2. What is HR?
Human resources is about achieving your business objectives through people.
It's about getting the right people, with the right skills & capabilities (and the right attitude), in the right place, at the right time!
The clearer your people are about what you want them to do and how you want them to do it, the more likely they are to do the right things in the right way. The better your people are at doing the job they need to do, the better your business will perform.
Sounds easy! Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The starting point is having a solid HR foundation, clarity and communication. YourHR.guide can help you implement and maintain your solid HR foundation and will provide guidance on how to deal with day-to-day HR situations that arise and recommendations on how to provide clarity and clear communication.
SMEs can be unsure of the purpose of HR in their business. To explain this in easy terms, here is an analogy. By the end of it you will have a clearer idea of the role HR can and should play in your business.
Imagine your organisation is a game of football (or any other team sport for that matter).
Take a scenario of a rugby player who is recruited to play on a football team. He has lots of transferable skills (speed, physical fitness, a team player etc), but he has never played or watched football in his life (unlikely I know, but please bear with me).
So, day one of joining his new team, he goes out onto the pitch and does what he does best… he picks up the ball and runs with it. He is then immediately issued with a red card and sent off!
What has this got to do with HR? Well everything. Because this is what we can be guilty of doing with new people when they join our organisation. We assume they know the rules, but we don’t induct them properly or tell them what is expected, and then we get annoyed because they did not play by our rules.
When it comes to the rules of football, we probably all know the rules (well, maybe not the off-side rule!). Football is one those games that is in our culture.
But, you didn't always know the rules! You had to learn them. Maybe from playing as a kid, or at school or watching the television. What we all know is that you need rules in a game of football.
In HR terms, the rules of football are like the rules of your organisation. They are the rules that determine how you want people to play your game, how you want them to represent the organisation and what conduct and standards you expect. In your business these 'rules of the game' will be documented in your contracts of employment, your HR policies and procedures, your standards of conduct; and you have to decide what goes into your rule book.
We often take for granted that people will know the rules of our game (our business) - "because it's common sense". The only reason you know your rules is because you have been living, sleeping and breathing your business - or you have been working in the business for so long that it's second nature. But try to think back to your very first day.
So, the first step for HR in any SME is to make sure you have a clear written rule book and that it's communicated, and make sure the rules support your game... what you want to achieve, give you flexibility and set clear boundaries - just like on the football pitch. This is what makes up the first part of your HR Foundation.
Which leads us on to the Referee. So, let's assume that you have a clear rule book (contracts of employment, codes of conduct, standards and your employee handbook and policies) and that these have been communicated clearly and everyone knows the ‘rules'. On a football pitch this is definitely the case.
So why do you need a referee?
Because you do. Because rules will be broken. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes by accident.
But what would happen on the football pitch if the referee did not blow the whistle? There would be anarchy - and we would soon be back to rugby! In business, it's the same, you need to blow the whistle and be the referee as soon as the rule is broken. You cannot wait until half-time or just hope it won't happen again.
Think about the reaction when the referee misses a foul on the pitch. The feeling of unfairness and injustice felt by the player and the fans. That's how your employees feel when you don't act when someone breaks the rules in your business... and then what happens is that others will do it - what's good for one is good for another... or resentment builds and that is not good for anyone and can lead to all sorts of trouble.
In HR terms, you don't always have to address rule breaking 'formally'. Many will be addressed through informal conversation or by using tools like file notes for improvement. In the section on disciplinary we cover how to avoid having to take formal disciplinary action as well as how to do so if needed.
Rules can and will change
Don't forget that rules can and will change. You may need to introduce new rules, or existing rules may become outdated. There is nothing wrong with changing the rules - provided you communicate these new rules and do it in the right way.
You wouldn't be happy if they changed the offside rule and didn't tell you and then your goal was disallowed! Equally, if you introduce a new rule in your business, you must communicate it. Activity around social medial is a great example of where businesses had to introduce new rules, restricting what people can say about the business on social media sites.
In a game of football, people know the rules and the consequence of breaking them and accept this. The simple fact is, if they don't want to follow the rules, they will not be able to play and will have to get off the pitch!! They also know what will lead to a free kick, a yellow card or being sent off.
People need to be as clear about this in your business. Every Manager needs to be a referee to make sure the rules and the boundaries are not broken. If the rules are not enforced, there is no point in having them.
However, this does not mean being onerous. It's about getting the rules of your game right and setting boundaries. Within those boundaries, individuals can then feel free to use their skills and expertise. Just like the players using their skills within the boundaries of the football pitch.
Having clear boundaries and clear communication will help with employee engagement and wellbeing. People like boundaries. They like to know where they stand.
Knowing your position and purpose
OK, so now we have the rules of the game and everyone knows where they stand, but it's not the whole story.
On our football pitch, players also know what position they play. They may be a forward or the goalie. They know what their purpose is - to score goals or to save goals. In business terms, they have a job description! And because they know the purpose of their position, they know how they will be measured - by how many goals they score (or for the goalie how many they save). In business, these are your performance indicators or targets. Your performance indicators let people know how they will be measured and how well they are performing.
They also know how they contribute to the team and the consequences of moving out of position. If the goalie were to run up the pitch to score a goal, no one would thank him as he has left the team vulnerable.
Every player has a role to play and contributes to the team. In the same way every person you employ has a role to play and a contribution to make to the business. The more people understand their role, the better they can perform.
Performance indicators and clarity around position and purpose gives people focus and helps them concentrate on the right things. If you don't tell them what will make a good day, they will make it up themselves and work on the things they like, or they think are the most important without reference to the whole team.
So, the starting point for SMEs is to get this HR foundation right.
These simple steps - being clear about your rules, communicating them, enforcing the rules and being clear about people's positions and the purpose of their role are the starting points of effective HR.
And it all starts with recruitment...
We can take this analogy further. For example, deciding in which league you want to play (i.e. your business goals) will help determine how and who you recruit. As you move from one league to another, you will find that some of your current team will not have the capability / skills that are needed or don’t want to commit at the level required….
For more, please see HR for SMEs, the book by Paula Fisher.