharing this with the new employee – so you can imagine there were several lockout instances.

Again, I can’t understand how we can talk about employees being unproductive, yet not give them the resources or tools necessary to get the job done.

If your budget is scant or you have fallen into this rut without realizing it – let me be your light and guide to proper onboarding and productivity measures:

 1) No one should be transferring or hired into your company without being allocated the pertinent tools, resources and/or access to systems. You want productivity on day one and your employees want to be productive. Create a simple system for onboarding new people so that their access to things doesn’t fall through the cracks. It is not your employees’ responsibility to onboard themselves and properly assimilate. We must do better!

2) Purchasing office supplies is not your employees responsibility. Now, I’m not saying if your employee enjoys a certain expensive pen or supply that they shouldn’t be responsible to purchase it on their own dime. I am saying that if you cannot afford printer paper, you have a bigger cash flow or budget problem on your hand that needs to be addressed. Outside of maybe teachers and healthcare professionals purchasing applicable uniforms, there is no good reason in my head why an employee should have to purchase supplies out of their own money to complete your work.

3) Less is only more when employers are saving dollars. Sometimes you have to invest. If the expectation is for a high-volume of work to be churned out, you need to speak to your staff regularly to keep a pulse on how the technologies, tools, processes and resources available to them are working out. Often times, we see the work getting done and assume all is well on that front. The reality is your employees – in many cases are moving mountains, dealing with your cutbacks and creating workarounds to get your work done. The least you can do is check-in with them and make the investment when it is clear it is time for an upgrade.

 When it comes to work, we are only as productive as our environment and resources will allow. Work ethic matters as well, but for the sake of the article we will assume most people come to work with an intention to do their best. Give your employees the support, resources and tools they need and watch them thrive.

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