YBC Academy : HR

Common Mistakes Small Businesses make with People
“We’re a Small Business – We don’t need any HR”

Does this echo your thoughts on HR support as a small business owner? Do you think that HR policies and procedures just aren’t relevant to your business? Do you ever hear yourself saying, “we don’t have employees so we don’t need any HR policies and procedures” … sound familiar at all?

Well, let me tell you something, the chances are that YOU DO!

If there is anyone as in a human being supporting you in running your business – paid, unpaid, employed, freelance, sub-contracted or even volunteering then your business absolutely NEEDS some basic HR policies and procedures in place.

Now, just hear me out on this, just give me five minutes of your time, read on and let me tell you how and why I know this as a business owner and HR professional.
Your business might not need much HR support, but it still needs it even if it’s just you plus one other person involved. If nothing else you just need a basic HR framework and the odd policy or two in place to protect YOU and your business otherwise, what’s all that hard work been for if you’re not going to protect everything you’ve lovingly created? For me, it’s a simple message I want you to take away – where you have people working for you – no matter in what capacity – this presents a potential risk to your business, I promise you; and please don’t think ‘no it doesn’t, all our people are great, there are no problems’. I don’t doubt that’s the case for one minute – right now – BUT things do change, businesses grow, new people join, people dynamics and relationships alter and peoples’ opinions change.

If you’ve been divorced or something similar, then you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at!! So, for example, if you and your partner are shareholders in your business, please make sure you have a shareholder agreement in place … hopefully it’s obvious why you need it … it’s just incase … because people change. Businesses change. And people do not always react well to change.

My HR experience is based not on theory, it’s on practical practice, learning ‘on the job’ and dealing with real life people situations that pushed me way out of my comfort zone. Some of these situations could leave you opened mouthed saying ‘you’re having me on, they didn’t do that did they’? Yep. Afraid so. Over the years I’ve had to deal with some exceptionally challenging and unbelievable ‘people issues’ and carried out decisions that were not popular in order to protect the businesses I worked for.

And don’t get me started on when the absence of good HR practice results in bad leadership and bullying; there are so many detrimental effects from this poor practice that will impact negatively on any workplace, as well as your business productivity and profitability …. but that’s a story for another day!! My final word on that point for now is if you want to build a good team for your business, no matter what people are doing for you, you need to ensure your business is well led and that bullying plays no part in any people relationships – this includes how you deal with sub-contractors and volunteers as well as any employees.

That’s the key to effective and fair HR practices in any company – large or small – it’s like an insurance policy – and it’s there to PROTECT the business and support people including small business owners just like you!

Five years ago, I came out of the ‘employed sector’ and set up my own HR consultancy business. By then I had 20 years of practical people management experience ‘under my belt’ where I’d cut my teeth on a wide range of people challenges from dealing with difficult employees down to sub-contractor and volunteer issues. I won’t say ‘I’ve done it all’ but I have ‘seen and dealt with a lot’ in order to protect any business from the risks which people often pose.

Remember paid, unpaid, employed, sub-contracted, freelance and volunteer – they are all PEOPLE – they present a potential RISK. No matter what type of business you run or who you have working for or with you, people issues are the same no matter what.

So, what are you going to do about some of this after reading this article? Well, I’m pleased to tell you that there’s many quick and easy things you can put in place within your business right now to head off any potential people risks for the future.

As a YBC member of four years, I’m a regular user of their excellent document library where you can download so many useful documents for your business. For example, if you’re employing, there’s the basic employment contract, if you’re sub-contracting there’s the sub-contractor agreement, if you need basic HR policies or an employee handbook, they are all there, waiting for you to adapt for your own business needs. These are the absolute basic ‘must haves’ for any business owner employing and sub-contracting people! The document library provides you with an ideal ‘Starter Kit’ to ensure you have some basic HR policies and procedures in place to protect your business. There’s also a legal helpline as part of your membership package who are there to support you with any of your ‘people issues’ including sub-contracting and volunteering people queries.

Apart from YBC, do sign up to ACAS for their e-newsletters and gain access to their resources, particularly if you need help with writing a policy or you want to ask a question. They have both online and telephone support – and it’s all free! There’s so much out there to support you. Failing that, there’s people like me, HR Consultants, who can assist you with implementing HR policies and procedures into your business and dealing with the ‘people stuff’.
Remember if your people are paid, unpaid, employed, sub-contracted, freelance or volunteering – however you describe them – you need to have some basics in place.

And don’t be frightened of actually employing people ‘on the books’ either. If you want total security and assurance within your workforce (rather than the potential unreliability of sub-contracting work out or using volunteers) then again, there’s plenty of help. Whether it’s joining YBC or speaking to YBC members like myself, there’s lots of help out there to make sure you start as you mean to go on as an employer of people. Many business owners are put off by the thought of employing people – but don’t be – good HR policies and procedures in place from the beginning of the employer/employee relationship will take care of all of that for you! I promise!

Oh, and please don’t forget those health and safety obligations either. No matter who works for you or in which capacity, you have a duty of care, as the business owner, to make sure they are looked after whilst they are working or volunteering ‘on your watch’. Yes, that includes your sub-contractors too!

I do hope you’ve found this a useful five minute read – now let’s put some HR basics into your business to help you thrive and survive in the future – good luck!!!

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