HR Support in business is a multi-layered, bespoke approach. Getting it right from the beginning is crucial but that start point will be very different for most businesses. Whether a start up, or a changing company, HR is there to advise, support, implement and safeguard.

What is HR?

HR is different from one organisation to the other; each one is unique and individual. The tasks that HR might cover will include any and all of the following:

  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Onboarding and Induction
  • Performance Management
  • Training and Development
  • Employee Motivation and Engagement
  • Compensation, Rewards and Benefits
  • Communications
  • Organisational Design and more.
  • In some organisations Payroll and Pensions is part of Human Resources too.

The way in which these tasks will be carried out within the organisation depends on the uniqueness and brand of the organisation itself. Its size and numbers, its culture, its location and the budget available.

“HR” is a catch-all term

Human Resources covers a plethora of skills and knowledge to meet the ‘people related’ demands of a workforce. And it has undergone a revolution in recent years. The HR professional probably has a degree, or a professional qualification from its own Chartered Institute.  They will have a good understanding of business management and practice and will be an expert in the laws that govern the employment of people. They will also know how to work with senior business leaders in the development of strategy and planning.

What is the core function of HR?

In summary, HR is concerned with:

  • Getting the right people in the right place at the right time
  • Keeping staff. This is through motivators such as salary and benefits, job satisfaction, development and progression
  • Getting the most from staff. Done by ensuring they have the best possible level of knowledge and skills to perform their maximum

Within these three core functions there are a host of specialisms and roles.  There are generalists, with a broad range of knowledge who can work within a business of any size, and specialists. Their areas vary from Compensation and Benefits, Recruitment and Pensions through to Organisational Development, Talent Management and Business Information Analysis.

So, in what way can HR add value to business?

At some point you are going to deal with a team of people in a leadership and management capacity. Working with people, individual or in groups, can bring challenges. These require solutions that themselves require knowledge, experience and time. You probably wont have them, have enough of them or have time of them.

We will examine how having HR Support in your corner makes life easier. We’ll also show how it adds value to your business that you might not have previously considered. We’ll look at every stage of a company’s life-cycle, from start-up to established, to growing and changing organisations.

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The Start-Up

To start a new business is one of the most significant decisions of a lifetime.

You have a passion and a dream. You’re probably going to invest a significant chunk of your savings. Your family will have been convinced this is a good idea. And you’ve probably set out with great enthusiasm yet are probably tempered with some fear and uncertainty. Your entire focus has been on getting customers, driving revenue and generating profit.  You recognise that there are certain supports and safeguards that you can’t do without.

These are the supporting pillars on which you build a secure platform of success.  An accountant might be your first call.  And there’s IT. You’ll be a one-man-band of experts.  A salesman, a customer service rep and a networker are some of the skills that you now must develop! You will be constantly focused on staying ahead of the game.

Visions, mission and goals

Start-ups succeed when their vision, mission and goals get achieved quickly. This happens when without losing the vision of a great way to work where it all began. And with success comes the need to accept that you really can’t do everything yourself.  You are going to need people. Which means putting faith and trust in others to continue your dream and vision and support your goals.  When this moment comes, nothing is more important than knowing how to attract, develop and retain the right team of people.

And this is where the next pillar of support comes in – expert HR advice.

People are probably the most significant investment you will make, so why would you risk not getting it right?

As an emerging business you’re unlikely to be able to afford an HR professional as a permanent member of staff but referring to an outsourced provider can give you the support you need at any time, level and degree of complexity. We’ll come back to how an outsourced HR provider can integrate and engage with your business now and take a more in-depth look at how and where HR support can add value to your business.

Employing People and the UK’s Laws and Legislation

We have deliberately referred here to the UK, as it still isn’t clear what will be the longer-term effect of Brexit on UK employment legislation. But it does seem for the time being that in the first instance EU legislation will be maintained.  In fact, most EU legislation has been absorbed into UK law, so any future changes will be individual changes to UK law.

Employment law in the UK covers:

  • Any form of discrimination relating to the 9 protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation)
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Dismissal, discipline and employee grievances
  • Employment contracts
  • Sick pay
  • Equal pay
  • Minimum Wage
  • Shared Parental leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Flexible working
  • Redundancy
  • Working hours and time off
  • Paid holidays
  • Workplace Pensions

This is not an exhaustive list.  The purpose of legislation is to protect both the employer and employee and to ensure as far as possible a fair and legal place of work. Being prepared before you take any action is the only way to ensure that the entire process of hiring is smooth, incident free and successful.

What are your company values and how are these going to be incorporated into your hiring?

If you are Business X – a hard-nosed, fast paced, “take no prisoners” kind of business, then you are going to want people who will thrive in that atmosphere, fast on their feet, quick thinkers, unafraid decision makers.  And how will you reward them? But if you are Business Y – working in a sector that requires enquiry, thoughtful contemplation and a quiet slower pace, you’re going to need staff who will be productive with these qualities. Putting a little time into knowing who you are and what you will be as you grow will give you payback in terms of good hiring, retention of your best staff, excellent productivity and fewer “people” issues.

What to consider next…

  • Where will the person and do they have the correct equipment?
  • You must register as an employer with HMRC before your first pay day when you take on your first employee.
  • Obligatory run (or outsource) of a payroll. Issue employees with a payslip detailing earnings before and after any deductions including tax and NI.
  • You must report your payroll information to HMRC electronically every time you pay an employee and pay any tax and NI owing.
  • With pensions auto enrolment now in place for every size of company you are going to need to ensure that you meet its stringent rules.

Right To Work legislation

Before you even get to consider selecting candidates for interview, you will need to be clear about Right to Work legislation.

