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HR in Small Businesses

May 23, 2013 -  Welcome to our second guest on this blog! Andrea Herran, Principal of Focus HR, is knowledgeable in the full spectrum of human resources activities. Her passion is in assisting small businesses achieve success through their people. She works alongside entrepreneurs, managers, and owners as a consultant, coach, or mentor. Andrea has lived and worked overseas in Mexico, Argentina, and South Africa.

We asked the popular presenter on HR topics the following questions:

What are some of your favorite HR resources for small business owners and operators (books, websites, magazines, etc.)?

In print there are limited resources. On the internet you can find much more and it is a matter of finding a style you are comfortable with - more casual, step-by-step or thought provoking and formal.  There are countless blogs on Human Resources. My own blog, focused on practical and use now information for business owners, can be found at http://FocusHR.biz/blogging

What are a few of the most common mistakes you see small businesses making, and what advice would you give in order for businesses to avoid those mistakes?

The biggest mistake and the most costly (if you’re audited) is not having the proper paperwork for your employees.  All employees, regardless of how many you have, need to complete an I9 form (http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf) and read the instructions. Keep the form separate from the employee files.  Place the proper posters on your wall where everyone will see them (http://www.illinois.gov/idol/EmployerInformation/Pages/posters.aspx) for State and Federal requirements. Lastly, W4 tax forms.

The other is not being clear on expectations. When someone comes to work for us, we give them some training and then expect them to live up to our expectations. This is wonderful, if the person knows what they are. Most times, we don't take time to write out what we expect a person to do - either generally or very specifically. For example:  customer service person is to respond to all inquiries. This is what we tell people which is appropriate but you want the customer called back within a certain time frame. Tell them the time frame - 2 hours, 5 hours, overnight, etc.

What kind of leadership advice can you give women working for or running small businesses?

Be yourself. Don't feel that you have to compete in a man's way. You will gain more respect and clients by being you.  Many times we think we need to act like our male counterparts or be "one of the boys". I have had more success by standing out as the girl in the group.

When leading others they can spot fake or someone who doesn't appear comfortable in their own skin. You have to find a leadership style that works for you and allows others to want to work with you. You can read all the leadership books, articles and blogs you like, take in the information and make it your own.

Any quick tips or hints you can give on improving internal (corporate) communication?

This is one of my favorite topics. You need to be able to write in a way that speaks to everyone. Regardless of what you are communicating remember to include the WIIFM (what's in it for me) for your reader. When writing to employees it is not about you, it is about them and why should they take an interest in what you are saying. Apply the information to them, tell a story and make it relevant.

On an individual note, acknowledge people for their hard work, great job or the way they handled a particular situation. While not everyone is looking for public recognition, a  pat on the back or a handwritten thank you note can go a long ways.