Developing an HR Strategy for Small Businesses

Today’s post is from guest blogger Tyana Daley .

Tyana is a writer for Bisk Education, founded by Nathan Bisk. Tyana covers a variety of career-related topics such as, human resources and leadership. She is currently a junior at the University of South Florida studying Technical Communications and New Media. Tyana has a passion for learning, technology and internet trends. Follow her on Twitter: @tyana_daley.

Top-performing entrepreneurs and experienced small business owners aren’t just expert in their fields. They also possess a thorough knowledge of human resources strategy, from recruitment to retention to daily management. This foundational knowledge simply isn’t optional for small business owners who typically lack the workforce and capital necessary to devote entire departments to growing strong employee relationships.

While it’s inadvisable to copy another company’s HR strategy exactly—small businesses flourish by distinction, not mimicry—the most successful strategies share certain commonalities, including these three basic steps.

1. Organize: A company’s employee handbook is its blueprint for building an enduring workforce; without it, no HR strategy stands a good chance of success. Write yours in clear, accessible language and stay consistent in tone and viewpoint throughout. Devote space to the following:

  • An employee code of conduct
  • Office policies and protocol, particularly technology use and workplace communications
  • Benefits, including sick time, worker’s comp, health insurance and paid vacation
  • Employee evaluations, disciplinary procedures and raises
  • Retirement and termination policies

Be judicious with your phrasing: never assume implied understanding, but don’t try to write the Great American Novel, either.

Likewise, all employee documentation, such as benefits schedules, policies documents and employment contracts should be written in clean, appropriately detailed prose and scrupulously organized. Retain employee records for at least five years after termination, voluntary or otherwise.

2. Motivate: A generous paid vacation policy goes a long way—in fact, many successful small business owners report that it’s their most popular means of attracting and retaining employees, according to the 2012 GrowBiz Media Small Business Hiring and Retention Survey.

What happens at work, though, is also critical. Recognizing employee contributions, in both private and public forums, is important, as are any additional actions that acknowledge your team members as unique and notable human beings.

The best small business owners conduct a variety of activities designed to recognize employee worth. Consider these to get started:

  • Send get-well cards or flowers to sick employees and their spouses or children
  • Solicit feedback about professional development opportunities and institute regular training and education sessions
  • Seek employee input about business and industry challenges and publically acknowledge their suggestions
  • Revamp the workplace so that it is an aesthetically pleasing and warm environment

Many employees will also welcome the opportunity to take 10-minute power naps, enjoy brisk strolls around the grounds or potluck once a month with management. Anything that humanizes and personalizes the workplace typically motivates employees and makes them feel part of a professional family.

3. Retain: In addition to paid vacation, which costs small business owners little when compared to the lost revenue associated with high turnover rates, other low-cost, high-value attractions include telecommuting options and pet-friendly environments. Consider implementing “Work-From-Home Wednesdays” or “Pet-Friendly Fridays” if the idea of a completely remote—or 50% canine—workforce is daunting. Write and distribute a company document detailing not just your standard employee benefits, like health and dental insurance, but also the lifestyle accommodations that make your business the best place to work.

Most importantly, ask employees what they would like to see happen in your workplace. Chances are, you’ll get some excellent ideas—and even if you don’t, your employees will be glad you asked. The most successful HR strategy isn’t the one imposed unilaterally from above, it’s the one created by a team and fostered over time by an environment of mutual respect and appreciation.


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