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Why HR Matters to Small Companies


Posted by harryeross

When I came to my current company, I was the first Human Resources Manager, and the person who was acting as the company’s “heart and soul” was the Marketing Manager who was leaving in a couple of months. She was the one everyone could talk to, and knew that if they had a message for the CEO, she would get it to him. She also had a great sense of fun, and always made sure there were group activities and events planned.

Fast forward two months, and she was gone, and I knew I had to step into the role of “Chief Culture Officer” if the company was going to continue to grow, find and retain top talent, and be an enjoyable place to work. I had to plan how I was going to engage with the team, find out what was really on their minds, and develop a strategy that would improve the culture and the business results.

This is when I learned how much Human Resources matters, especially in a small company of under 50 people.

HR is often seen as only payroll and benefits, and while those are critical to meeting employee’s basic needs, HR can help build a culture where there are passionate, motivated employees doing great work, and having fun at the same time.

It all starts with values, and our company has three: 1. Bring passion every day; 2. Be genuine and humble; 3. Deliver results. I had to find out how we were living those values.

My first action was to talk with people, so I set up “Harry Chats” with everyone over my first month. My favorite question to ask was- “As a new person to this company, what the most important thing you want me know?” This gave me a great deal of insight, and allowed me to get to know people better. Not everyone was as forthcoming on the first chat, but as I gained their trust, they were willing to open up more.

The other information I had to work with was an Employee Opinion Survey taken prior to my starting, so I was able to ask questions like “What do you think people meant when they rated the company low (or high) on this subject?”

With the results of those conversations, I was able to identify the top strengths and disconnects between our stated values and how we were living them. I was able to present that to the Senior Leaders of the company with action points that addressed the strengths we could maximize and the opportunities we could improve on. When there was that much data behind my conclusions, it was hard to disagree with what I was saying.

The company retook that Employee Survey a year later, and we had gone from an average of 71.4% satisfaction score to 83.3%- a huge improvement. In future articles, I will talk about the other ways we built a strong culture and improved job satisfaction.

Coming into a company as a new Human Resources leader, it’s important to start out by listening to what people have to say. Having conversations and asking questions helps you take the pulse of engagement and job satisfaction, and if the information is used in a positive way, it also builds their trust in you as someone they can talk with openly.

Next up on my goal to make HR matter was a people assessment to determine if we had the right jobs and the right people in them. Stay tuned for that in a future article.