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Submitted by DRD282 on


 I am new to Manager Tools, and am really loving the casts. I am halfway through the Coaching casts, having already finished O3s and Feedback. I don't know if there is a cast that addresses my questions here or not. I did a search of the forums and premium content documents, but didn't find anything.

One thing that I have noticed once or twice in those casts, and backed up in the forum, is that Mark and Mike don't think very highly of HR. Or, as one of them put it (I don't remember if it was in a cast or on the forums), they don't like *bad* HR.

I am in a small company (approx. 30 people) in 2 locations. I oversee all the administrative duties including accounting, legal, and yes, HR (we use a lot of vendors for the technical aspects of these).

I am trying to pitch to our CEO the necessity of having basically an HR/Office Manager at the location that I am *not* at. We have had some issues with employee stress levels, some employee behavior, and a few other things. We also have trouble with hiring...we either have non-optimal hires (not always, but it's been an issue) or we have to pony up for recruiters (which reflects on my budget and is tight on a small company's cash flow as it's a big chunk of change all at once, especially if we are making multiple hires). We're also a tech firm, with the related headaches of trying to find good developers.

So what I'm looking for is: I have some idea of what an HR person can and should do. One thing is to create a comprehensive recruiting/retention plan that works *with* our current management team to meet their goals. The other is to be a point of stability in the remote office and a place that employees can go if they are having stress, concerns, etc. Finally, they will be responsible for keeping us in compliance from an HR standpoint.

But what else? What do good HR managers do in small companies? Coach? Train? I'm really just fishing for thoughts here, hoping to soak up good ideas from everyone's experience.

Thanks all in advance

mattpalmer's picture

HR should be providing whatever support managers need to be more effective dealing with their people.  This is an incredibly broad definition, I know, and that's because different companies (or even different managers at the same company) are going to require different assistance.

For instance, at my company, higher-level managers take on the job of coaching the leaders on their team in the basics of management (O3s, feedback, meetings, etc) -- we don't need any assistance there, TYVM.  Other companies, on the other hand, might need some third-party assistance in training there.  At most companies, there will be a necessary amount of administrative bumf related to all employees, and it's natural for HR to take on that role.  Some managers / organisations may want HR to take a leading hand in hiring, while others would prefer hiring managers handle that.

Ultimately, HR should have a keen ear to the ground, listening for the cries of "help!" from the organisation, and stepping in to provide that assistance where appropriate.  Where HR goes bad is when, like any administrative function, they try to dictate to the business what it "must" do -- the tail is attempting to wag the dog.  *Any* support function can end up like this -- IT, finance, logistics, legal, whatever -- but with HR it's particularly egregious and noticeable because we're all dealing with people (unless you've got one of those jobs dealing with dogs and trees), and so bad HR tends to be more visible in making things painful.

My concern is that you appear to be falling into the "wag the dog" trap here.  It sounds like you want to start forcing the organisation to work in a certain way, and you've really got no hope of achieving that.  My advice is to use whatever energy you've got available to encourage your CEO to roll out MT-style management behaviours across the organisation.  It'll do wonders for staff morale and retention, *and* you won't have to build a little HR empire (in a company of *30* people?  That's nuts) to do all the things that good managers should be doing themselves.

DRD282's picture
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 Thank you for the feedback, Matt.

I'm not sure if it's how I came across (it certainly was not how I meant to come across), but I really don't think I am trying to "wag the dog." I am actually very much taken with the concept that support departments should do exactly that: support. And I like to think that attitude carries over in to all the administrative functions that I oversee (and in many cases, by "oversee" I mean "do myself" as happens at a smaller company).

But the bottom line is that our management team is relatively inexperienced as well and are also very much a part of our day-to-day production (small company, people wearing many hats). They simply don't have the bandwidth in some cases to both get the work done that needs to be done for our day-to-day production, in addition to spending many hours independently researching and learning way to become better managers and leaders, or better frameworks in which their teams might operate more effectively.

Given all of that, I want to educate myself on roles that good HR people have filled in various organizations that helped to support management. Thus, rather than passively waiting for our managers to discover their pain points (or maybe even pain points they didn't even know they had), I can proactively suggest avenues in which we can work together to improve efficiency and effectiveness for them and their directs.

And I am definitely not trying to build an "empire." I am very comfortable with my place in the company and am not looking to increase my authority simply for the sake of increasing my authority. I am basically a department of 1 plus some interns, temps, and vendors. I simply want to bring in someone that I truly believe can add value to the company and to other departments, and I'm trying to get an idea of exactly the direction and magnitude of that value.

Thank you again for your feedback. If I seem contrary, it's only because I was surprised at your interpretation of my original post. I really am looking to create a true support team, and this is part of my due diligence research to figure out effective ways to provide that support. Nothing more, nothing less.

Additional comments/advice are definitely welcome. 

Smacquarrie's picture

HR at my company is the one who heads up most of the employee action committees, is in charge of trying to make training work, and dealing with normal HR functions.
I am the Learning administrator for the site, but at most other sites this is an HR function, classified under Operational Development.


mctrottier's picture

 I'm in a similar situation TDALY. I was a supervisor (manager of managers) for 14 years and I'm now DHR since april. It's all new to our 300 employees company (fast food chain restaurants).

My toughts to be a good HR is to teach managers and supervisors what I'm learning here. More often we promote our good employees to managerial work or hire new ones but they don't have any idea of what is a manager. So I thing I have to "dictate" (well, teach) what the company should do.  I've to  teach them O3, feedback, coaching and delegating, and what it is to think like managers, speak like managers and act like managers. My intends are to create a good management structure in my company. I also have to teach them how to act correctly with employees according to the labor laws. And as you well said, build a hiring/retention plan, help with employees concerns,... build a structure and train. 



DRD282's picture
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 As a follow up to my meeting, my CEO really loved the idea of having an HR person to back up our managers for training initiatives. Thanks for all the thoughts, everyone! That said, if anyone has more comments, I'd still love to hear them, because any input is useful going forward as well.

naraa's picture
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 Hi Tdaly282,

I worked in a small company. First we didnt have HR, then as the company grew in size p, HR would first take care of (in order as the company grew): employees payment, company policies, then keep track of their files, certification training, recruiting, writing the offer letters, contacts with university and organizing summer trainees, organizing training both from outside and internal seminars, employee activities like Christmas dinner, etc, and finally we had a psychologist who would coach people specially on issues related to stress management and how to deal with people situations.

I loved HR because it made managers life easier as it structure things better.  I guess the people who haven't been through a company that HR doesn't exist don't know that it is actually harder without the structure.  Then I really like the one on one coaching HR did in terms of listening to people and giving them advice in things like having a crucial conversation, living work on time and paying attention to ones family (if I had only listen better, as one HR person told me she would get nervous just watching me because I was always running around and doing too much - two months later I burn out and ended up at the emergency room with an anxiety attach).

The strange thing that goes on with HR is that lots of people don't like HR.  What I sense with some of those people, and this is just a guess, an intuition, is not scientific, and it maybe just my experience, is that HR becomes like a escape goat.  They are mad at their managers, or they are mad at the company ( for different reasons, such as they don't think their ideas are taken into consideration) as if the company could be an entity, and who personalize this entity: the HR person.  So the HR person must be a very charismatic person.  The person must be self confident and knowledgeable (because she/he will always be tested, and people must trust if they are to follow recommendations from HR) but simultaneously very humble. If you have that very charismatic person in HR it works wonderfully.  If not it also works, and even as a escape goat, that is also a valid function.... Not the one one wishes for, but....