Many small businesses have been seriously impacted by the pandemic, with the NAB business confidence index indicating that business confidence has taken a serious hit, plunging to -8 in July 2021 from +11 in June, dragged down by widespread impacts of lockdowns, particularly in NSW and Victoria. As a result, HR is probably not something top of mind for most small businesses.

Whilst many don’t need an HR department, there are times where an experienced HR professional can assist in managing some of these issues. So how can HR help? 

Sourcing suitable staff

Attracting the right staff can be time consuming and onerous at best. The pandemic has impacted businesses in different ways depending on the type of industry they are in. Whilst many businesses are struggling to survive, there are others where severe labour shortages are starting to bite. For these businesses their focus must shift to how they can compete for the best talent. They will need to consider new and innovative ways to attract the most suitable candidates to their business.

Recruiting and retaining staff

Finding the staff is one thing, there is then the often quite lengthy process of recruiting them and once you have them you need to keep them. Your employees are your most valuable asset. If you lose them now, rebuilding operations is potentially going to be even more difficult – not to mention the cost involved in lost productivity. The time it takes to hire new staff, train them and have them being fully productive can be lengthy, time you probably don’t have.

Managing interpersonal and performance issues

Managing people can be challenging. As a company grows, business owners are often faced with the inevitable interpersonal issues that arise, performance issues and a myriad of other issues that come up because whilst diversity is good, it also creates difference. Managing people issues can be exhausting and draining. Most business owners are not trained in HR and if these internal conflicts escalate, they wouldn’t know where to start.

Compliance

The employment law landscape is vast. Many employees are now well versed in their rights courtesy of the internet. Businesses, no matter their size, are highly regulated and legislation is complex and inconsistent across the federal and state jurisdictions. Breaching any of these laws can be extremely costly, not just in terms of dollars, but also time and energy wasted, becoming large-scale legal problems where the only people who come out smiling are the lawyers.

Furloughing and redundancies

During the pandemic, businesses have had to learn the hard way. New concepts such as furloughing (putting staff on leave without pay) have been introduced into the Australian vernacular. Changes to regulations, the introduction of government grants and government assistance at federal and state levels, were rapid and evolving. Good advice is essential during a crisis.

Health, wellbeing, hybrid, and remote work

As business emerges from the pandemic haze, attention will need to be focused again on how to attract and retain the best people. The mental health and well-being of the workforce will be paramount, employees will want to feel safe and supported at work. They will want options around how and when they work. For some businesses, there are no choices, for those where there are, these factors will need to be taken into account.

Running a business is hard work. Managing people can be harder. HR done well can support you in driving the effectiveness of your organisation and take some of the pressure off you, enabling you to focus on growing the business, understanding your customers and how their needs have changed and generating that all important cashflow.

Inside Small Business (October, 2021), insidesmallbusiness