Strong HR in a High Growth Business

Research from the CIPD has shown that HR has a vital role to play in driving long-term performance in SMEs, whatever stage of growth the organisation is at, and whether or not it has a dedicated HR function.

The research report (Sustainable organisation performance through HR in SMEs published in 2013) identifies six key insights which can help HR managers – or those responsible for HR – anticipate and respond to the people-related challenges that will inevitably arise as the business grows.

Read on to see if these resonate in your business.

  1. Anticipation is key:  HR needs to have a clear understanding of where the business is headed.  They need to be deeply familiar with the strategy, vision and values, so that they can anticipate key stages of growth and transition and plan for any necessary shifts in the way HR challenges and processes are managed.
  1. Values and purpose should be the bedrock of the business.  One of the biggest challenges facing SMEs is how to retain the heady excitement and ‘family’ feel of the early days.  HR has an important role to play in preserving the vision of the founder or leader and embedding it in all aspects of people management.  Are people engaged with the overall purpose of the business and clear about how they fit into the bigger picture, for example?  If innovation and creativity are valued in the business, are there mechanisms in place to reward employees demonstrating these behaviours? Make sure HR processes are set up to reflect the way the business wants people to work on a day-to-day basis and are not time consuming or complicated.
  1. HR and business strategies need to be aligned.  In the early days, it can be difficult for HR to make itself heard in an SME.  Owner/managers often see it as something they ‘have to do’ rather than a strategic tool they can use to support business growth.  HR needs to work hard to demonstrate that well-thought out people processes can play an important part in building the high performance the business needs if it is to sustain long term growth.  Having up-to-the-minute information about everything from head count to available skill sets is a good way to build credibility and get your voice heard.
  1. Keep processes simple.  As an SME grows, it inevitably needs to move to a more structured approach and to introduce more formal people processes.   It’s important, however, to find the right balance between structure and fluidity so that agility and entrepreneurial spirit are not stifled or undermined by bureaucracy.  Many Office Managers given HR responsibility will implement inefficient and out of date practices due to lack of training or the desire to create a job for themselves. Many processes should become automated.

The latest HR software allows employees to access and update their own data – and makes it much easier for line managers to manage processes such as holidays and absence.  It cuts down on the paperwork, ensures consistency and makes HR processes simpler and more transparent.

  1. Strike the balance between preservation and evolution.  As the business grows, it’s important not to be sentimental about what has always been, and to let go of processes or aspects of the business culture that no longer support its vision or priorities.  In today’s environment, for example, highly formal team meetings are often giving way to more immediate and engaging forms of communication.  Likewise annual appraisal processes are increasingly being replaced with a constant feedback loop and a greater focus on career development. SMART objectives are now seen as a bit silly.
  1. Lay the foundations for the future.  In a busy SME, it can sometimes be difficult to see beyond the immediate operational issues.  HR people in small businesses often find themselves caught up in a relentless cycle of recruitment as the company grows, and barely have time to lift their heads to look at what strategies they should be putting in place to prepare for the future.  Make sure you are not getting so caught up in short term solutions that you are missing golden opportunities to support longer term goals. Sow now what you later want to reap.

The way forward

What HR strategies are you employing to support growth in your SME?  How do you manage to make time for the strategic issues? How scalable are your current practices if you continue to grow at the rate you have?

If you are planning a lot of recruitment when did you last review your recruitment and attraction practices, your employee benefits package, how you manage talent?  No point in putting lots of effort into recruitment if you have a revolving door straight back out to your competitors. Both expensive and a waste of your time.

Whilst your business may not need a full-time senior HR practitioner, working with someone flexibly to help set the direction internally and pin down your strategy for how you handle the people side of the business just makes good business sense.

More about the Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill 2015-16, which is currently working its way through parliament, is intended to clamp down on illegal immigration, tackle the exploitation of low-skilled workers and punish those that facilitate this exploitation. Small business owners need to be alert to developments in order to avoid severe punishment heavy fines.

While employers are already required to prevent illegal working in the UK by carrying out relevant document checks in accordance with guidance from the Home Office, the new Bill will provide immigration enforcement officers with considerable more powers and also increase the penalties handed out to businesses who fall foul of the law. The government already publishes lists of companies that are served civil penalty notices, thereby ensuring maximum damage in both monetary and reputational terms.

Small firms and startups that employ a considerable proportion of low-skilled workers, for example retailers, independent hotels, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops etc. should start preparing now because the repercussions of failing to ensure that there are no illegal immigrants amongst a workforce will be severe. If the Bill progresses without any problems, as anticipated, it will become law by July 2016.

What are the main changes?

