Like many other areas of life and business, human resources has a unique life cycle. However, instead of focusing on the biological aspects of development, the HR life cycle involves the stages employees go through and the role HR takes on during those stages.
Each stage of the human resources life cycle has its own challenges, opportunities, and benefits. For instance, if your small business is experiencing excessive employee turnover, it's likely that the Motivation stage of the HR life cycle needs attention. If an employee's skills aren't improving, you will want to address the Evaluation stage.
When there's a breakdown at any stage of the cycle, you need to take the necessary steps to correct the problem so both your employees and your business continue to grow.
The Circle of Life For Your Small Business
Growing your business starts with hiring the right people. Hiring decisions play a critical role in turnover, productivity, and growth. In order to succeed in the recruitment phase of the HR life cycle, your human resources department needs to:
- Create a strategic staffing plan that includes understanding positions that need to be filled, what will be expected of an employee, a strategy for attracting the best of the best, and other hiring concerns
- Analyze compensation and benefits packages to see if they're competitive enough to attract the top talent
- Develop an interviewing protocol, which may include written tests and multiple interview requirements, as well as a focus on active listening
Begin the education process from the moment employees start in their new position. They should know their role in the company, your expectations, and their responsibilities. During this phase of the human resources life cycle, it's important for HR to:
- Communicate your company's culture and values
- Train new hires until they fully understand their job's duties and responsibilities
- Assign a coworker to new employees to support their transition and help them feel more connected with your company
- Introduce new employees to the rest of your staff, and make sure they have everything they need to get started (including passwords, voice mail, parking passes, etc.)
Turnover is highest in the first ninety days, which is often due to a lack of motivation. Leaders who focus on building bonds with employees in the first ninety days retain employees longer than those who do not make this effort. HR can effectively motivate new hires by:
- Keeping them engaged, performing at a higher level, and showing commitment to your company
- Offering reasons to stay motivated, such as better compensation, benefits, and opportunities for growth
- Providing recognition to employees who perform at a high level
- Appreciating their contribution to help make your business more successful
In this stage of the human resources life cycle, a supervisor evaluates and measures an employee's performance. The review gives leaders and the employee specific metrics and helps determine if he or she is the right fit for the job. Focus on the following:
- Challenge, support, and evaluate employees while offering constructive feedback on a regular basis (not just at evaluation time)
- Conduct performance conversations based on facts, not on feelings
- Spend more of your time discovering employees doing a good job rather than constantly criticizing (Click to Tweet)
- Offer training and professional development to help employees reach their goals and move further ahead in your company
The fifth stage of the HR life cycle gives you the opportunity to reenergize your staff, thank employees for their hard work, and recognize important milestones. Show your appreciation by offering unique benefits (such as flexible work schedules, gift cards, and extra paid time off). Great businesses find a way to motivate in such a way that employees want to follow them to achieve company goals. A smart leader makes employees feel empowered by giving them a sense of ownership.
The End of the Cycle
All cycles must come to an end--including HR life cycles. Sometimes it ends with retirement, leaving to return to school, leaving for more pay or better benefits, to tend to family responsibilities, or involuntary downsizing for economic or strategic reasons.
Investing the time to do termination right is just as important a part of the employee lifecycle as recruiting, training, or development.
While going through these critical stages of the human resources life cycle may seem overwhelming to a small business owner or an "Accidental HR Manager," it doesn't have to be.
Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.