Quick question: Who, in a typical company, knows every person in the office? Chances are, the person you thought of works in Human Resources (HR). Even in the largest organizations, the HR department is responsible for the personal well-being and professional success of everyone who works there.
Your company may not have the luxury of a dedicated HR department. In fact, as a small business owner, you probably wear many different hats: CEO, sales director, marketing guru, and, yes, human resources manager. This comes down to necessity—when you’re building a business from scratch there often isn’t the budget to hire someone for each of these roles. The problem is that, for many business owners, people management becomes an afterthought, taking a back seat to the primary goal of ‘getting s$!$* done.’ Or, if you don’t have any expertise in HR, you may not know where to start. As a result, the task of managing your company’s greatest asset becomes a challenging, and potentially overwhelming, aspect of growing the business.
The good news is that with a little planning, and the right organizational tools, you can eliminate much of this pain and demonstrate your commitment to effective human capital management. Let’s look at six of the most common HR challenges your small business is up against today, and how Evernote can help you minimize potential issues in the future.
1. Finding the right people
Efficient hiring is important to every organization, but there’s no doubt that small companies are at a disadvantage in the hunt for top talent. A recruiter at Apple or Google has amazing candidates knocking on their (virtual) door all day long. Small companies—and startups in particular—have to stand out from the crowd to attract the kind of talented people who will drive business growth.
The recruiting advantage enjoyed by larger companies, however, often comes at the expense of agility. Your small company’s secret weapon is your ability to hire quickly, moving candidates through the recruiting pipeline faster. As SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) advises, “Smaller businesses need to be ‘speedboats’ and outmaneuver sometimes slower, bigger companies when it comes to hiring.”
Here are a few tips for increasing your hiring efficiency:
- Create a notebook in Evernote with job description templates you can reuse. This ensures that you are presenting an accurate, appealing view of your company and the job itself.
- Save PDFs of applicant resumes in Evernote to prevent qualified candidates from slipping through the cracks. Annotate and share these resumes with everyone involved in the interview process, so they have all the documents they need to make informed hiring decisions.
- Create a table to track candidates’ progress through the hiring process. For example, you can create columns such as: ‘Application/Resume Reviewed,’ ‘Interviewed by Phone,’ ‘Interviewed In-Person,’ ‘References Checked,’ and ‘Offer Sent.’ As applicants progress from one stage to the next, move their name into the appropriate table column so everyone can see where things stand.
Pro Tip: Download this handy template that’ll make applicant tracking a breeze. This interview scorecard can help you keep a record of each candidate you speak to.
2. Getting everyone on the same page
The last time you started a new job, what was your first day like? For many people, it can be extremely stressful. As an employer, you can make onboarding easier for your new hires by creating a comprehensive ‘Employee Handbook’ to guide them through the process.
Consider saving your handbook in Evernote and sending a public link to new hires before their official start date. It’ll make a good first impression on them, and they’ll have a chance to hit the ground running as they become familiar with the inevitable “How we do things around here.” If you create a “Table of Contents” note that links to individual notes covering important subjects such as company values, time-off policy, benefits information, social media policy, and anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, new employees can acclimate even faster.
Of course, details change, people leave, and eventually, you’ll need to update your handbook. Instead of distributing a new printed copy to the entire staff, saving your Employee Handbook in Evernote makes version control simple, so that everyone in the company—regardless of how long they’ve been working there—always has the most up-to-date version.
Evernote is also a perfect tool for creating a company intranet. Store announcements from management, upcoming events, notes from company “all-hands” meetings, and more in a notebook available to all employees. Let everyone know that they can find the answers to most of their questions in Evernote and that you’re available to help if they can’t. The bonus? This frees up your time, and you can avoid answering the same questions over and over again.
If your company has more than one office, there will undoubtedly be times when employees have to travel from one location to another. How will they get there? Where will they stay? What sights should they check out while they’re in town? Consider crowdsourcing a note and inviting all your employees to offer their travel tips and favorite suggestions of things to see and do in their city. This will help make time spent on the road less stressful and more productive.
Pro tip: Download this template for guidance on creating your own Employee Handbook.
3. Streamlining repetitive tasks
As we have seen already, templates can save you huge amounts of time, especially when it comes to completing repetitive HR tasks.
