Every small business owner is familiar with pouring over business-related advice, only to find out that it’s applicable only to larger businesses or transnational corporations. The business world is anything but one-size-fits-all, and it can be extraordinarily difficult, if not downright impossible, to find HR-related advice that pertains to the owners of America’s innumerable mom and pop shops. So, what’s a small business owner to do?

Relax – not having an HR department is no death blow to your company. Lacking the resources of your larger competitors, however, means you’re going to have to get creative when it comes to solving your business dilemmas; follow these quick tips to ensure you’re up to speed on what to do when you lack an HR department, and you’ll have your workforce motivated and optimized in no time.

Understand your limitations

Having no HR department may not be a death sentence, but it certainly restricts what your company is capable of doing. If your small business lacks the personnel or funds to get your own HR department up and running, then, it’s vital that you understand your limitations so as not to overextend yourself. First and foremost, company owners should understand that having no HR professionals means a greater burden will be placed on their own shoulders. So what can you do to get ready for the extra work?

Familiarizing yourself with what happens when HR issues go ignored is a must. You may not have an HR department, but that’s no guarantee that HR crises won’t spring up from time to time; indeed, without a dedicated team to prevent them from happening in the first place, you’ll likely be dealing with even more problems than those companies who do have one.

Nonetheless, expanding your team and dedicating more resources to HR is often simply not an option; small business budgets are stretched thin enough, and the cultures of family-owned businesses in particular often shy away from hiring outside professionals. It will probably be beneficial to your company, then, to listen to those who have walked the same road before you.

There are companies out there who are willing to say no to HR departments – studying their successes (and failures) will help you as your business owner and managers go it alone.

Fill in the gaps

Now that you understand your company’s limitations, it’s important you know where you’ll need to step in as the business’ owner or manager given that you don’t have HR professionals to delegate crises too. Strong conflict management skills will be a must; it’s only natural for humans working in close proximity with one another to occasionally rub elbows, and you’ll need to be prepared ahead of time for personal feuds which could quickly spiral out of control and throw your entire company off track. In any instances this can lead to lawsuits and legal disputes for which companies that offer legal advice can help you steer a clear path.

Understanding the importance of diversity and an innovative, safe working atmosphere are important, too. The job of ensuring an inclusive workplace is usually, if not always left to HR departments, meaning your small business’ leaders will have to shoulder more of those burdens themselves. Not having an HR department to back you up can be stressful when it comes to fostering these kinds of atmospheres, but building a positive environment in which all of your workers are content will help you avoid these kinds of issues from the get-go.

Of course, not everything’s about the business’ owners. If you opt out of having an HR department, you’ll need to recognize how that impacts employees, too. Not everyone is comfortable coming directly to the boss with a complaint; setting up anonymous channels for honest feedback should be one of your chief priorities, then, if you want your workers to feel comfortable voicing criticisms of inefficient or inappropriate workplace habits.

Luckily, you’re an inhabitant of the digital age; by embracing the power of tech, and setting up online anonymous messaging services for your employees to send in feedback, you can easily overcome difficult HR situations where it’s embarrassing or difficult for workers to come forward with complaints.

Working without an HR department won’t be easy; ditching your human resources employees doesn’t mean you’ll be ditching your human-centric business problems, after all. Yet operating without an HR department isn’t the end of the world for your small business; just tough it out through the problems, be sure to take on the responsibilities of your missing HR department yourself, and strive to constantly be providing a comfortable working environment for your employees.

Establishing a transparent and accountable workplace culture is the best you can do without a dedicated HR team, so get out there and understand that all of your workers – from the owner on down – have a little extra work to do if your small business lacks an HR department.

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Matthew Davies
Matthew Davies is a creative and passionate HR Director with 15 plus years proven experience up to board level in international and world-class corporations. He has had the privilege of working on a wide range of projects that have enabled him to apply his leadership and technical skills and he have proven expertise in managing change, business integration and outsourcing.

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