By Ben Peterson of BambooHR

I co-founded a company that didn’t get our first full-fledged HR employee until our fourth year in business. Our company is called BambooHR — with “HR” right in our name! So I get that many small businesses don’t feel like they have the resources yet to hire an HR specialist — much less a team of HR specialists.

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But here’s the rub: Just because your HR team is small (or nonexistent) doesn’t mean you can ignore the importance of HR — and all that it offers. There are HR-related activities every company needs to build a strong foundation. Because when you get to the point where you have a full HR team, that foundation will be the difference between thriving as an organization and merely surviving. Here are five HR to-dos to lay a firm foundation:


1. Build culture deliberately.

HR plays a significant role in creating the kind of culture needed to thrive. Activities like recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management and benefits programs shape your culture as much as anything else. You need to consider culture constantly and incorporate it into these HR-related activities. Because those activities will determine what your culture will be. And your culture will affect everything else.


2. Engage employees by giving them reasons to care.

The difference between engaged employees and non-engaged employees is astronomical (try over 200 percent productivity). Employee engagement is about showing employees you care about them so that they care about you. While that may be obvious, it’s not always obvious how you can engage your people.

For starters, make sure your people know you care — celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and other (daily) accomplishments. Give employees opportunities for development in whatever form it presents itself. But don’t stop there. Communicate your organizational values frequently in meetings, activities and around the office. By reminding employees what the company cares about (and why), you will give employees a constant reference point for their actions and what they’re really trying to accomplish.


3. Manage performance simply.

Big businesses spend millions of hours on their performance managements systems. You obviously don’t have time for that (nor do they, frankly). But managing performance — getting the most out of your talent — is invaluable.

Don’t spend countless hours at the end of the year trying to go back over the year’s events to evaluate an employee and then make goals that will be irrelevant by next year (if not immediately). Instead, focus on clear communication and ask only a few questions that will cut to the core of an employee’s value (e.g., “What would I do if they got an offer to work elsewhere?”). Ask these frequently so that, when needed, course corrections can be easily made. To make this process easy for everyone, use automated tools and software that give prompts when feedback is needed.


4. Keep employees (happy).

What happens when your people are happy and productive? You need to keep them! Losing employees costs a ton of money, hinders progress and weakens morale. To combat this, you need to stay connected to your employees and give them constant reminders of why they love working at your organization. This means that you keep them challenged and growing, and give them opportunities to succeed (read: fulfillment).

It’s all about the little things. Create — and maintain — an enjoyable work environment. Design it to be lived in. Make sure each employee has the technology they need to do his or her work. Plan activities to strengthen bonds of friendship in the workplace. Make sure there is a feedback loop where employees can express frustrations and concerns when they arise. If you don’t have an HR representative, put somebody in charge of each of these areas and empower them to champion each cause on a daily basis.

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5. Use HR software to be more efficient.

By building efficient processes, you’re able to focus on what matters most, allowing you to stand out in your industry. To be efficient, you’ll need to build processes that are seamless.

HR software tools will help you consolidate records, generate reports and automate operational HR tasks. For example, an applicant tracking system will help you hire candidates faster (while reducing recruiting costs). Automated time-off tracking and custom workflows will make it much easier to get approvals and put an end to unnecessary questions. The list goes on and on. By streamlining HR-related information and tasks, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: your people and your customers.


Each of these steps can help companies of any size establish the framework for an effective HR system without exhausting budget or resources. And a solid HR structure can help your company grow into the successful, kick-butt organization you know it can be.


Ben Peterson is the co-founder and CEO of BambooHR, the leading online HR software for small and medium-sized businesses.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.




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