New businesses face many HR challenges

A proper HR strategy is integral to the survival of any business, including start-ups; and not having one in place can contribute to the failure of a business within its first year. With the start-up community booming all over Europe, developing a comprehensive HR policy should be close to the top of the to-do list. We have compiled some of the HR challenges that may affect a start-up.

1. Think big little one

You may feel HR policies are best suited to the corporate giants. But not having one can potentially wreak havoc on a new business. Despite there being a plethora of off the shelf HR policies available for download or review on the internet, it is best practice to customise a policy that truly reflects the integrity and values of your business. As a young startup, the millennial approach is one that is far more creative, innovative and laid back. You may be reluctant to implement a stringent policy in fear it may crush this culture. But to ensure your startup is protected from factors that could hinder its profitability and growth just makes good business sense – regardless of size or stature.

Having an HR policy in the form of a handbook or as a pack that accompanies a job acceptance letter that is to be signed and returned gives you something tangible to refer to should you need to.

2. Hire smart

Before you start diving into the talent pool that is drawing ever closer thanks to the rise in remote working, make sure you are familiar with the employment laws that are relevant to the size and nature of your business. You will be governed by these rules that outlay details of wages, working hours, discrimination and employee classification. Employment law will also guide you through the questions you can and cannot ask during the interview phase.

Setting clear job descriptions and establishing competency models to have transparent guidance and support will enable you to effectively hire and manage staff once they are in the business. If you have hired on face value without taking the time to assess how the team will bond together HR policies empower you to manage staff out of the business. Then you will be safe in the knowledge that you are within the law.

3. Keep accurate and data protected records

In keeping with the digital revolution, even HR documents can be completed online and stored away in the cloud.  Its good practice to keep the following information on file. Basic personal or sensitive information, copies of CV’s, work history and performance evaluations along with any sickness and holiday taken can all be kept in a secure employee profile.

You are required by law to keep a record of any workplaces accidents or injuries. This is essential to comply with workplace health and safety laws. Keeping staff records aids you when business profiling. These records allow you to match your staff resources with business requirements. They also support managing or assessing individual and team performance.  If necessary, they could help you defend the business against tribunal cases. However, all data held on employees must comply with data protection.

4. Keeping employees happy

Keeping employees happy is undoubtedly one of the toughest HR challenges you will face.  Your employees will be one of the most important resources. Finding them, keeping them and looking after them is paramount to the success of a business.  This is because it is widely accepted happy employees are invariably more productive. Learning individual personal values and motivation means you can build trusting relationships and retain great staff. Open and honest conversations are key to ensuring your team members are engaged.  They need to be challenged and passionate about what they do. So as well as striving to aid them in their quest for the ultimate work/life balance – surveys tell us a lack of harmony in this department is one of the top 3 reasons people leave their jobs.

There is no doubt about it – as well as helping you to deal with the supportive and happy side of the employee card, having great communication skills is going to help you. This is especially true when we come to challenging aspects of the job too.  Below we have compiled some of the more awkward conversations you may come across as you acquire more staff.

5. Employee negativity

The key behaviour with negative or difficult employees is to be attentive and listen. Before you can start to improve the situation, you need to understand the cause. Some people just need to be heard. Feedback is important, the employee should understand the impact of their behaviour on others that surround them. They need to understand the impact on the business as a whole. If the issue can be changed or amended, do this. But be sure to set clear guidelines and consequences for any future occurrences and make sure you document everything.

6. Office romances

Office romances are not always a pleasurable experience. It’s hard to know where to set boundaries.  They are sure to set off the rumour mill.  This can often lead to a hostile environment (not to mention office breakups!). The worst-case scenario is two jilted partners pursuing legal action for sexual harassment. It’s worth seriously considering all aspects of an office relationship and setting a policy on it that suits your views. For example – are you against them completely, or do they need to be declared officially by both parties?

7. Sickness

We are all guilty of taking the odd sick day when we probably could have made it into work at some point in our careers. But, when an employee starts to take an unacceptable amount of sickness that cannot be attributed to extenuating circumstances or medical condition, you need to take action. You don’t need to take action just to suit a specific HR policy. You need to take action because this will eventually lead to a loss in revenue and will again, create a hostile environment between employees. It also comes down to respect and reputation. Both will be damaged if difficult circumstances aren’t dealt with.

8. Hygiene

Possibly one of THE most difficult conversations to have with employees is an issue that will need to be dealt with sensitively and discreetly. It is one of the most difficult HR challenges. If there is any workplace gossip surrounding the issue, this needs to be stopped immediately as it is entirely counterproductive, some underlying medical or mental health issues could be the reason for body odour or poor personal hygiene. Holding a meeting at the end of the day, away from the office in a neutral location to minimize as much embarrassment as possible, while you need to empathize, you need to communicate expectations because it can affect others in the team.

If you want to take a softer approach and try to appeal to everyone’s self-awareness, go for an office ‘clean up’ drive, putting out antibacterial wipes for desks and equipment, antibacterial hand gel and toiletries in the bathroom, or a tongue in cheek approach with this hygiene quiz!

When everything is moving at 100 miles per hour and you are trying to establish your workplace culture, it’s difficult to prioritise creating a policy that may seem to go against what you are trying to achieve. Even forming a loose framework that offers guidance and protection as well as helping to drive a culture that fits with the company’s values, ethics, and vision. However, HR challenges are easily overcome with the right advice and guidance.

As a freelance writer within the business and marketing sector, I’ve spent many years working alongside SME’s in an effort to grow and boost their business in the new digital age of marketing.