For example, there are certain details you need to collect from everyone in your company: emergency contact information, I-9s, W-4s, health insurance enrollments, 401(k) enrollments, and NDAs (if appropriate). While we don’t recommend that you store the completed forms in Evernote (HR tools such as Workday are better suited for this highly regulated information), you can streamline the process by saving blank forms as templates in Evernote. Employees can access the forms they need and instructions for filling them in, then share their completed versions with you—all with nary a printer in sight.
Templates can also come in handy at performance review time. The process often begins with a self-evaluation, so create a template with a list of the criteria by which employees will be measured and a set of questions that will help them reflect objectively on their performance.
Pro Tip: Use this template to help set objectives and performance goals for your employees. Later, they can refer to this checklist when assessing how successful they were in meeting these goals.
4. Managing the mountain of information
For every benefit that employees enjoy—such as health insurance and professional development programs—you need to conduct countless hours of research and preparation. There are plans you need to compare, vendors to assess, ROI to calculate, and contracts to sign. As the business owner, you have a responsibility to do due diligence to make sure you’re providing maximum value to the company as well as the staff.
This creates a mountain of information and contacts that can easily become overwhelming. Make your life easier by saving all this information in Evernote, and using tags, notebooks, and stacks to organize it all.
For example, save a PDF of an insurance company’s plan benefits in Evernote, together with a note containing the details for your company rep and any relevant conversations between the two of you. Then, organize these into a notebook using the insurance company’s name. Eventually, you will have a separate notebook for every insurance plan, which you can combine in a stack called “Health Insurance 2018.” Applying this process to any of the employee benefits you manage will help tame the exponential growth of data and make it easy to find the information you need quickly.
Pro Tip: For more tips on organizing with notes, notebooks, and tags, check out this article from our Help and Learning site.
5. Helping small business managers manage
Remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? This popular series put young readers in charge of the action by letting them decide, at the end of each chapter, which page to turn to next. The option a reader chose would then direct the fate of the main characters, leading to multiple possible outcomes.
If you’ve grown your business to the point where the word “small” is an increasingly inaccurate qualifier, you may have a layer of middle management overseeing your staff. One of the many responsibilities of Human Resources is to support these managers and help them do their best work. This means providing them with tools that they can use to manage their teams, such as performance monitoring criteria, conflict resolution guidance, suggested interview questions, etc.
In the spirit of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, you can use Evernote to empower managers to direct the action to achieve the result they need proactively. By creating links within your notes, you create a ‘self-service’ system that managers can access at all times. Need to write a performance review? Click the link. Need to review resumes for an open position? Look at the template. The answers are always clear, and only a click away.
Pro Tip: Read more about how to use note links to connect notes and create your own workflows.
6. Being the bearer of bad news
OK, this is a tough one. No one likes to have to tell someone that their time with the company has come to an end, but the unfortunate reality of professional life is that jobs aren’t as “permanent” as they once were, and sometimes end for a multitude of reasons. You can make the process slightly less painful for everyone by creating a notebook in Evernote with strategies for handling these difficult conversations, as well as documenting the legal procedures you’re required to follow when off-boarding an employee.
For better or worse, employees often see the function of HR as a ‘buzzkill,’ spoiling everyone’s fun and games (think Toby from The Office). And while no one enjoys having to let an employee go (we hope), tactfully handling the conversation can help you maintain a professional relationship with a terminated employee, without destroying any possibility of future reconciliation. After all, your former employees will likely tell their network all about their experience with your company; it’s wise to have their last contact be as respectful and efficient as possible.
Pro Tip: Find out how CoSchedule uses Evernote to streamline onboarding and 90-day reviews and keep its employees in the loop.
Putting your plan into action
Small businesses are the main driver of the U.S. economy today, employing 48 percent of all U.S. employees. That’s 56.8 million people. And while you may not have started your small business because you love managing people (although more power to you if you did), it’s an inescapable part of operating any firm larger than a sole proprietorship. Creating a system that helps your employees feel valued and supported doesn’t have to be overwhelming; all it takes is the right tools and a proactive approach to head off most challenges.
See how Evernote can help you streamline your HR processes and empower you to build a successful, growth-oriented business. And check out this blog post for more on how Evernote helps entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality.