Yvonne Saxon is Head of HR, Diversity and Incusion at Vista Employer Services. Yvonne took time out to pen a guest blog to help anyone responsible for HR in a fast growth SME with insight, advice and helpful tips. This is a must read if you're involved in the SME sector.
So, you landed a fantastic HR job in an exciting growing SME! Your new role will give you the opportunity to get under the skin of a new business and put the right HR infrastructure in place. The real challenge will come as the Company begins to accelerate its ambitious growth plans, which is of course why they had the foresight to recruit a HR professional. So, what should you be thinking about to make a success of this?
Recruitment & Relationships
The obvious issue will be that of recruitment, to fill the roles that are going to support this growth and ensure that they truly align with the business’ future vision. To get
this right will take some careful work. Looking at the company’s values, it’s goals and it’s strategies for the future with your stakeholders in order to design the right roles, that fit the organisation and its people is an essential first step. .
It’s likely that as a smaller unknown organisation you will have to work harder to attract talented people and will need to not only benchmark on salaries and benefits (and consider the future scalability of these), but also think creatively about what else you can offer and how to get your jobs noticed. This is where developing relationships with good recruiters is vital, they know the marketplace and can advise you on your strategy as well as use their knowledge of candidates who might not even be looking for a new role yet.
Spend lots of time looking at the best selection methods for the role, and even more time not just going through the process of selecting the candidates but really engaging with them. You want them to want you and be with you for the long run. Recruitment shouldn’t be rushed or done at a discount, as tempting as it may be when the business is running at speed and there are lots of other demands on time and cash.
Your Managers Impact on Retention
Once you’ve got these people in place, you need a plan to get the best out of them and retain them. Finding ways to support managers in orientating new starters, reinforcing the company values, setting positive goals and identifying development for their teams during periods of intense activity is key. In not doing this, people can feel neglected, demotivated and disillusioned with the company’s culture.
Communication & Building your Network
The same is true with communication. When an organisation is small, communication just seems to happen easily, but as the business grows it becomes more
important to make sure that communication is carefully planned. If you work in an environment where technology can make this easy that’s great, but don’t forget those who may not have ready access to technology, or may struggle with using the technology. Even for the tech savvy though, human interaction is still the most effective way to build relationships and engagement. Using HR networks, both online and ‘in real life’ to share knowledge and experience with other HR practitioners is a great way of expanding your knowledge about what you can do in these areas. Subscribing to online content and podcasts will also keep you up to speed with a range of
topics and trends.
People Management Training
At some stage during a period of growth, the business will need to appoint more line managers. This needs careful handling as frequently people are promoted on the basis of being good at the job they do, and not necessarily because they have the aptitude to become a good manager of people. Engage your stakeholders in thinking about future managers and succession planning, so you can develop the skills of those identified.
At a time of rapid growth these plans will need to be ‘good to go’ quickly - so make sure you have identified what’s required to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be great people managers.
Engaging with a training partner early enough to understand that they have to offer, and early enough so they can understand your business and objectives is a positive approach. Make sure that, together, you figure out the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ in good time.
Eventually a growing business is likely to need to reorganise either the work which people do or how they do it. This may result in some roles becoming redundant, and because they weren’t recruited with future plans in mind there isn’t any alternative in the business for them, and they leave. Equally, the change in the business may not
be what someone was envisaging for their future and they take the decision to leave. These situations are always hard but are felt even more keenly in a smaller business. Careful planning ahead with your stakeholders about how to manage these issues with care and respect for those affected will ensure that people who do leave feel fairly treated, and those who remain observe a company culture which values people.
Rapid growth may also result in an acquisition or winning a service contract which may have TUPE implications. Planning the necessary consultation, welcome and integration to your organisation will pave the way for a positive transition for those affected and engage them with your organisation’s values and goals.
Employee Relations & Employment Law
Increased numbers of employees mean that there will be a wider range of people with a wider range of capability, standards of behaviour, health issues and gripes. Even the best recruitment practice cannot avoid these altogether, and as the numbers of people increase, so will the numbers of employee relations issues. Once again, your company values, goals and strategies will influence your approach to these, but you will need to also make decisions in line with employment legislation.
Don’t panic, HR practitioners can’t know everything about redundancy, TUPE and the million and one other employment issues - so taking good quality legal advice from a trusted employment law partner who ‘gets’ company culture and development makes sense.
By doing this you not only protect your organisation, but you enhance your knowledge for the future by learning from those who deal with the practical application of the law and employment strategies in complex and varying situations.
The Importance of Culture
Behind all of this is your unique role in helping the organisation to define its culture. This is what will underpin and have an effect upon everything else that goes on.
What is it like to work here? How does it feel? What makes the place different? Why would / wouldn’t someone want to work here? What does the organisation do about flexibility, wellbeing or diversity and inclusion? Pool tables and free fruit may be nice, but they don’t fundamentally address people’s needs to feel valued, included, supported and that they are achieving something worthwhile. If this is new territory for you, you might want to engage someone to facilitate this process with you and your stakeholders. If the culture needs to change or develop, then involving both managers and employees in that journey will help to create ownership, share the load and provide insights that you otherwise might miss.
Culture is usually one of the hardest things to change and get right, particularly when things are moving rapidly. In the longer term though – it pays the greatest dividends in terms of engagement and performance, which in turns supports more growth and opportunity.
There are lots of tools which you can invest in to help take the diagnosis and development forwards, and there are many case studies in professional publications and books which you may find useful. Investment in the organisation’s people, culture, values and a clear vision of why you are all here, will underpin everything you do, influence your HR landscape and have real impact on the bottom line.
Would you like to contribute to the Adam blog? Get in touch and let us know your topic.