The HR mandate for your small business

The HR mandate for your small business

The backbone of any organisation is its people. Exactly the reason why an entrepreneur tends to give up control of the human resources (HR) function the last. Well, this need not necessarily change, but, whoever heads this role should do it the right way as HR, in its entirety, is critical for an organisation.

First thing to do would be to define your organisation’s HR mandate as it is easy to get carried away with the number of disciplines and sub-disciplines within HR. This is why the biggest challenge in establishing or building a HR practice or function in a small firm is choosing what to do and how much to do. But, the most important thing that an entrepreneur of a small firm must remember is to see through all the initiatives till its end. For instance, announcing a training and development effort, assigning resources and formulating goals, but, not delivering on these is more harmful than not having a process in place for training. Employee trust is not gained overnight, but, once gained it is tolerant of many compromises. We see many small firms where while compensation cannot compare with the best in the industry, there is a sense of belonging that stems from the responsibilities in a role.

First thing to do would be to define your organisation’s HR mandate as it is easy to get carried away with the number of disciplines and sub-disciplines within HR. This is why the biggest challenge in establishing or building a HR practice or function in a small firm is choosing what to do and how much to do. But, the most important thing that an entrepreneur of a small firm must remember is to see through all the initiatives till its end.

I hope, through this article, I am able to get you going in the right direction of drafting the right HR mandate for your organisation.

Start with the role. To achieve multiple benefits ensure that there are clear roles and responsibilities for functions, teams and individuals. This will make work simpler and easier to manage. Employees who know what is expected of them are found to be more comfortable with their job and can even exceed expectations.

Identify the gaps. As the firm grows, and a sense of “there is too much to do, but, not enough people to do them” creeps in, clarity in roles will highlight the gaps where resource crunches are most keenly felt. These are where you will recruit. We see many cases of good individuals recruited to help meet growth needs, both firm and person are dissatisfied with progress and in a majority of these, the root of the problem is ambiguity on both sides.

Continuous development. Clear roles at all three levels (function, team and individual) is the foundation for all the other things HR loves to do – performance management systems, training, development and growth, career planning, competency frameworks and more. However, this is not a one-time exercise, which can be documented and filed away. Contrary to common belief, role documents (which include responsibilities, authority, link to other roles within and across functions, some details of incumbent profile etc) are living documents which need to be reviewed periodically, or when incumbents leave the firm. The largest information technology firms schedule reviews of their systems once every two to three years to ensure that processes and practices stay current and relevant.

Documenting roles. So, what does role documentation involve? Each step in the workflow or work processes is assigned to a position. The consolidation of all steps assigned to each position is the core of the role description for that position. So, for example, some steps in the invoicing process (requesting / raising invoice, delivering invoice), some steps in the sales process (initiating meetings with clients, arranging demonstrations, signing contracts) and some steps in the HR process (technical interview for engineers) and some steps in the marketing process (identifying target clients, distributing POP material, tracking competition positioning) are all assigned to the senior sales executive. Integrating each of these processes is a primary responsibility and for this to be comprehended, the aim of position must be spelt out – why has that position been created and filled? The easiest way to answer this question is to look at what will happen if that position remains vacant.

Along with this, to comprehend the context of the position, it is common practice to detail the level the person filling position reports to and the team size he will manage. To deliver on responsibilities, levels of authority (vis-à-vis all resources – money, material and manpower) need to be defined. It is critical to detail these along with exceptions and approval processes. The final aspect of the context that needs to be defined is the nature, frequency and expectation of interactions within and outside the firm. These will help define some of the competencies expected of incumbents in this position. The final component of the description involves describing the requirements of the job from the perspective of recruiting to fill the position.

Completing the job. Preparing and completing this document is a challenging job for a qualified HR professional. Not all small firms have access to such qualified resources, or the time to devote a fulltime exercise of this kind. In such cases, this can be done in stages and using existing information. For example, the base documents from which to build a role description can often be obtained from the person who holds this position currently. This needs to be modified as the document will be biased by the incumbent’s personality and competencies. However, it does provide a base document which can then be reviewed, amended and finalised. This finalised document, or set of documents, is used during recruitment, during performance management, skill development, career planning and all activities related to an individual or job in the company.

The organisation structure and work flow is a section that must be available and must have been reviewed and approved by senior owners/managers in the firm. On acquiring these (organisation chart, work flow, individual descriptions), the first milestone can be reached – making these consistent with each other while determining the gaps.

Typically, reviews at this stage reveal two types of issues: one, the number of people required for certain positions; two, in identifying if any key job has been overlooked. Once these are resolved and documentation is completed as described above, the firm is set to function efficiently and allows for easier scalability. This type of process and role clarity significantly improves the levels of employee satisfaction, resource optimisation, visibility to process flow, ease of management and overall firm efficiency.

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