When it comes to human resource management, I know that many kitchen and bath firm professionals would rather be designing projects, working with clients to help bring dreams to life or putting together new and creative marketing programs.
But the reality is that if you want operate a really successful business, you need to be very good in all three major areas of running a business: marketing management, financial management and human resource management. Try to imagine a three legged stool. If one leg is shorter than the others, you’ll have an unbalanced stool. The same applies to business management: If you’re weak in one area, your business will be out of balance and never be as successful as it might be.
As businesses have become more complex, so has the HR function. It encompasses everything from addressing staffing needs to launching effective training initiatives to interpreting federal, state and local codes, and implementing policies and practices that safeguard workers while protecting your company interests. The stakes are high: The legal and economic consequences of a major human resource misstep can be enormous.
Every facet of your business has seen dramatic changes in the past 30 years, but none more so than in the area of HR management. That’s why it’s critical to look at how upcoming changes/trends might affect you and your business.
N The Economy – Over the past several years, we’ve all had to tighten our belts. Since total people costs are probably in the neighborhood of 60% of your total expenses, this was likely one of the first areas to experience cut.
The good news is that if you were smart, you let your weakest people go. In the future this should make you stronger. But the economic downturn has also had a profound effect on those still employed. They’ve watched their 401(k)s and savings sink to new lows; raises have become few and far between, and salaries/hours may have been cut, damaging morale. There’s cautious optimism that the economy is on the uptick, but almost everyone agrees that it’s going to be a slow and tedious climb back to “the good old days”…if, in fact, we ever see them again.
N Recruiting/Networking Online: The Internet has transformed employee recruiting. Social media interaction and networking on large boards like Monster to smaller niche job sites such as Linked In and Ecademy have changed how employers recruit and how employees job hunt. Social media networking is the new way to find employees, get jobs, find answers to questions and build a wide-spread, mutually supportive network of contacts, colleagues and friends. This new phenomena brings on new challenges for owners and managers. You will have to develop social media and blogging policies. You’ll have to decide whether to monitor employee time online and if checking prospective new employee backgrounds online is the way to go.
N Overlapping of Work and Home: Today’s technology has blurred the lines between work and home life. Employees work at home in the evenings on reports and email. They shop at work and take brief breaks to play games online. Employees do their banking at work and their work accounting at home. Almost no one goes anywhere without their smart phone, laptop or tablet.
No generation has ever been this connected – which is good and bad! Some employees never stop working, which interferes with relaxation time and endangers healthy work/life balance. Others may become less productive due to increased distractions.
Additionally, you need to pay attention to wage and hour laws when dealing with hourly employees. This work-home can cause problems for employers who must pay overtime. A policy that says hourly employees cannot work from home will keep you out of trouble with the wage and hour laws.
N Employee Training & Development: I’m currently presenting three different training seminars online. The rise of technology-enabled opportunities for training and employee development has changed how training is being done and will be done in the future. Podcasts, teleseminars, online learning and webinars now offer wonderful, cost-effective ways to train your employees.
N Rising Health Care Costs: The rising costs of health care insurance continue to affect what employers can provide in terms of additional benefits for their employees, and these costs will remain a future concern in the HR field.
N Generational Changes: With Baby Boomers, Gen X and now the Millennials in the workplace, employers often have three generations of workers on the same team. Many older workers who planned to retire at age 62-65 are now staying in the work force because of the recent economic downturn. The younger workers are not happy about this because they’re ready to move up. Plus, we’re now finding Gen X and Millennials employees supervising the Boomers – and these same older employees are mentoring the younger ones.
The work habits of these three groups can also vary widely. Boomers often worked long hours at the cost of a good work/life balance. The younger generations want a life outside of work…so managers must learn how to accommodate this requirement.
Younger generations also place high value on empowerment, and while they may need mentoring and coaching, it’s important to empower them to take charge of their jobs.
N Impact of Government Intervention: Employer-employee relationships have been strained by the continuing intervention of our government. It can be a challenge to balance the benefits employees expect (or those mandated by government) with owners’ need to keep the doors open in the toughest economic times the U.S. has experienced since the 1930s.
N Outsourcing HR Responsibilities: A number of firms now outsource their HR functions. There are many excellent vendors that will come in and try to learn your company culture and then manage the bulk of your HR issues. These vendors will also help you in the important area of compliance. There continues to be an increase in employment related claims (and lawsuits) in the areas of Equal Opportunity, wage and hour claims, wrongful termination, age discrimination, sexual and general harassment claims, etc., so it’s critical to ensure that your firm remains in compliance with the laws.
N A Growing Mobile Workforce: Thanks to tablets and the growing availability of wireless technology, more companies are reducing overhead through telecommuting. Statistics show that allowing employees to work from home at least part of the time can increase productivity and reduce payroll costs. It’s believed that this trend will help reduce turnover and improve company loyalty.
So, what do all of these trends have to do with your kitchen and bath firm? Simply put, your business is still a people business. The better you hire, train, motivate, communicate and compensate, the better your business will be. Understand what all these trends may mean to you…and adapt.