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Human Resources: Is It In You to be the Policy Maker?

Posted on April 22, 2008 by Ellen

In the week of my annual review, I thought it would be fun to write a blog legitimizing my existence.  As one of the only departments not actively involved in increasing sales, I rely heavily on the efficiency argument when reporting our accomplishments in the weekly meetings.  At that, even the efficiency argument is qualitative, and lacks much quantitative backup. 

As an e-commerce entrepreneur and small business owner, one must decide when the right time is to implement POLICIES.  That’s right I said it; rules, structure and even some formalities.  In an environment where “business casual” only means no ponchos or pajamas, implementing structure into a small business can be daunting.  There are so many fine lines: When is an Indian War Club a weapon, and when is it inventory?  When does hiring your cousins go from, they’re the only ones who will work for me to, I’ve got a company full of related upper management and it is a morale problem for the other employees? And finally, when does a laugh at the office go from a joke between friends, to a million dollar lawsuit?

Here are four tips to consider when implementing a Human Resources Department: 

  1. Tag Team – Combine the Human Resources role with another operational role, such as Finance.  The budget lover and policy pundit combination is a rare breed, but finding someone with the ability to understand both, strengthens decision making for the entire business. 

  2. “If You Build It, They Will Come” – Similar to a civic planning philosophy, if you prepare for growth by building infrastructure, you will attract the growth. In HR, this is true with employee manuals, benefits, liabilities, hiring, etc.  One of the first benefits offered to employees was the food program: virtually unlimited breakfast, lunch and snacks.  Starting that program early allowed us to pound out inefficiencies so that expensive mistakes and morale killing issues could be limited.  It is one of our most popular and cherished benefits. 

  3. Plug that Hole – Hurry, we need three customer service representatives ASAP!  Having a structured HR department that can fill holes quickly and intelligently makes quick decision making a viable option.  Without the HR structure, hiring three employees in a matter of hours could be the difference between efficiency, and domination; intelligent people placement is a skill most important for a small, growing business when the effect of one person is greater to the entire organization. 

  4. Oh Crap – “But Judge, there’s no such thing as an inappropriate joke…that’s why they’re jokes!”  Quoting Michael from the Office is not going to get you off the hook from that $1 Million sexual harassment lawsuit.  Training employees early to detect and prevent costly personnel liabilities can save millions in time and money in the future.  Setting this tone from the beginning is a zero sum game.  Remember, it only takes one phone call… 

The decision to have a Human Resources department is a decision about how fast and efficiently you want to grow your business.   Having the infrastructure in place early will facilitate a strong, scalable and efficient business with an edge.   

There!  Now do I get a raise?


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