3 Critical Steps to Improving Your Small Business HR

By Kris Bovay, Manta Online

If people are your most important resource, then you need to understand the role of human resources in your small business. Many small business owners believe that because they have only a few employees they do not need to focus on human resources issues. The reality is that when you are a small business owner, you need to focus more attention and support to your human resources because, effectively, they can make or break your business.

Even from a mathematical perspective this is true. If a small business has only 4 employees, each of those employees has at least a 20% impact on the business (the small business owner is counted in this impact assessment). If a business has 19 employees, each of those employees has a 5% impact on the business; and so on. Therefore the impact of a bad hiring decision or an under-performing employee is significant to small businesses.

Every business employs resources to get work done; typically the resources are a mix of people and equipment. Equipment resources are typically measured for value (that is, cost and return on investment or payback on investment). Human resources are often not valued similarly but if they were, business owners would pay a lot more attention to making sure they hired the right people, trained them well and measured their performance effectiveness regularly.

Click HERE to read what you can do to make your business’ HR efforts more effective.


Have You Played the New ‘Layoff’ Game?

What next?  Now we have a game that focuses on the current employment crisis.  While I suppose it has the potential to be educational and help those charged with the task of making layoff decisions think them thru more clearly, it still strikes me as odd that someone thought to make a GAME of this.  Read the info below and access the game, then let me know your thoughts.


Access the Layoff Game

Here are thoughts from one who has played it:

Basically it is a game where you line up workers to lay them off. Each worker has a story you can read before laying them off. Businessmen cannot be laid off. I guess when you get too many businessmen remaining, you are unable to make any more layoffs. There is also a bailout button you can use. A game for the times I suppose.

Here’s what they say on the site:

Developed by members of the Tiltfactor Lab and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Game Design and Development program, LAYOFF is an examination of the current financial scandal.

LAYOFF uses a simple casual game paradigm to comment on the current state of the US financial crisis. Both friends and strangers face tough times in an unstable economy. Part dark humor, mostly grim portent, in the game players play from the side of management needing to cut jobs, and match types of workers in groups in order to lay the workers off and increase workforce efficiency.

Is Your HR Department Helping or Hindering Your Company’s Brand?

While today’s economic climate certainly places employers in the enviable position of having a substantial pool of candidates to choose from, you may be finding that the candidates you’re attracting to fill your firm’s vacancies are not the caliber you’ve been seeking.  There are a number of potential reasons for this, and among them is one you may not have considered – your company’s HR branding.

In most organizations a great deal of time and effort is placed on developing the corporate brand as it relates to potential and existing customers.   In the best situations, there is a defined brand identity and everything is consistent and professional across the board including the HR department. 

However, in many companies, in particular small businesses, HR branding has never been addressed.  This can be a mistake that results in extra challenges for your recruiting and employee retention efforts.  According to Mike Smith, a Senior VP with TALX, and Equifax Workforce Solutions provider, “Today’s challenging marketplace is forcing HR leaders to take a good, long look in the mirror to make sure that what their organization reflects is of value to current employees and job candidates. Employment branding has never been more significant among today’s corporations. It has an immediate impact on talent pools and long-term effects, not only on recruiting and retention, but on an organization’s overall branding and reputation. Developing a strong and effective employment brand is an investment, a strategic decision that has a lasting impact on internal and external relations. A terrific employment brand creates the expectation that one’s experience with that company is going to be a positive one. It becomes a catalyst for retaining the employees you need. These are the same employees who, in turn, become ambassadors for the workplace and a significant part of efforts to attract the best and brightest talent on a consistent basis, over time.”

If you would like to learn how to insure that your HR branding is helping and not hindering your company’s brand, click HERE to read a comprehensive article from HR Executive Online.  When you’ve finished the article, if you believe your company needs assistance in enhancing it’s HR branding image, please feel free to contact us for assistance.


The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Downsizing Staff Doesn’t Have to be Traumatic – for Companies or for Staff

As more and more people worldwide lose their jobs, many for the first time in their careers, a percentage of those downsized are becoming frustrated with their employers’ handling of the situation and making decisions to take ill-advised actions such as those detailed in the story below.  To be fair, when such an action is taken, it is rarely meant to cause any sort of harm, but rather to express the former employees’ frustration in the hope it will cause change.  Obviously there are a great many reasons for this anger and frustration, but among them is one that is unlikely to  be discussed – firms that handle their downsizing in a clumsy, inappropriate manner without regard to the needs of long-time loyal employees.

As an experienced Outplacement Consultant, I have been involved in a significant number of layoff actions for firms of all sizes.  The ones that are typically most successful are those that have been well-planned, have used my company (or a similar one) to develop and implement a process for the downsizing – for the company and the employees (those being laid off AND those remaining), and where the company has been open and honest with the reasons, the timing, and other relevant information.  Obviously, while the word “successful” is one I am hesitant to use, for the purpose of this example it is appropriate.  What I mean by “successful” is a layoff where the terminated employees do not feel mistreated and are as well taken care of as possible with services to help them obtain new employment, where the remaining employees have a clear understanding of the current and future situation, and where the employer has provided notice and treated its employees with respect;  and all of these actions have resulted in a well-mannered, well-organized layoff with terminated employees being provided resources and opportunity, remaining employees being confident that their jobs are secure and their former associates have been well-treated, and where the employer achieves its staff reduction without trauma and maybe even receiving a “thank you” or two.

Having counseled employers in this situation, I can state as a fact that most employers cannot comprehend that there will be any reaction to a layoff other than anger and mistrust.   However, I can assure you as a result of my personal experience with employers who’ve done it right – and with employers who haven’t – that those who choose to implement a well-planned, respectful process will actually have employees thanking them for providing them the ability to take advantage of new opportunities.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes!

