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The 13 Documents You Need to Start Your HR Department

Remember when you got to go to camp or on a field trip as a kid and there was always that handy dandy checklist to help you pack? Wouldn't it be nice if that were something that you got in real life too? Just like we talked about last week, we're doing a great series called "The First in HR" and we want to give you real tools that you can use every day. 

Building an HR Department within a new or established company is going to take some work, but with a solid plan and the great advice we're dishing out here, you can do it. One caveat: We don't know your industry so some of what you'll need may not be on this list but chances are everything in this article will be at least helpful, if not necessary. However, unlike a camp checklist, many of these items can't be purchased on the way home from soccer practice, you might have to make them yourself or find vendors who can supply them as a value add. Ready? Let's get started.

1. Start with job profiles

Create a profile for each role within your company and the person who fills it. You can include as much or as little information as you'd like but keep in mind if you choose to include more information (like what makes the current employee successful in that role) you will be able to use it for multiple projects (like building out sourcing profiles for future hiring). When you sign up for RecruiterBox we have an automated function that helps with this process.

2. Use the profiles to create a hierarchal structure of your company

In many startups, this is a bit antithetical to the way they work so you may face a little resistance. But there's nothing like a great company structure document to help with future tasks like workforce planning, succession structure and what to outsource, when. You can also use a structure like this to determine reporting and salary grading in the future. You'll thank me later. Want to automate this? Try Create.ly

3. Create a business staffing plan

When your company is hiring just a few key positions, this almost seems like a moot point but having a plan you can refer to is crucial as the business scales. Who do you need to speak with? Sales, operations, product development and marketing. These people or teams should have a solid idea of how many widgets they want to make or how many contracts they want to sign and the people that you need to hire are part of that plan. So make sure you get a sketch of what they're doing over the next 12 months to figure out what you need to be hiring for. Bonus: If you can calculate (even roughly) what a lost employee will cost your business directly and indirectly.

4. You need a system

Most smaller companies start with an Excel spreadsheet and some scattered emails but with the software available to you now, that just makes no sense. We suggest starting with a solid and scalable ATS (applicant tracking system) that's built for SMBs. Having your staffing plan will help you evaluate new products to ensure they meet your needs. Keeping track and contact with various candidates will soon become a big part of your routine, so find an ATS that can help you and your team do that. We may be a little biased, but given that you can try Recruiterbox for free (and lots of startups and SMBs already love the product) why don't you give it a try?

5. Devise a salary structure document

This is by far the most neglected document in a small to medium business. Don't let that happen to you. Discover salaries for various functions within the company and compare and contrast those with fair market value for similar positions. Revise every six months to ensure that you stay competitive. If your company offers other forms of compensation like benefits, stock options, profit sharing or a work-flex environment; make note of them but keep them separate from the salary structure document. 

6. Create a compensation and benefits document 

Newer companies may not offer the same sort of traditional benefits that many employees are used to receiving, but that doesn't mean you don't have as much to offer. Get creative. Find out what your managers might be able to swing in their departments. Can employees work from home? Can you purchase equipment or offer discounted rates from benefits companies? Do some research so you have a benefits plan that stands out.  

7. When do your employees get time off?

Do managers get Christmas Eve off but not interns? Does the executive team meet for an early Tuesday meeting? Which holidays does your company observe? All of these are unique to your company, industry and occasionally location. But be clear about your vacation policy, sick policy, time off policy and holiday policy. Include things like permissions, notices, time off that is job specific and when it's okay to trade schedules with another worker. Don't forget to include some sort of recording system to help you keep track. Your employees WILL ask.

8. A way to measure performance

In the beginning, this usually falls to the department head or hiring manager but that's not always the best person for the job. When creating your job profiles, find out how each person measures their success and write those measurements down. Sure, those will change as the company grows but knowing how the team defines "doing well" and sets their goals will only help new hires get acclimated. In addition, it helps you create the dreaded performance evaluation. Not all companies have or enforce these, but I believe they are important, especially given the influx of millennials in today's workforce. The key is constant and measurable feedback, rather than the typical year review. Keep that in mind when devising your performance evaluation program (or when selecting a vendor to do so).  

9. Travel and Expenses Tracking

How will your organization handle this? You need a policy and a simple and easy to use application that allows you to track these expenses and travel. Luckily there are lots of consumer based apps that fit well into a small or medium sized business. We like Expensify, Shoeboxed and Harvest. If you are using per diem, calculate it per country to ensure that you are being fair.

10. Time and Attendance is as important as you make it

Today's modern HR department is far less "clock in/clock out" than it was, but there are still many workplaces that have staff that need to track their attendance. Whether you use an application likeTimeTracker to implement this or an old-fashioned Outlook add-on, make sure your policies are clear before employee's Day 1. If you are in an industry that frequently uses overtime structure, keep that in mind as well.

11. The end of the road

At some point you will have to fire someone…or someone will quit. Turnover is a part of life and must be addressed (preferably before it happens on your watch). So how are you going to handle it? Are you going to conduct an exit interview? Will you have a sit-down with the exiting employee's supervisor or manager? Is there a formal process (like written and verbal warnings) that precedes terminating an employee? Do you request two week's notice? Are you an at-will employee? Figuring out all these answers ahead of time will save an unpleasant task far less messy.

Nice to haves:

12. Training and Development

Like many smaller businesses, you may not yet have set up a training and development process, which is okay (for now). But start thinking about what the employees get out of working for you. You may not be able to bring in big name speakers to train your crew but you can build a mentoring program, support professional initiatives or leverage your vendors for useful training opportunities (like webinars and white papers series). The important thing is to have a plan in place, whether the budget exists or not, but even more importantly is getting buy-in from the managers in your company. They know what sort of learning opportunities their people need and how to ferret them out. But social, leadership and creating employee ambassadors are all topics that transcend job title.

13. Job Description Template

This is a toss-up. You want to ensure that your job ads are read by the right talent and the best way to do this is to create compelling, fun copy, which is tough to do with a template. On the other hand, your ads may have to create a consistent tone via various job boards and distribution engines. You want those to always tell your company's story -- so what to do? Some progressive companies tell the corporate and cultural story up front and follow up with individualized job descriptions. Either way, have a standardized template that you can give to team members or use when you need to get something up FAST.

Tune in to the Recruiterbox Blog for Hiring Resources for the HR Newbie.

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Tags: ATS, Department, HR, Human Resources, Recruiter, RecruiterBox

Comment by Maren Hogan on February 12, 2013 at 3:59pm

I especially like number 3 very important for starting an HR department.

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