For small business owners the most significant proposals are the additional powers that will be given to immigration enforcement officers.

Firstly, the Bill will enable officers to seize the earnings of anyone found to be working illegally. Naturally, this will affect an employee more so than the actual employer but the Bill will also tighten the rules that determine if a worker has been employed illegally. Not many business owners are aware of the criminal sanctions related to illegal working as the Home Office often publicises the £20,000 civil penalty scheme on the basis that it is easier to administer.

Currently, an employer commits a criminal offence if they knowingly employ an individual who did not possess the relevant permission to work in the UK. This is being amended slightly so that an employer may still be guilty if there was “reasonable cause to believe” that a person was an illegal worker. There has also been an increase in the maximum sentence period from two years to five years (upon conviction on indictment).

The Bill will also enable immigration enforcement officers to shut down any business suspected of wrongdoing for up to 48 hours and there is the potential that closure could be extended should the appropriate court order be obtained. Immigration officers will also have increased powers to search a business premises and seize documents should they believe those documents to be related to suspected illegal activities such as suspected illegal working.

The consequences for employing illegal workers were always serious but the new proposed measures add a new level of severity to the situation.

What are the most likely pitfalls?

All of the above proposals are centered on the notion that employers should bear responsibility for who it is they employ and the status of those individuals.

The difficulty that employers face is the ever changing nature of the right to work checks, and so mistakes will inadvertently happen. This is particularly the case for smaller organisations who do not have the luxury of an HR or compliance officer.

There are a number of common pitfalls which can trap employers:

  • Employers forgetting to record the date on which a check occurred – this can be done on the actual photocopy of the document or noted on an internal or on-line HR system.
  • Employers forgetting to make follow-up checks at the correct time – important to diarise when checks should happen.
  • Additional checks are required if the employee is a student with work restrictions. Employers must also obtain, copy and retain details of a student’s academic term and vacation times so that employers can ascertain independently when it is that a student can work full time
  • Employers frequently get caught out by not retaining evidence of their checks for the necessary period of time or by not retaining copies in a secure manner (i.e. an unlocked cabinet in an unlocked office)
  • Photocopies are unclear or not complete. Historically a partial right to work check would be considered a mitigating circumstance but this has since been done away with meaning that a correct check is now more important than ever before
  • Employers can also enter into difficulties by conducting a right to work check after an employee has already started work. All initial right to work checks must be conducted prior to the individual commencing work.

Employers now front line immigration control

The attempts of the Home Office to simplify the right to work checks as well as the desire to make it harder for illegal migrants to work in the UK has resulted in employers being on the front line of immigration control in the UK. Most employers who receive a civil penalty notice only do so due to poor and weak practices – all of which can be avoided with some training and careful planning in advance of the new requirements becoming law.

As always having strong HR procedures that are regularly reviewed will provide a solid foundation for your business to grow. If you are unsure how up-to-date or good your existing practices are, why not get someone external to conduct an operational review? Many employment lawyers offer a legal compliance review and HR consultancies will check that as well as designing and implementing suitable practical procedures if required.

Not making the right checks and potentially employing someone illegally is an extremely serious matter which will be both distracting and damaging to you and your business. Avoid this by getting ahead now and making any necessary changes.

Amelore is raising money for Penny Brohn UK – Living well with cancer, by organising a grand autumn raffle to be drawn in November 2016.

Here is why.

My story

One sunny morning in June 2011, I was brushing my hair when I felt a small lump on my neck that I hadn’t noticed before. It grew a bit over the forthcoming weeks.  From a grape to a walnut. A misplaced Adams apple that worried me so went to see my GP.  Nothing to worry about he said. Most likely a bronchial cyst. But it didn’t go away like he said and I went back again and again until I was referred in July. By August I had the devastating diagnosis that I had Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was lucky. They were aiming for curative and I was only stage 1A.

Treatment started straight away and after 3 rounds of chemotherapy I was as bald as the day I was born. My hair grew back in a shaky and fuzzy way only for a patch to be burnt off during the radiotherapy.  The fatigue was like nothing I had ever known (and I had 2 babies very close together) and I continued to run my business in between sleeping the sleep of the dead and awaking exhausted.

Having cancer in my life was so unexpected at 44, that I felt the need to immerse myself in knowledge so I was at least informed.  A good friend of mine told me about the Penny Brohn centre, right on my doorstep in Bristol.  I looked on the website and could see that they did residential courses about Living with Cancer. Off I went to one, in between chemo and radio and it was wonderful.  I did another at the end of all my treatment and took a dear friend as my husband was at home with our small children.

