A certification in Human Resources isn’t required to launch a business, and yet every employer who leads a team of two or more will face HR challenges throughout the lifespan of their organization. It’s not only a given but a major cause of stress for many owners. According to a recent study by Xero, managing staff is the number one stressor for small business owners (42%) – ahead of admin tasks (35%) and even feeling personally responsible for the success of the company (31%).
It’s no surprise that when business leaders hear I work in the world of Human Resources, they eagerly pose a few burning questions. After nearly a decade in the industry here in southeastern North Carolina, I’ve seen a pattern in the challenges local business owners face. Some are unique to our region, and others are questions undoubtedly on the minds of business owners all across the nation.
Here are two of the many “people concerns” I’m asked about time and again and the advice I often give to local business leaders.
- How can I maintain talent in a seasonal market?
As a popular warm-weather destination and a college town, Wilmington and the surrounding area is unquestionably seasonal. Our population ebbs and flows, which can present a challenge for many employers. If you’re in a seasonal industry like those that cater to tourism – hospitality, dining, recreation, entertainment, etc. – chances are you depend on students and other short-term workers to keep your business going and growing. Your challenge is likely finding and retaining a skilled and dependable workforce during the busy season.
The main piece of advice I have for these employers is the same advice I give to every kind of employer: Create a workplace environment that is welcoming, enjoyable, and supportive of its team members. This requires you to treat your short-term employees as if they will be there for the long haul. No shortcutting your efforts to build a positive culture. No using their “temporary status” as an excuse to provide the bare minimum as an employer. If your people can manage to have fun on the job while doing great work, you’ll likely see them again next year. And if they can’t return for whatever reason, you can count on them to recommend the job or your company to their friends and family.
The second piece of advice for seasonal employers is to be proactive in asking great team members to return next season before the current season comes to a close. When employees feel valued and that their skills are desired, they are much more likely to remain loyal to your company for as long as circumstances allow. And if employees know they won’t make it back for the following season, having this discussion will open the door to ask for any personal referrals for future workers. In addition, keep in contact with seasonal workers during the off-season, so they don’t forget you care. Even a monthly email or text to check in on how they’re doing can keep you top-of-mind once the busy season rolls around again.
- I don’t know what I don’t know. What should I do?
This question, which I’ve heard many versions of over the years, reminds me of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Except, in the case of knowing what is truly going on in your company, the old adage does not ring true. Many owners are aware there are or may be persisting “people issues” in their business but don’t know exactly what needs fixing (or how to find out). Without a defined problem, there can’t be a solution. Here’s what to do.
Start with an HR audit. At Montani Consulting, we call this process an HR Discovery. The aim is to assess compliance and liability and identify areas where there may be inefficiencies or inconsistencies. The auditing process is only as helpful as the time you and your team invest in it. Take inventory of the following: company demographics; recruitment; orientation and training; benefits and compensation; payroll; performance management; safety, compliance, record-keeping; terminations; and employment classifications. Where can you improve? What areas do you realize you simply don’t know enough about?
By digging deeper into each of these categories – or any of the categories that stick out to you as likely trouble areas – you will not only gain a better pulse of the health of your business, but you can start the company-changing process of tackling once-hidden HR issues hindering the company’s growth and sustainability.
Written by Katherine Daniel and spotlighted on the Wilmington Business Insights.