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Human Resources (HR) — a position that is often referred to by company leaders as expensive event planners, paper pushers that adds barriers to business and takes the fun out of everything. To employees, HR is often viewed as the one that hires, disciplines and terminates, and often only caring about the policies that will best serve the company.
The reality of HR is that we are often operating in a reactive state due to the lack of infrastructure and consistent business practices from within. Because of this, HR professionals are not operating in the capacity that will best serve the company and its employees. Many leaders know the struggles tied to employing, training and managing employees. The laws are ever-changing and cumbersome, the cost and complexity of using HR and payroll systems are rapidly increasing, and (qualified) in-person HR support is often hard to find, or very expensive.
However, without the necessary HR infrastructure, the costs and changes associated with people management will continue to mount, and progress forward for any company will feel like an impossible venture. To minimize risk and expenses, create efficiencies and improve the morale of your employees; your company should invest in a qualified, and “strategic” HR Partner or HR service that will support your business goals and incorporate your mission, vision and values to all aspects of the business, (even if only temporary; you can have it created and empower your internal leaders to continue the efforts).
Along my HR journey, I have worked internally and as an external HR Consultant. I have worked with companies at all stages, all sizes, and in many industries and locations. One thing that I have seen to be true… there is always value in having an HR partner and investing in your people, processes and leaders.
Many years ago, I worked for a government-contracted company that employed engineers and military personnel. There was a major problem needing to be solved, and surprisingly, the solution was very simple. The problem was communication (lacking or inefficient). We needed to improve the communication and collaboration efforts amongst teams and departments to achieve the common goal. After consideration of the type of employees I was working with and the work environment we were in; I took a different approach to solving this common workplace problem. Rather than impose a training on communication styles and improvements, I opted for a recognition board. Yes, you read correctly; a simple corkboard, a handful of pushpins and a pile of colorful post-its. The task was simple; “employees, please post and share a thank-you message, or note of appreciation to the Recognition Board for a fellow colleague on a job well done.”
It seemed simple enough, but this was a heavily male-dominated workplace where many employees were remote. Well, in a few short weeks, that corkboard was covered in colorful post-it notes that had written on them, messages of positivity, gratitude and shout-outs galore. It was inspiring… and contagious. I began sharing a picture of the Recognition Board at the end of every month (especially for those remote employees, who by the way also joined in) and gave the actual post-its to the rightful recipients as a reminder to all that they contributed.
What this simple solution did was cultivate not only a work environment of collaboration and support; but a way to set aside one’s own opinions and come together as a team to problem-solve and communicate more efficiently. Major problem solved; the cost and process were simple, but the result was priceless.
As an HR Professional, I implore leaders to look within your company and examine the areas of concern and explore what solutions may be needed; get creative and think outside the box. A little effort and commitment can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can Google ways to problem solve; look to BOLI for law updates, invest in SHRM (an annual membership for HR Professionals which includes forms, templates, guides, etc.), ask other business owners how they handle similar situations (aka network). Other resources include: SBA, Score Mentors and chamber of commerce. The odds are, some other business or HR Professional has seen your problem before and may have a great solution for you to explore.
Final note — The two best pieces of advice I can give any business owner; be consistent in everything you do (inconsistencies lead to discrepancies) and document. Document all conversations with employees (include full names of attendees, date (including year), and document in a way that someone will eventually see (aka, a lawyer). Save documentation in a secure place to reference later if a pattern occurs.
Heather Wall is the director of Human Resources at Brightways Counseling Group. She has 15 years in the HR profession, a master’s degree in management, SHRM-CP, certified strategic HR business partner, certified in strategic workforce planning and a certified human capital strategist.
Residing in Central Oregon for the last two years, Wall has worked with several small to mid-size business throughout the state of Oregon, Washington and California as a business partner focusing on building HR infrastructure and balancing compliance and culture within the workplace. In addition to her HR work, Wall volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Deschutes County, serving as an advocate for children in foster care. She resides in Sisters with her husband and two sons. In her spare time, she enjoys doing puzzles, playing in the snow and water (depending on the season), exploring new restaurants and spending time with friends and family.