The Penny Brohn centre was a place of hope, inspiration and meeting others in a similar boat. The food and nutrition is a key part of what you learn and to my mind it was delicious. The surroundings were beautiful and people came from all over the UK and further afield to attend the courses.  They were free though people made donations. I didn’t at the time as I was surviving on my part-time salary and was the only one working in my family.

My last day of treatment was 9th January 2012. Sadly it was the first day of chemo for my younger sister Hilary who rather shockingly had been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer 2 months after me. Very sadly for her she was already stage 4 and though she battled hard against the cancer that would kill her just 10months later and make her 2 boys motherless, she was game over before she had begun.

I told her about the wonderful Penny Brohn centre and she visited in May 2012. She loved it but so ill and weak from her aggressive chemotherapy she had to leave early. She planned to return after she was better but she never made the return visit; sadly she died in August 2012 at only 44.

Since then

Since I recovered, I have been fired up with the desire to grow my business so that if I was ever ill again, I’d have something to support me beyond my own labour.

When I was diagnosed, I was the Interim HR Director at the wonderful notonthehighstreet.com who were very supportive.  That business (which was 10 years old yesterday) has become a household name.  A huge part of its success has no doubt been to  how it works with people. Its own staff, the partners that make the amazing unique products we all love, its customers and future employees.

Much of what we do now for fast growing and entrepreneurial clients was inspired by those early days with notonthehighstreet.com.  Much of the growth of our business was driven by my experience in 2011/2012 and my sheer joy at being alive and able to do something I love.  I’m lucky that I have been in remission ever since but none of us know what is around the corner so it’s great there are organisations like Penny Brohn to support us.

I will never forget what Penny Brohn did for me and want to repay them by organising an amazing raffle and helping raise some much needed funds so others can benefit like my sister Hilary and I did.

How you can help

Please can you donate some wow prizes for our amazing luxury raffle? We have only just started and have already had a few fantastic donations from some of our clients.

Gold and diamond cocktail ear-rings worth £390 from Monica
Vinader

A large luxury hamper from L’Occitane

Can you make a donation?

We are particularly looking for a star prize – a holiday or weekend away

Donations of champagne, wine and spirits

An all expenses paid meal

Cash prize or gift certificate

Please email us at office@amelore.com or call us on 01453 548070 if you can donate a prize or would like to sell tickets.

Thank you.

Ruth and the team at Amelore.

Entrepreneur shares business highs and lows at Cheltenham event

Online retail entrepreneur and best-selling author Sophie Cornish shared her business highs and lows at an exclusive event last week.

The co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com visited Cheltenham to speak at a one-off charity event to raise funds for Maggie’s.

Interviewed by BBC Points West reporter Steve Knibbs, Sophie was joined on stage by Ruth Cornish, who provided HR expertise to notonthehighstreet.com during a period of rapid growth and organised the event to raise funds for Maggie’s who supported her during cancer treatment.

Together they took questions from the audience and talked candidly about their business experiences.

Ruth Cornish said: “It was a great evening with a mix of people from small businesses, start-ups and established firms. Sophie was very honest about the struggles she faced in the early days of setting up her business. The audience really engaged and asked lots of searching questions. Most importantly this event raised money for Maggie’s. Thank you so much to everyone involved.”

A grand raffle and auction on the night raised £1200 and overall Ruth Cornish has raised more than £4,600 for Maggie’s Centres this year.

Jane Fide, Head of Maggie’s Centre in Cheltenham said: “Thank you to Ruth and Sophie for a very inspiring evening.  I am sure everyone enjoyed the evening and picked up some excellent tips from both Ruth and Sophie.  Thank you again for the funds and awareness raised for Maggie’s Cheltenham””

Sophie and Ruth’s top business tips from the evening are now available online at http://blog.amelore.com/2015/11/11/top-business-tips-from-sophie-cornish-and-ruth-cornish/

For a full list of raffle and auction winners go to http://blog.amelore.com/2015/11/23/amelore-raffle-winners/

Ends

Sophie Cornish MBE founded notonthehighstreet.com in 2006 with her business partner Holly Tucker. From its initial network of 95 of Britain’s most creative small businesses, the company now works with 5,000 small business partners selling over 200,000 products. They have secured five rounds of venture capital funding and have published two best-selling books, Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table (2012) and Shape Up Your Business (2014).

Ruth Cornish is Managing Director of Amelore, a Gloucestershire based company providing integrated HR to fast growing businesses, as well as coaching and career strategy to senior, high-profile individuals. She has been a regular columnist for Moneywise magazine and is the HR expert in ‘Shape up your business’ the latest book by notonthehighstreet.com

Issued by Nic Davies on behalf of Amelore Nicola.davies@straightbatpr.co.uk 07725 832901