From Compliance to Strategy
Build your laboratory’s HR function to encourage success
It's not easy running a company, especially in today's fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technological advances, new hiring strategies, and political changes due to a new administration all add to the existing challenges business owners face. Ensuring that the right systems and resources are in place builds a solid foundation to develop the best human resources infrastructure. A successful HR function within your organization should not only focus on compliance but should also be aligned with the strategic goals of the organization.
Every business that has employees should have an HR infrastructure. The level of infrastructure will vary based upon the size of the organization, but if you have employees, you need to ask several questions about your organization. These questions include:
• What do I need to do to be compliant?
• What systems do I need to put in place to manage the human resources function?
• What is the communication strategy in my organization?
• How does my company measure up in the areas of market share, talent, sales, growth, and diversity?
By addressing these questions, you are focusing both on compliance and strategy, which ultimately will ensure success.
For most small businesses, simply ensuring compliance with the employment laws and regulations is daunting. Most small businesses don't have the time or expertise to fully ensure compliance when there is so much else happening. First, understanding which federal, state, and local laws you are required to comply with based upon how many employees you have can be confusing. For example, the number of employees required for compliance with the federal Title VII is 15. However, many states have similar legislation regarding a smaller number of employees, and some localities have even lower thresholds. Another example is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you have less than 50 employees, your business doesn't have to comply with FMLA. But does your state or city have some type of leave legislation that is similar to FMLA? Many do. Once you understand what laws you must comply with, then figuring out how to follow all the rules may seem even more complicated. Every law or regulation has specific language and requirements for recordkeeping, training, and ensuring compliance.
Figuring out how to remain compliant appears daunting and overwhelming but is also critical. Without the solid foundation of compliance, a company will not be able to reach the level of success that could otherwise be achieved. Failure to comply can result in financial, operational, and reputational risk. The first step to success is ensuring you have a compliant organization. Without taking that step, your business may not be able to climb further.
After compliance, the next critical step is implementing the right systems to manage your human resources. There are many systems that all businesses should consider. These systems include payroll, HR information system (HRIS), performance management, benefits, compensation, policies and procedures/employee handbook, employee engagement, workforce planning, talent attraction and development, succession planning, analytics/metrics, and employee well-being.
The type of systems you put in place will vary based upon the needs of your business. However, no matter the size or budget of your organization, putting systems in place to manage human resources functions will be another step in ensuring success.
Being compliant and implementing systems are critical but will only take your business so far. Truly successful organizations get high marks for their communications strategy. There are five key ideas to remember.
Designate communication owners. We often make assumptions that someone else is communicating information to employees. Don't assume; instead be deliberate and designate people to ensure information is communicated clearly to all.
Communicate leadership goals. Employees really do want to know what leadership is doing and what the goals are. As leaders, be open and keep employees informed.
Periodically check in with your employees. Often, your employees will let you know how they are feeling about their work environment if you ask. As a leader, don't be afraid to ask your employees for their “take” on what is going on within the organization. It can provide great insight.
Use multiple communication mediums. Information comes from a variety of sources today. Be mindful of your employees and how they best receive information. Use multiple ways to communicate.
Over-communicate. It sounds cliché, but you can't communicate too much with your staff. Keep your employees informed. Employees want to know what is going on, even when it's bad news. As managers, we tend to avoid sharing all of our information. But what many don't realize is that when we leave out information, employees will fill in the blanks on their own—often incorrectly. That can be detrimental, so share as much as you can.
How do you measure success in your organization? Is it growth? Is it profit? Is it employee engagement? However success is measured in your business, remember that at the end of the day, it involves many integrated parts, including compliance and fostering a positive workplace culture. Is the human resources function in your business measuring up? Take the time to assess the state of your HR function. The results will be a roadmap to help you achieve success.
About the Author
Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is the VP of HR Consulting and Outsourcing at HR Affiliates in Louisville, Kentucky.