A business is only as good as its people. That statement is never truer than for small businesses – but how does a company with no dedicated HR team manage its personnel? In small firms HR duties can fall to the managing director, a middle manager, or any member of staff that shows an interest. And for whoever picks up the baton, the task can seem overwhelming. Employment law changes rapidly at national and, more frequently, at European level, and there are the difficulties attached to managing human relationships. But if you break down the role into basic categories it needn’t be all-consuming. The first step is to make sure you know where legislation applies. Wage entitlements and holiday pay, notice periods and leave for public duties, pay and time off in a redundancy situation are all subject to strict laws. Equal opportunities legislation is also far-reaching – preventing discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, race, religion or belief, sexuality or pregnancy. You should also recognise that human resources management is not just about complying with the statute book. Supportive HR that does more than the bare minimum for payrolls and P45s adds real value to a organisation, helping it to get the most out of its employees. So where to start adding value? When you think of HR, recruitment is usually the first thing that springs to mind. It can be an expensive process, so it’s essential that the selection decision is right. Standard questions ensure interviews are fair, but train your interviewers so they are skilled enough to know when to follow up on interesting points to generate a flowing conversation and a more productive interview. This can help both parties find out more about each other than if solely relying on set responses. But before you recruit, you need to know what you’re recruiting for. And so to really add value, the first principle for any HR process is workforce planning. By taking a strategic approach and aligning recruitment with the overall business goals companies can make sure they have the right people in place to deliver long-term plans. Having selected the right people, managers should look at how to keep them by ensuring a proper induction process is in place and maintaining good employee relations. Communication is key. Even small companies can benefit from newsletters, bulletins, and notice boards to keep staff informed, but managers should also consider how they communicate: certain information is better presented face-to-face. The next broad area of best practice for the non-HR manager is employee rewards. Pay and benefits form a considerable proportion of most organisations’ costs and are one of the main attractions for job-seekers. However, benefits do not remain static, and pay reviews should be a regular HR task – for long-serving team members as well as new starters. And it’s not just about money: there are less costly but creative, one-off ways of thanking staff for good work and commitment. The final area that companies need to consider is that of talent management and employee development. To ensure continued success firms must recognise high flyers and source, train and mentor them appropriately. It is also beneficial to keep the skill-set of all employees up to date and in line with business needs. A strong training and development plan will help form a workforce that is able to take on the new challenges and thrive in today’s business climate. It’s also highly attractive to potential employees.

There are few hard and fast rules in HR – but plenty of good practice. But companies that adopt and adapt the basic steps to fit their own circumstances will be on the right track to making the most from their staff.