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3 Things that Don’t Look Like HR Problems But Actually Are

In the early stages of a business, problems tend to have high stakes and immediate consequences: your biggest client is at risk of leaving. Your only customer service rep unexpectedly quits. Your new client is late on payment and you might not make payroll. But as your business grows, you’ll encounter challenges with consequences that take longer to manifest.

A problem we often see, especially at small businesses, is leaders spending too much time on non-core work that takes time, demands attention to detail, and prevents them from focusing on more strategic tasks.

In the startup phase, leaders have to do that kind of work. But as your business grows, you have to shake the DIY model. Here, we’ll address three common DIY scenarios that can lead to HR-related problems, along with ways to solve them.

1: Everyone on Your Team Is “In it Together”

In the early stages, your first employees have a strong sense of shared purpose and responsibility. That’s what it takes to turn an idea into a functioning company.

But relying on this sense of togetherness as you grow can negatively impact a company’s ability to succeed.

For example, when you’re all united by the goal of launching the business, your team may agree to be paid as independent contractors and forgo benefits like health insurance or retirement accounts. You may be okay working nights and weekends.

But once your business reaches a point where it can start hiring full-time employees, it’s important to invest the time and energy into creating new processes and systems that enable your team to work efficiently. If you don’t, you’ll hurt your ability to retain and develop talent. In this full-employment economy, it’s unrealistic to expect someone to work without appropriate infrastructure, employee benefits, and a healthy work-life balance.

2: You Have Unspoken Agreements About How Things Work

Unspoken agreements become a problem as your team grows and the “shared understanding” you have is no longer shared. This is a natural progression: as new people join, they need to know the expectations for conduct and success. The easiest way to communicate those expectations? Document them (usually in an employee handbook).

Without a handbook, employees will be unsure of policies and protocols. How do they request vacation time? Sick time? What hours are they expected to work? Does that change during product launches or special events?

Creating a handbook not only gives your team peace of mind by clarifying what you expect of them, it also gives you liability protection. If you let someone go for not meeting expectations, you can do so without exposing the company to a wrongful termination lawsuit because you’ll be able to document how the employee’s performance didn’t meet your (clearly defined) expectations.

3: Your Employees Can Do Everything (And They Do!)

At first glance, employees who can handle anything you throw at them may seem like a blessing. But not every task should be handled by full-time staff.

One sign that you need help: you’re regularly missing deadlines. At that point, it’s time to do a serious cost-benefit analysis for the tasks you handle in-house. Talk to your employees, research solutions, and connect with potential outsourcing partners or SAAS providers to get a sense of your options.

Repetitive or transactional tasks are great candidates for automating so your team can engage in the kind of creative problem-solving software can’t manage.

As for outsourcing, look for work that is time-consuming, requires expertise you don’t have, or exposes you to substantial risk if you get it wrong. When it comes to your organization's HR needs, you may want to look at outsourcing some of the work, including…

  • Payroll.

  • Benefits consulting and administration.

  • Employee handbook development.

  • Recruiting.

  • Compliance and risk management.

Acknowledging Hidden Risk

A final thought: if you’re not experienced in the work you’re doing, you may not realize ways you’re exposing yourself or your business to risk.

Managing your company’s HR without the appropriate expertise is like wiring your house without help from an electrician. Things may run fine for a while. But if something goes wrong, the consequences could be serious.

While there is no silver bullet that will eliminate all of your HR-related risk, you can greatly reduce it by networking with other founders and learning from their experience, getting an HR mentor, hiring someone to handle HR at your business, or thinking about outsourcing your HR needs.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.