How small businesses can tackle big HR challenges

Owners of small businesses often have the required funds to invest and possess knowledge of the concerned field or products. But rarely are they able to manage their staff with the same dexterity and efficiency.


It is common knowledge that successful businesses stand on the qualities and strengths of their workforce. When it comes to small businesses, the role and reliability of the employees takes on greater significance, especially when it comes to keeping customers satisfied and fulfilling their expectations and demands. The challenges faced by small business owners are more because they have to juggle various roles. Even the smallest of mistakes, especially in the HR department, can shake the foundation of the business.
Owners of small businesses often have the required funds to invest and possess knowledge of the concerned field or product(s). But rarely are they able to manage their staff with the same dexterity and efficiency.

There are many things that call for attention in terms of human resources — the ideal number of employees, the technical vs soft skills level of the staff, use of head hunters to fill vacancies, detailed background checks, induction, training, orientation, and so on. The list of factors and challenges is endless. If each of these factors is not attended to at the right time, the workplace will be a chaotic mess and the business will end up suffering.

There are some important things that all small businesspersons should pay necessary attention to:

Hire the right people

Small businesses have limited financial and human resources. So it is important that these should efficiently utilised. This can only happen if there are the right people doing the right jobs. Small organisations can only run smoothly if the entire team works towards a common goal. In short, all employees should be well integrated into the work culture of the setup. Those who do not fit in at the very beginning, will definitely not last long, and if attempt is made to make do with them, the existing team dynamics will also be adversely affected in the long run. The proverb, ‘one rotten egg spoils the whole lot’ is very apt for small businesses.

Invest in training

While it is important to hire the right people, it is equally important to train them well. They should be equipped with all the knowledge necessary to do their job well and also help train any newcomers who may join after them. To make the onboarding process of new entrants effective, the business should be well equipped with everything that is required for the same — equipment, manuals, workstations, desks, gear (wherever required), trainers, mentors, and so on. The new hires should be made to feel comfortable almost immediately by introducing them to the existing team. Regular follow up is also necessary to ensure that they are settling in at the expected pace.

The employee handbook should also be ready and available to be referred to. This will ensure that the organsiation is following the standard rules of recruitment and induction. The handbook should be updated regularly to keep abread with changing laws and policies, and reduce chances of noncompliance and violations.

Meet the workforce regularly

Only frequent interaction with the employees can allow entrepreneurs to feel the pulse of their employees. Therefore, communication lines should always be kept open. The staff should be made aware of important business decisions and their feedback should be invited and valued in all important matters. Trust levels should be so high that the employees should feel confident and free to share their opinions and also report issues without fear of being hauled up. They should be made comfortable enough to even report matters that they are otherwise hesitant to reveal in front of the entire team or staff.

Be good listeners

The primary factor of an open-door policy is the ability to listen to others. An open-door policy is founded on the freedom to express opinions. Employees should not be afraid to say what they feel, even if it something that goes against the thoughts of the management.

Stress on clarity

Matters should be conveyed in the most clear, unambiguous and specific manner possible. This is most significant at the time of hiring. All policies and rules should be made clear to the new recruit at the very beginning itself. All doubts should be cleared for the employee before he is formally inducted. What is required of the new entrant and what the recruit expects from you should be clear to both. No grey areas should exist.

Provide constant and meaningful feedback

Feedback is not something to be given to the employees during appraisal alone. The process should be constant and last throughout the year. But the nature of feedback is important. Simply pointing out mistakes should not be the aim. The objective should be to provide meaningful feedback and offer them time and opportunity to correct themselves, improve their performance and gain confidence.

Draw up a ‘to-do’ list and prioritise tasks

Good entrepreneurs and leaders are also very well organised. Since they have so many issues to handle, they have to know how to prioritise HR-related tasks. Constant follow up is also essential when it comes to sorting resumes, calling candidates for interviews and so on. This ensures a feeling of being in control and ‘clued in’.

Rely on HR tools

With the digitisation wave sweeping over corporate India, it is high time HR personnel took advantage of the available technology in this field. There are innumerable software available that can make life easier for HR managers. All they need to do is study the features, map the services they offer to the needs of their small business and then opt for the best and most economical solutions so that their burden becomes lighter.

Adhere to the law

Small entrepreneurs need to be aware of the important HR laws. They should take some time off to study the laws that are important and relevant to their line of work. They should be aware of laws pertaining to minimum wages and basic working conditions so that they do not have to face any legal issues in the future. Small businesses should not try to escape taxes or cut costs in illegal ways by classifying employees as contract workers when they are actually not.

Maintain a bond but set limits

It is not uncommon for small businesses to function like small close-knit families. However, too much closeness may lead to complications and indiscipline. Some level of professionalism and distance is essential between the workers and the management. This will ensure that the team stays loyal and sincere, and the same time treats the management and owners with respect. This kind of arrangement also ensures the much-required discipline at the workplace.

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