Building a great team? Get some HR support

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What’s an HR consultant got to do with delegating more effectively? Quite a bit if you’re struggling to build an effective team around yourself. Here’s 10 ways you can use an HR consultant to build a great team.

One of the easiest things to outsource from your business is Human Resources (HR) support.

In a previous blog, Learning To Let Go: The Art of Delegation, I discussed how critical it is to have the right support team around you. Without that in place, you’ll never delegate effectively, because work will keep bouncing back to your desk. You’ll end up feeling like you work for your team (rather than them working for you). Then you’ll revert to the “It’s just quicker to do it myself” mindset – the death knell for productivity and fun for you, the business owner.

I’ve mentioned getting HR support in the past, but businesses can struggle to visualise what this looks like, particularly the smaller firms. Therefore, here are some practical tips on how to use an HR consultant to assemble and nurture the team of your dreams, so that you can focus on doing the jobs that only you can do (and love).

The initial step is to get your thinking right 
If recruitment and team management isn’t your number one skill (and let’s be honest, for most adviser-owners it’s not), then you’re going to need some help. My advice is to hire an external HR consultant as a key member of your team. (As an aside, I’m rubbish at recruitment and team management and our HR consultant is crucial to the running and growth of FP Advance).

What will an external HR resource do?

Here are 10 ways they can really add value:

1. A sounding board
If you’re a small business owner-adviser or the integrator / practice manager in a larger firm, who do you talk to when you’ve got a staffing issue? Your HR consultant can act as your first port of call for a quick chat about almost any issue to do with your team.

2. Contract advice and templates
If you need technical support around employment issues (such as employment contracts), they’ll have a bunch of ready made templates that they can supply, with guidance on how to best use them.

3. Job descriptions
Writing a good job description is a skill in itself and something most adviser-owners need a hand with. The biggest recruitment issue I see is when businesses try to hire a miracle worker, rather than someone ideal for a specific role. Usually they’re after an administrator, who can do some paraplanning, greet clients, take phone calls and vacuum the office on Saturdays. Your HR person will ensure you don’t waste your time and money looking for the impossible.

4. Identifying where to hire
Knowing where to find good people is a challenge for all of us. However, your HR consultant will probably know how best to find your new dream team member, depending on your situation. They might recommend using a recruitment consultant and help you with targeted ads, or they might suggest word of mouth, interrogating your personal network or even going out to your client base. All of these approaches can work, depending on what position you want to fill.

5. Screening initial CVs
Is it just me or is screening the first flood of CVs the worst job in the world? Do yourself a favour and let your HR resource do this for you. You’re welcome!

6. Interviewing
The same goes for the first round of interviews. These can be done perfectly well via telephone or Skype.

For the final interviews your HR person can shortlist the candidates and coach you on how best to conduct yourself (or even do them with you).

7. Induction process
When you bring on a new team member the initial induction process (first day, first week, first month, first three months) is critical to setting up the relationship correctly and getting the results you are looking for from your new hire. Your HR consultant can help you design this process and provide you with accountability for its delivery.

8. Existing staff reviews
In small firms, staff reviews can be ad-hoc (if they happen at all). For larger firms, the manager or integrator might perform them, but rarely are they very effective.

I’m a big fan of outsourcing staff reviews, regardless of your size. In my experience, team members are much more honest when talking to an external HR person about their working life – and what’s the point of conducting the review if staff feel they can’t be totally honest. There’s a pretty significant power relationship in play between you and your team (even if you’re a nice person), which can be an obstacle to an effective review.

Using an external resource once or twice per year works really well on all levels.

9. Creating development plans
Having good quality development plans in place is essential if you want your team and yourself to grow as individuals. Good plans are often not developed, and when they are the follow through and accountability can be poor.

Your HR person will make sure the team are part of the design process which increases buy in.
They will also hold the team accountable for sticking to their plan, so you don’t have to.

10. Sacking existing staff
If someone does need to go it’s essential that it’s done professionally. There’s a process that needs to be followed and documented and your HR person can advise you on it, or do it all for you. This can make a potentially sticky situation a lot less stressful, causing the minimum of fuss to you, your business and your remaining team.

So, that’s a pretty good list of pros, don’t you think?
When you run a business most of the stuff mentioned above will need addressing at one point or another, and it makes sense to engage someone to help.

But what about the cost?
I can’t speak for all HR consultants, but let me show you what my HR consultant charges.

Ask an expert

rosemary-2014Meet Rosemary Darby-Jenkins, Director of Signpost HR Solutions. Rosemary says:
“My standard hourly rate is £95, but this reduces if you buy in bulk. For example, 10 hours is £900, 20 hours is £1700 and 40 hours is £3200. Larger projects are quoted for on a one-off basis. I charge out my time in 5 minute chunks and anything less than 5 minutes is free!” – Rosemary Darby-Jenkins

That’s pretty damn reasonable, and if you’re small you won’t be running up major bills here.

I’ve found Rosemary’s advice invaluable, because she not only covers the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law. In our conversations she gives me a quick layman’s understanding of the legals and then tells me how to work with it in my business.

Don’t think of it as failure
If you’re not so great at the recruitment, team building and management thing, don’t think of this as a failing…because, quite simply, it’s not.

Get some external HR support and build your perfect team.

What do I do?

I act as a virtual HR Director/Manager, generally for businesses that aren’t large enough to employ an in-house HR professional or as an additional professional resource to in-house HR Directors/Managers.

Essentially, I provide advice on the day to day issues faced when you employ people. This includes getting the basics right and ensuring you have legally compliant and up to date contracts of employment and employment policies and giving advice if/when things get complicated or go wrong (discipline and grievance, maternity, flexible working, managing performance and sickness absence issues, restructuring and redundancy etc).

I also advise on recruitment and run management skills workshops, where I equip people-managers with the skills and knowledge they need to manage these difficult situations.

Every day is different and I get to work with lots of lovely people from different business sectors, so I love my job!

How does that help the client?
My reason for getting out of bed in the morning is to keep employers out of the Employment Tribunal! It is very stressful and costly in so many ways if you are caught up in an Employment Tribunal claim because you’ve done the wrong thing, but it’s so easy to do it right when you know how. My aim is to give my clients what they need to keep them out of trouble and allow them to concentrate on what they want to achieve – business success.

How many hours a week do I need to use your services?
I work with my clients in whatever way works best for them – ad hoc, monthly retainer or block hours. I always do an honest initial needs assessment and, from that, I will estimate how much support you need and what the most cost effective option would be for you.

If you only need a one-off piece of work, I might recommend that you buy a block of hours or just pay as you go on an hourly rate. If you need longer term, ongoing support, a monthly retainer may well make more sense and would be more cost effective for you.

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