Human Resources (HR) tasks are an important, albeit time-consuming, part of any business operation. Larger corporations often have dedicated HR departments, but in small businesses, HR-related tasks often fall on the shoulders of the business owner.
Businessing Magazine sat down with Tania Kiefer, a 15-year veteran in the HR industry, for an interview to gain insight into the world of HR.
Tania began her career in Human Resources at First American Financial Corporation, where she says she got her “bread and butter” experience in HR. She then went to work at PacSun, where she gained a whole new experience in the retail world, supporting corporate office employees, company culture, and corporate projects. She is now the Regional Human Resources Manager at Boot Barn, where she supports two of their regions, with about 1,000 employees.
Since most small businesses don’t have the luxury of having someone on staff like Tania to handle Human Resources, we asked Tania for her perspective on some of the most pressing questions that small business owners have about HR.
First of all, can you tell us what business tasks fall under the umbrella of Human Resources?
There are many business tasks that fall under the HR umbrella, including:
- Leave of Absences/Worker’s Compensation
- Talent Development/Coaching
- Employee Relations/Policies and Procedures
- Performance Reviews
Really, any task that has to do with employees could be considered an HR task.
In small businesses, who is usually best suited to handle HR duties, and what types of skills should someone have who is handling them?
Depending on the task, I would say the business owner or a manager would be the best person to handle HR tasks. However, it is pretty common for smaller businesses to hire outside HR consulting firms to help manage some of these tasks, due to their complexity, timing, and the liability associated with them.
The person managing these tasks should be knowledgeable of employment law and regulations, but should also have a “softer” side to deal with employees and any issues that might arise.
What are some of the most basic things business owners should be thinking about when it comes to Human Resources?
I think the most basic thing to think about when it comes to HR is that you are dealing with people. You can’t always think in black and white terms, there are gray areas. However, you do need to be consistent in your decisions and actions.
What are some of the HR duties that typically trip up small business owners?
Labor laws and anything related to pay and time off are big things to be familiar with when it comes to HR. If a small business owner isn’t well versed in these topics, they might want to consider engaging an outside firm to assist them.
There are so many little nuances in laws and regulations, based on the city, state, and business size, that it can difficult to interpret and follow them all. In California, where I work, one of the big issues right now is meal break time. It is very important for business owners to ensure that their non-exempt/hourly employees are being given meal breaks, away from their desks and free of all work, before the fifth hour of their shifts, unless they will complete their day by the sixth hour.
As you can see, just by this one example, labor laws can be complicated. Another high-profile issue right now is the Affordable Care Act, and that is a whole other topic in itself that business owners need to be aware of and know how it affects their businesses.
Are there some HR duties that are best to outsource, rather than trying to do them in house?
A lot of smaller businesses do decide to outsource a lot of the HR functions/tasks including, but not limited to the following:
- Employee Relations Issues
- Legal and Compliance
- Employee Handbook and Policy Preparation and Review
Really, anything you don’t feel confident doing yourself would be best left to a professional, as the ramifications for getting it wrong could be costly.
What resources would you recommend for small business owners looking to find out more about handling HR issues correctly?
There are a lot of helpful online resources for information on HR issues and regulations. Some of the ones I would recommend are:
- The Society for Human Resources Management website, particularly this article on 10 Tips to Help Small Businesses Avoid Costly HR Errors.
- This article on 7 Essential Online HR Resources for Your Small Business.
- The free webinars from Miller Law Group. They help keep me informed and up-to-date on pending or passing regulations and other issues related to Human Resources.
- The Cal Chamber website, for California-based businesses.
Tania’s final word to small business owners about HR: “Overall, your employees are your greatest assets. You must protect and manage those assets. Make sure to give timely and relevant feedback and keep your team engaged.”
Businessing Magazine would like to thank Tania for taking the time to answer our questions. She is also available to answer your specific HR-related questions, or to recommend someone who could provide you with consulting services, if your small business is in need of ongoing help with Human Resources. You can reach Tania at [email protected].