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HR tips and advice for small business owners with no HR Department in sight!

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

HR advice for small businesses: 6 tips for success

Small businesses can’t always afford a dedicated HR department, so you’re going to take on these responsibilities yourself. As if you didn’t have enough already, right? Lighten up, because help is on the way! In this post, you’ll find HR advice for small businesses with a focus on tips that will help you foster a productive and inspiring workplace to prevent employee turnover. Think positively because the creation of your company’s culture is a few choices away.

Recruit the right people

Our first HR advice for employers starts with the formation of your team. Your small business team will perform best when it’s filled with the right talent. That means you should look beyond formal qualifications and focus on recruiting people with strong soft skills and a true passion for their jobs. The first step to building a top-notch team is writing a job description that will attract the right talent. Be honest about your company’s vision and culture. Provide an accurate and detailed description of your ideal candidate, making sure you mention the personality traits that truly matter to you instead of going with buzzwords like “team player.” During the interview process, assess your candidate’s skills by conducting a small test or giving them a project to complete at home.

But the hardest part is assessing whether they are a good fit for your team. High achieving teams are not comprised of people that share the same hobbies and laugh at the same jokes. Instead, they’re made up of individuals that bring diversity and new perspectives to the table.

Make sure the candidate is genuinely interested in your job offering, as well. Job hopping is on the rise, so make sure you won’t be part of those statistics. Does the candidate ask a lot of questions? Do they know your core values? These are all great indicators that they are in it for the long haul.

Establish a strong company culture

A strong company culture drives employee engagement and minimizes employee turnover. However, you can’t establish one unless your team is on board with your company values. To that end, make sure you communicate your company vision early on, and that all employees model your values.

Another point to consider is that a strong company culture is built on trust and transparency. Adopt an open-door policy to encourage honest communication and feedback. Make your employees feel valued and visible by discussing future business goals with them. Delegate tasks and responsibilities wisely and based on talent. Actually, smart delegation comes with a double benefit: you avoid micromanaging, and your employees feel respected and empowered.

The modern workplace is formed by multiple generations, with Baby Boomers on their way out and Generation Z on their way in. Is it possible to build a company culture while managing different generations in the workplace?


Without exception, every list of HR tips and advice includes this one: onboard your new hires. And that’s for a good reason. Onboarding is an essential process that comes with multiple benefits for any company, big or small.

Show your new hires that you take employee training and development seriously by having a formal onboarding process in place. Help them familiarize themselves with your work procedures and their job-specific tasks. Pairing them with a seasoned employee can help. It’s also wise to prepare an employee handbook (ideally in digital format) and share it with them. If you have the financial resources, invest in people management software to automate the process.

Onboarding does more than introducing new hires to their job tasks. It makes them feel included, adapt to their new working environment one day sooner, and get a feel of your company culture. So, apart from introducing new employees to their co-workers, why not organize a welcome lunch? We can’t think of a warmer way to say, “Welcome on board!”

Write an employee handbook

To keep all the necessary information about your company nice and neat, prepare an employee handbook.

An employee handbook includes basic information, such as operating hours and official closure dates. It also includes details about employee pay, benefits, vacation/leave policies, and other compensation-related topics. You should also lay out behavioural expectations (e.g., dress code) and company policies regarding health and safety, harassment, employee assessment procedures, etc.

To make sure your policies and procedures abide by the law, hire an external HR consultant. If you can’t afford (or need, at this point) to pay for a full-time position, hire one on an hourly or contract basis. It’s worth the money, considering that an HR consultant can also help you with recruitment and onboarding.

Work on your leadership skills

Our next HR advice for small businesses requires some self-reflection and personal work. You see, as a team leader, you need to fine-tune certain skills to manage your team effectively and make them strong advocates of your company culture. The list of leadership skills is long, so we’ll cover the basics.

Communication skills are undoubtedly the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Excellent active listening skills and empathy will help you connect with your team, evoke trust, and support them through rocky times. You’ll also be able to give feedback that resonates with employees and doesn’t feel like criticism.

What’s more, sooner or later, there will be friction in the workplace. It’s your job to bring the conflicting sides together and hear them out objectively. Not to mention all the difficult conversations you’ll need to carry from time to time regarding pay, personal favours; etc. Long story short, add assertiveness and conflict resolution skills to your toolkit essentials.

On a more practical level, you’ll also need delegation skills to assign the right people to the right positions. When done right, delegation in the workplace helps your staff feel empowered, trusted, and grow professionally. Ultimately, it can prevent employee turnover.

Ask for employee feedback

This is one of the most important HR tips for managers: encourage employee feedback. Otherwise, unresolved issues will pile up and, before you know it, you’ll start losing some of your best talent. Make no mistake, top performers are the ones who leave first in search of a better work environment.

The best way to receive honest employee feedback is through one-on-one conversations. Although, your reaction will either encourage the employee to tell more or shut down communication. That’s why it’s important to be receptive to feedback and listen to understand, not to answer back.

Another option is to observe employees on the job. Not in a creepy way, like hiding behind a plant or the water cooler. Just look at their faces and their posture as you pass along their desks. Are they busy and focused, or are they on the verge of exhaustion? Do they smile at you whole-heartedly, or are they putting on a polite grin? Learn to tell the difference. A negative vibe in the workplace is hard to miss if you pay attention.

Finally, a no-brainer reminder. You can’t gain employee trust or keep honest feedback coming your way unless you act on it. Even though you can’t grant every request, try to keep an open mind and reach a compromise whenever possible.

It’s hard to hold multiple responsibilities and carry out different roles. When you’re running a small business though, multitasking is on the daily agenda. Hopefully, our HR advice for small businesses has shed some light on your road to successful business and people management.


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