Insurance and Environment

HUMAN RESOURCES: Think your business is too small for HR? Think again

December 25, 2006

After squeezing 36 hours out of every 24-hour day, you have reached a milestone in your business: You realize you need help. How you find, hire and treat employees-from that first one to those that follow-can accelerate your success or throw obstacles in your way.

The moment you begin the search for your first employee, you enter the intricate world of "human resources." If you're like many busy entrepreneurs, you have given little thought to how to do that. You have proven you know how to manage yourself, but how about others? Since you are about to spend a lot of time and some hard earned cash on behalf of this new hire, it makes sense to prepare yourself before he or she comes on board. You'll be glad you did.

Since so many business owners claim that hiring and retaining outstanding people is their primary concern, it pays to know how good HR management can help you achieve this objective.

A good HR program will answer many questions before it's too late. Here are some to consider:

How do I recruit the best employee? Should I get help, or do it myself?

What questions should I ask in the interview? What interview questions are illegal? Should I get a background check? What about a drug test? Should I pay my new hire a salary or by the hour? What about overtime? Should I calculate payroll myself, or hire a payroll service? Do I need an employee manual? How do I keep employees aware of workplace rules? Am I supposed to display posters? What workplace behaviors does the law prohibit? Do I need a non-competition or confidentiality agreement? Should I offer health insurance? Who should pay for it? Should I offer a retirement plan? If so, what kind is the best? What information should I keep in a personnel file? What information do I leave out? What safety rules am I required to follow? What should I do if an accident happens? How should I handle an employee complaint? How should I respond if I suspect an employee is cheating? How do I properly terminate an employee? You could hire an HR consultant to find the answers, but if money is tight there are some free Internet resources that could be helpful. Many of these sites feature "frequently asked questions" that address the most common concerns, offer downloadable forms and checklists and provide contact telephone numbers for further information.

Here are some to check out:

The state of Indiana's HR portal provides a bevy of information to help you navigate the hiring process and manage an employee's tenure with your company.

www.in.gov/ai/hr

The U.S. Department of Labor site offers information on federal employment law, all accessible from an index page where topics are listed alphabetically.

www.dol.gov/dol/siteindex.htm

The department's Bureau of Labor Statistics provides national wage data for 450 occupations, in addition to regional and state-specific information. www.sces.org/lmi/data/wages/bls.htm

Need to know the law? Check out the Labor Department's list of the 20 mostasked employment-standard questions-from minimum-wage laws to Family and Medical Leave Act requirements. Includes links to state labor offices.

www.dol.gov/esa/esa-requested.htm

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is another legal resource.

www.eeoc.gov/index.html

To learn more about employee benefits, check out www.dol.gov/ebsa/aboutebsa/main.html.

Wherever you find the answers, implementing appropriate HR procedures for your enterprise can help you help create a conflict-free work environment where employees (and your company) thrive.

Odds are you have wisely limited your financial risk by undertaking market research, cash-flow analysis and sound financial reporting. You have sacrificed personal time and money to get where you are today. Why not apply the same care to building your team?

Doing so will help you create a company culture of honesty and fair play for which valued employees will reward you. An early and relatively small investment will give you peace of mind now and future success unimpeded by unpleasant and possibly costly surprises.



Phillips owns Phillips & Associates HR Services in Greenwood and collaborates with writer Gail A. Bradford on this periodic column. They can be reached at smallbizhr@ibj.com.
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