simple hr

Is simple HR even possible? If you’ve worked at a big corporation, you might think not! But smaller companies just don’t have the luxury of employing a large HR team. Often, the responsibilities of HR are just one part of someone’s role, or there might be a very lean HR team consisting of just a couple of people. Keeping HR simple is critical to ensuring the highest priority HR functions actually get done.

Here, we outline what simple HR might look like in your organization. (Of course, there’s more you could do, but get these fundamentals in place first!)

A Simple HR Employee Records Management System

When we first talk to small businesses, we find that most of them are somewhat embarrassed about their employee records management. It’s usually some combination of spreadsheets, files online, paper files sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere, and maybe some data in a payroll system or an outdated, installed HR system that barely works any more. So when a business decides they need to up their game with HR, employee records management is usually the best place to start. 

A good HR records management system should;

  • Be cloud-based so that everyone can access it (this avoids duplicate copies of things being creating and causing confusion)
  • Include all the key information your organization needs to keep track of – contact details, salaries and compensation, performance reviews, company assets that are loaned to the employee, training, certificates or other renewable documents, etc
  • You might also have custom types of data you want to collect and store – your HR records management system should be able to handle this
  • Include an employee directory that everyone can access (when your website goes down, everyone needs to know how to contact Bill from IT!)
  • Allow for granular user permissions. For example, you might want to give managers access to the employees in their departments, or everything except pay and performance information 
  • Allow you to store actual documents, not just data. Inevitably, you’ll want to store signed contracts, scans of certification and other documents. Having one place to put these simplifies your role immensely.

HR software for small business doesn’t have to be expensive either. Once you have 20 or so people, it’s really a necessity. So find a good one (or talk to us!) and you’ll soon have your employee data under control. (Many HR managers tell us, this alone just brings so much relief and reduction in workload.)

A Simple HR Process for Leave / Vacation Requests

It might sound surprising, but one of the most time-consuming parts of HR is managing everyone’s leave. Without a system in place, you’ll constantly be answering questions about how much leave someone has, how much they’ll have in the future, what dates others are taking leave, where certain employees are now, and more. Even with a fairly small team, this can get exhausting – and most of it is unnecessary.

So, decide on your process and put a simple system in place. It might be that leave needs to be approved by the line manager and then comes to HR for entering into a leave calendar. You also need to ensure your employees are empowered with information about their own leave balances. This might come from your payroll system (although these can be confusing), or a good HR system will allow employees to access this themselves.

Make Recruiting as Simple and as Time Efficient as Possible

One of the most important roles of HR is to help get the right people on the team. So while recruiting can be time-consuming and at times, monotonous, it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously!

There are, of course, great Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS’s) that can help make the recruiting process more efficient. The best ones of these will include; 

  • A kanban-style interface where you can visualize where each candidate is in the process and move them between stages. 
  • The ability to publish your open positions online – usually on your website. Ideally, this will allow you to include a customized application form so that you can collect the relevant information upfront. (If you ask the right questions here, this helps enormously with the initial screening stage.)
  • The ability to use email templates to communicate with candidates. There are usually a lot of repetitive messages that you’ll need to send, so write them once and well, then benefit from the efficiencies.
  • The ability to manually add candidates to your system – for instance, if they apply through another channel.

Whether or not you use a dedicated ATS, or an ATS included with your HR system (like HR Partner for example), you should define the job application stages you’re going to use. For example, will you do a phone interview, face-to-face interview, and then a reference check? Is there a technical test you could include as another stage? Make sure everyone goes through the same process.

You should also define the selection criteria you’ll use to make your hiring decision. This helps you (and others) to be more objective in their opinions about candidates and can increase the quality of your hires substantially.

Put a Simple Employee Onboarding System in Place

Anyone that does a lot of recruiting knows that the work doesn’t stop there! Once you’ve made a decision to employ someone, there’s usually a lot of steps to getting the new employee started and up to speed. Don’t leave this to chance or send 10 separate emails which end up being confusing for the employee! Instead, take some time to think through your employee onboarding process and then use your HR system to administer it for you. Even if you don’t use an HR system, create your own New Hire Checklist so that nothing falls through the cracks.

It’s another one of those tasks that once you’ve done the thinking, a system can make it so much more efficient for you. Plus, you’ll probably save a few trees in the process by cutting out any physical paperwork required.

Set up something basic, and then try to improve on it each time a new employee goes through it. You might even want to have several steps to your onboarding. For instance, you could have a Pre-First-Day onboarding process, a First-Week onboarding process, and another First-Month onboarding process. But start with the basics first!

Use Simple Performance Reviews – and make sure they happen!

There are so many different approaches to performance reviews, but do you know what the worst type are? Performance reviews that don’t happen.

Even if you don’t have a perfect system in place, your baseline goal is to make sure that all employees have a performance review at least once a year

If you ask managers (or employees), most people will say they dislike performance reviews, but the facts are that organizations that don’t do regular performance reviews, will usually suffer from lower morale and work satisfaction. Everyone likes to know where they stand. Having performance reviews gives everyone a chance to get more clarity about their role and their own development.

To make things easier for your managers, set up a simple template (of course, you could set up a complex template or use a dedicated performance review system but we’re trying to keep things simple here). Your template should include;

  • An outline of responsibilities
  • A summary of performance. This should include both the achievements that they’re proud of and areas for improvement. Make sure it’s clear that it’s expected that ALL employees will have both.
  • A self-assessment against the most important job or company KPI’s.
  • A description of the next goals the employee has for themselves.
  • You may want to include a section here for the manager to add their comments too.

The idea of this document is to facilitate a beneficial discussion between each employee and their manager. You may need to coach some managers on how to do this without being too negative – most of us have a tendency to focus on the areas for improvement a little too much!

Your role in HR is to provide the tools for performance reviews, and then make sure the performance reviews actually happen! Your HR system should be able to where you store previous performance reviews and remind you of when the next ones are due.

Don’t forget Simple HR Hygiene / Maintenance Factors

Another fundamental part of HR are the underpinning hygiene and maintenance factors. This will differ between industries but may include things like;

  • Health and safety
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Managing required certifications
  • Employee relations
  • Employee communications

It’s not necessarily the sexiest part of HR, but it’s probably the part that will keep you awake at night if it’s not well managed. 

A large part of this is to put in place processes for storing the relevant information and setting up reminders of when things need to be done. You might also need reports that can show you certain information (eg which employees have not done first-aid training, etc).

Keep HR Simple: You need to crawl before you walk!

Of course, there’s a lot more to Human Resources, but for most small and medium business, these are the fundamentals that should be in place first. Once you’ve got these humming along, then you can start looking into;

  • Training and development
  • Rewards and compensation planning
  • Benefits and perks
  • Successful planning, and more

Human Resources is a fascinating field with many nuances and specialities. However, smaller businesses usually don’t have the capacity to go to these sorts of lengths. If your company has grown from just being a handful of people where a dedicated HR function is not really necessary, to a mid-sized company, you need some simple HR strategies and processes that you can easily put in place. We hope this guide helps you focus and prioritize those core HR areas.

Simple HR for Small and Medium Businesses

Category: HR Tools

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