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How to Grow a Small Business – A Guide for HR

The goal of a small business is simple: grow. The bigger the business, the more job security for all employees, the more talented people you can hire and the better chance you have of making a difference in your industry.

In a small business, everyone chips in. Growing a business isn’t just the job of the CEO and CFO—everyone has a part to play. If you’re an HR leader (even a “team of one”), you can shape the kind of company that you want to work for and have your say in decisions that affect the business’s bottom line.

  1. Creating an Amazing Company Culture

    It’s hard to fix a plane when it’s in the air. The same applies to companies: the kind of workplace culture that’s put in place right at the start will have a big impact down the line. A toxic culture can only get you far. If you can instill a sense of mission, purpose and connectedness—you’ll get the kind of productive, engaged employees that can supercharge growth.

  2. Streamline Scheduling—Do the Most with What You Have

    Small businesses don’t have a big budget for labor cost. To sustain growth, you need to get staffing levels just right. Too few staff and you’ll be burned out, unable to capitalize on opportunities. Hire too freely and you’ll overextend, leaving minimal to invest in other areas. Getting this balance right requires efficient scheduling and carefully tracking overtime, so you expand at precisely the right moment.

  3. Recruit Top Talent

    When it’s time to recruit, HR has a lot on its shoulders. A bad hire (or several) can be hard to recover from, so you’re operating with less room for error. The good news is, HR teams who create a great recruitment program — building a pipeline, tracking applicants and rewarding referrals— and then use compensation and benefits smartly to attract top talent, can add real value to a growing business. A few special hires, who stick around for the long haul, will return the investment many times over.

  4. Don’t Ignore Onboarding

    In a small business or startup, onboarding is famous for being pretty much nonexistent. You figure things out as you go. But HR teams can do better, and if you want engaged employees who can contribute quickly, you’ll need to. Putting in place an effective onboarding process can save new employees many wasted hours—and for a small business, every hour of labor cost matters. The sooner your team can work together, the sooner they can concentrate on growing the business.

  5. Grow Employee Skillsets

    The magic of a small business is that it’s never just the company that grows, it’s the people. Roles grow and employees gain responsibilities. Early hires end up achieving things they never thought possible. Experience is a great teacher, but it shouldn’t be the only teacher. It’s never too early to implement a learning and development program, teaching employees new skills and preparing them for challenges ahead.

  6. Performance Management

    Personal development goes hand in hand with performance management. With a small team, it’s important that those with high potential are recognized and given the tools they need to grow. Those who struggle should also be given the support them need to get back on track. The problem is, traditional annual reviews don’t allow this responsiveness—consider shorter, more frequent performance reviews.

  7. Create a Compliance Culture

    In a small business, you probably won’t have a legal team on your side ready to warn you of potential trouble—instead, HR must be the champions of compliance. It’s an important role, since small mistakes can have big consequences. Staying compliant requires foresight, being prepared not just for ever-changing legislation but also knowing rules which will become relevant to you as your company grows.

  8. Implement Scalable HR Technology

    HR for a small business is a big job and even if you’re managing today, what happens when there are more employees? HR technology can help—automate repetitive tasks, eliminate paperwork and giving leaders time to get out of the weeds and focus on the bigger picture. Importantly, you need software that’s scalable, so it will grow with you rather than holding you back.


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