Small business HR might seem more like trial and error than a proven science. Unlike HR for larger companies, you might be starting from scratch or initiating new policies as your company grows. And, you may not have a dedicated HR department, which means it’s just another thing on your already-full plate. But while you’re figuring things out, be careful that you don’t make these common mistakes and you’ll find a smoother path to HR mastery.

Mistake #1: Bad Documentation

Whether it’s neglecting to keep I-9s on file or misclassifying employees as contractors, bad documentation can definitely land you in some hot water. Sure, getting dinged on your taxes or sussed out by immigration services will definitely sting, but so can ex-employees who may have been fired for performance or conduct-related issues. Keep meticulous records of all of your HR policies and issues so that you aren’t affected by them later on.

Mistake #2: Outdated (or Nonexistent) Handbook

When you own a small business, the idea of an employee handbook may seem superfluous. With just a few employees, do you really need anything that official? The answer is absolutely. Handbooks don’t only help onboard new employees and give them the lay of the land; handbooks are essential for setting expectations and precedence from the very first day. Employees can use the handbook to understand policies and procedures and the same book functions as guidelines for handling potential HR woes. It doesn’t need to be a textbook, but you should have some handbook in place.

Mistake #3: Only Utilizing Monetary Rewards

Money talks, but it might not say everything. Small businesses often think of monetary rewards for a job well done, from raises to bonuses. And, while money can be motivating, small businesses should think beyond the almighty dollar to help motivate employees. Other benefits like extra time off, better training, and regular reviews for possible promotions might do just as good of a job–if not better–at maxing out employee effort.

Mistake #4: Hurried Hiring

You need someone to fill a department gap and you need it now, but don’t make the mistake of hiring in a haste. What seemed like the perfect employee might become a later headache if you don’t do your due diligence. Give yourself enough time to gather, vet, and choose the perfect candidate so you aren’t left repeating the process in another few months.

Mistake #5: Ambiguous Policy

Quick: Ask one of your employees how your company deals with issues like vacation days? What about conflict resolution? Time management and tracking? If your policies aren’t crystal clear, you can hardly expect your employees to follow them. Make sure that, when it comes to the important stuff, employees aren’t left guessing. Outline it in specific detail, keep it short and sweet, and then work to enforce policies so leadership and employees know exactly what to expect.

Whether you have  a dedicated HR department or you’re flying solo, you can avoid some of the most common SMB HR pitfalls. By planning ahead and making sure everyone’s on the same page, you can continue with what you do best: leading your team to awesomeness.  

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