My best advice to you if your firm is in a situation where it is considering a downsizing is to hire a consultant, plan a process so that you only have to do this once, and take care of your employees (terminated and retained) as well as you possibly can.  It will benefit you in both the short-term and the long-term in ways you can’t imagine – even after the economy has turned and your company has rebounded.  I encourage you to read the article below and take steps to insure that your employees don’t feel the need to take such actions.  Should you need guidance regarding a potential downsizing, please feel free to contact our firm, Strategic Growth Concepts, at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com.


Freedom For Kidnapped 3M Boss

Vidya Ram , 03.26.09, Forbes

But French ire over layoffs and the economy is growing.

Workers at a factory in the French town of Pithiviers have finally released Luc Rousselet, a French manager for American firm 3M who was held in his office for more than a day after being locked in by employees who were angry about layoffs.

Public anger over job cuts and bonuses has been more widespread in France than in the U.S. and Britain, where public ire is largely aimed at high ranking figures in the financial services sector. The home of former Royal Bank of Scotland (nyse: RBSnews people ) boss Fred Goodwin was attacked on Wednesday, while in the U.S. senior managers at American Insurance Group (nyse: AIGnews people ) have been warned to take extra care. (See “Calling All Banker Bodyguards.”)SNEnews people ) French operations was held hostage over night by angry employees, protesting the terms of their severance package. (See “Want A Better Payoff? Kidnap Your Boss.”) In February workers at a factory of tire maker Michelin (other-otc: MGDDFnews people ) held two managers hostage overnight.

Last week, millions demonstrated across France against the government’s handling of the economy, and demanding salary caps at companies that are laying-off people. Less than two weeks ago, the head of Sony’s (nyse:

“In France there is an established culture of public and political protest that Britain the U.S. don’t really have,” said David Lea of Control Risk Group. “The preservation of jobs is considered a major goal, so companies, particularly those that are engaging in pre-emptive layoffs, are facing problems.”

So far, none of the situations seem to have taken a violent turn. Pictures taken through windows of the building show a disgruntled looking Rousselet eating dinner, with a bottle of sparkling water. “He is in good spirits and in good shape,” 3M (nyse: MMMnews people ) had said in a statement on Thursday. “3M is now prepared to restart the negotiation process with the union with the assistance of a mediator and local government officials.”

The workers locked Rousselet, a supply chain director, in his office after discussions over how to handle the 110 layoffs at the 225 person factory. 3M, which produces everything from post-it notes to dog collars has announced job cuts across its operations globally.

The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Is Forced Time Off Fair (or Worth it)?

Monday March 16, 2009 , Tom Davenport, Harvard Business Publishing

One of the common approaches to dealing with this recession is for companies to ask — well, tell — employees to take time off without pay, a day every week or two. This 10 or 20% haircut is supposed to indicate that “we’re all in this together,” and that it’s better for everyone to suffer a little than to lay some people off. While I have some sympathies with this philosophy, I’m not sure it’s either fair or wise.

On the issue of fairness, if such a policy had been instituted in 1969, it might have been very fair. But in 2009 there is much less of a relationship between hours on the clock and work actually done, at least for knowledge workers. How many of you reading this post actually work only 40 hours a week? How many of you only work on official workdays? Today, most people have a continuous mixture of work and non-work activities, and it will be difficult for any knowledge worker to stop working for a day every week or fortnight. I might suggest that this is exactly what the employer wants, but that would be a cynical remark.

There is also the issue of whether the forced haircut is wise. I have problems with its wisdom in two respects. One involves the fundamental principle that all employees are equally valuable. It’s nice to pretend that they are, but we all know they’re not. Giving all employees a haircut may lead the most valuable ones to look elsewhere. There was a column in a recent Boston Globe about treating all employees (at Boston’s Beth Israel hospital) alike with regard to cuts. It’s heartwarming, but if it leads to an across-the-board haircut, might some of the best employees leave for wealthier hospitals across town?

The other potential problem is that employees, given an involuntary time chop, may look elsewhere to fill the void. They’ll freelance, e-lance, or moonlight to replace the lost income. This could lead to a variety of negative scenarios for the employer/barber who originally chopped their time. The employee might find the freelance employer more desirable, and jump ship altogether for full-time employment there. Or he might end up doing a bit of his freelance work while ostensibly on the clock for the 80% or 90% employer.

I’m not saying that 10 or 20% haircuts for everyone are necessarily a bad idea. I do think, however, that they are hardly a no-brainer either. The inclination to share the pain is admirable, but it could open the door to a host of problems.

Has Your Firm Implemented the Required COBRA Changes?

There has been a great deal of debate recently about whether or not the recently passed ‘American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’ would provide benefit to small business, and I am certainly a participant in that debate. However, one provision of this legislation was recently brought to my attention and it is a provision that will provide tremendous benefit to those workers who were recently laid off and are attempting to keep their medical coverage thru COBRA.

As you are likely aware, the cost of COBRA coverage is significant. In most cases, ex-staffers trying to cover just themselves and not a family are likely paying in the range of $400-500 per month; family coverage likely puts them in the $1000 per month range. Not easy to manage when you’re out of work and trying to live on unemployment. 

Therefore, the recently passed Recovery legislation contains a provision that enables laid off employees who meet the criteria to pay just 35% of their premiums for a specified period and still maintain their coverage, with the former employer or their benefits administrator covering the remaining 65%.  While this may sound like a problem for small business, the Recovery Act also contains a provision that the business will essentially be “paid back” for the expense by taking a deduction of the equivalent dollar amount in its payroll taxes. 

The information on this provision is lengthy; therefore, I have posted  articles providing the details on our website at http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/humanresources/HR-Resources-for-Employers_I58.html