Dear Anne,

I own a company that has grown and is now employing 14 team members. I don’t have any HR education or training, but I have taken on the responsibilities of human resources, including evaluations, payroll, hiring, and office management. What do I need to learn and understand as I take on this challenge?

 

Congratulations! You’ll learn a lot if you do the job the way the regulators want you to. I recently read a blog in The Huffington Post by Margaret Jacoby, a certified senior professional in human resources, that addresses some common mistakes small businesses make in their HR.

She understands you’re overloaded and mistakes are bound to happen. “Human resource management mistakes can be devastating for your company in numerous ways, from litigation to employee replacement costs,” Jacoby says. This means you need to take your HR role seriously, learn all you can, and follow the rules and regulations set forth by state and federal government.  

A few things to be aware of while working in HR at a small company include:

 

Employment law.

Familiarize yourself with various areas of employment law, like discrimination; overtime; family, military and maternity leave; disability; gender-pay differences; workplace safety; immigration; and more.  These laws apply to all employers, regardless of their size.  It could and has cost companies millions upon millions to fight these types of lawsuits.  

 

Hiring the right people for the job.

Jacoby says people often hire candidates because they know them or like them or feel sorry for them. Do yourself a favor: Only interview people to hire them for the job to be done. It has been proven that when you hire friends or unqualified folks for the position, everyone eventually loses.

 

Creating strong, accurate job descriptions.

Once you decide to hire for a certain position, you generally have a job description in mind. But you must have a clear, written description of the job and the position before you start actively advertising and recruiting. It should include the skills, training, and education of the person you are searching for as well as the basic duties and responsibilities of the job. Once this is complete, you’ll have a road map for the search process. My rule of thumb is to only choose job candidates that match a minimum of 90 percent of your description to interview.  

 

Managing performance issues.

Performance issues do not go away! Most small business owners I’ve met hope that problem employees eventually rectify themselves on their own. You’re not always so lucky. The key is to get problems out in the open quickly.

There are many corrective action form templates you can find on the internet or at the library to assist you in getting the performance issue written down. Many have areas for action steps to correct the behavior and, if need be, termination agreements. Whatever the outcome, make sure both parties sign off on the form.

 

Misclassifying employee status.

Are you using “contract workers” that work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week at your business? Do they have quotas, goals, or someone telling them they get two weeks off? If so, you may be misclassifying them, according to the IRS and the Department of Labor.  

Many small employers don’t want to pay benefits and hassle with unemployment insurance and other costs of hired employees, so they make their workers independent contractors. But the rules are very specific on who is eligible to become a contractor. (You’ll find a lot of info at the DOL and IRS websites.)  

 

According to Jacoby, a person is only an independent contractor if you:

  • Don’t have control of their job and the work they do.
  • Don’t have any written contracts, benefit plans, or vacation time spelled out.
  • Don’t control the financial aspects of the worker’s assignments.  

______

 

Dear Anne,

I do not know what “business casual” means. I went to a meeting wearing a sundress and sandals and was completely underdressed. Now I’m embarrassed. Please help!

 

Business casual dress is different wherever you go. It depends on the size of the company, number of employees, amount of interaction between employees and customers, geography, climate, culture, and average age of the workforce. Business casual encourages employees to project a professional, business-like image while enjoying the advantage of more casual clothing. To be on the safe side, men should stick to slacks or khakis, a dress shirt or polo, and closed-toed shoes. Women should wear a dress or skirt (no minis) or slacks or capris with an appropriate blouse. Shoes may be sandals but not flip-flops of any kind. Avoid T-shirts and shorts, and until you understand the dress culture of your company, aim to overdo it!

 

Anne Williams is the president of JobFinders. She is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.

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