Every employee legally requires a statement of the terms and conditions under which they will be employed. Employees are entitled to a written statement of employment terms within two months of starting work. Employees who are taken on for less than one month are not entitled to a written statement.

Get HR compliance and legislative peace of mind with our HR Support Package – HR Assure

This is laid out by ACAS at the most basic level and may be enough but remember, once you set a contract in place, changing it or removing from it will require negotiation with the individual concerned.

So, it’s a valuable exercise for you to put some thought into how you want to present this document.  Detailed or basic?  Committing to additional benefits or not?  Statement of Terms or Contract?  Are you going to make benefits contractual (not recommended apart from basics such as number of days holiday) or are you going to have a separate and more flexible approach to the benefits you want to offer, that can be amended, improved and nuanced as your company grows?

HR Policies

Once you have employees you will need to give them access to your policies on a variety of issues.  The most important of these must be defined in the contract and are the Disciplinary and Grievance procedures.  But apart from these, you can add policies as you go along, as they become relevant and needed. It is important to think about these. One of the pitfalls of not having any is that, if you treat two people with the same issue differently, this can be perceived as discrimination and you don’t want to get into that. Good policies to have ready are Holidays and Absence, Sickness Absence and Maternity and Paternity.  In fact, any policy that has a financial ramification should be at the top of your list.

Get your Policy Documentation sorted with HR Assure and be sure of your legal compliance as an employee

Have you got the time?

This is where you should start asking yourself this. Do you want to spend time on this important but non-revenue producing activity? Or should you ensure that you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have the right information, procedures and actions being advised and undertaken by suitably qualified professionals. All the while you get on with you are best and good at – developing your business? With HR at your shoulder throughout the whole hiring process you can be sure of getting secure legal advice.

See our HR Support Packages here to give your time back, ensure compliance and make life easier

HR Support in the Hiring Process

Another important aspect of preparation is an accurate job description.  To get the best out of someone, they need to know what exactly their role is. They will want to know what success in that role will look like so that you set their expectations correctly from day one. There are many ways of writing a job description, from a simple one page to a long list of tasks.  The ideal is somewhere between the two.

Then you are ready to go into action

Once the advert is placed, your task is to create a list of the most important skills and knowledge for the post holder, such as:

  • Displays the ability to absorb complex and technical information rapidly
  • Remains calm and decisive in highly pressurised situations and never loses sight of the main goal
  • Differentiates between important and urgent
  • Uses power wisely
  • Is always polite but decisive and in command at every level of interaction

Functional competencies are the hard skills necessary to carry out the role. Consider what should be the hard and soft competencies for the role you are designing.

HR will design the interview process to ensure you get the skills and the right “character”.  Situational and competency-based interviews will give you the best chance of finding the right “fit” for your company. HR can create tests, such as bespoke job-related tasks or a higher-level psychometric questionnaire.

Growing Organisations

For a small organisation with up to 20 people there may not be too many situations where you need HR intervention. However, they can creep up on you and you can suddenly find that you have a difficult problem to resolve. These are issues can quickly take up your valuable business growth opportunities. You spend too much focusing on internal issues and not looking outwardly at the customer, your target market and what competitors are doing. Having a competent and experience HR consultant will allow you to hand these over for them to deal with, in a way that will remain in line with your business ethos.

As your team grows further, your organisation becomes more complex.

You are going to need to introduce a structured and joined-up framework of people processes. These will be aligned with your business objectives and aspirations to ensure that you are treating your people fairly and well. This should be done in a way that will drive success and ensure that they will stay with you. Once your company begins to grow and take on more people, the need to demonstrate that treating everyone fairly and equally becomes a priority. Not only because of potential legislative issues, but because it’s a great opportunity to put in place key retention policies and factors that will give your employees the best opportunities to gain both financially and developmentally if they stay with you.

Get support for your growing business here

It’s a basic human instinct to want feedback

“How am I doing?” is one of the most frequent questions asked of managers.  People respond to praise and nobody goes to work wanting to fail. Handled well, there is a direct link between high productivity and engagement. Right from the start, a good performance appraisal, together with an ongoing cycle of regular performance-focused one-to-ones can give helpful feedback. These ensure that staff know what they are expected to do and can allow for the possibility of reward and recognition for excellence. A good scheme will never need to be re-designed as the organisation grows.  It can and should be scaleable from just a handful of employees to a company with 100+ staff.


Whilst pay has become more of an issue in recent years for why people leave and join companies, other forms of incentive can equally enhance performance. Pay, reward and progression should be on the table from the outset.  Performance related pay isn’t an easy topic, but HR expertise can help to design a system that is fair and that suits the culture of the organisation. Training and development are equally important and shows your employees that you are serious about growing their skills.  These may be mainly technical skills at an early stage, but every growing company is going to have to introduce layers of management.  Investment in excellent management skills or allowing the development of such skills as part of a programme of development will help retain key staff. As Richard Branson famously said:

Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.

Having invested in key staff for some years, only to have them be poached away from you because of what seems like a bigger and better opportunity or offer, is heart-breaking and depressing. A programme for recognising talent and succession planning has become one the most important areas of focus for HR in the past 5 years.

Established Organisations

Once a company is up and running, change is inevitable if it wants to keep ahead of the market, innovate and grow stronger.

The help and advice of a HR expert can ensure that your plans will steer clear of any legal morass and can be accomplished with the support of your staff.

This is going to need a robust communications plan to be sure that staff are sufficiently well informed to be comfortable through periods of change causes uncertainty.

Read more on How People React to Change and How to Manage It here

A HR plan as part of your business planning will allow a new model of working without losing staff.

Business Change & HR Support

In established organisations with an active HR department, there are likely to be a number of generalists looking after particular areas or divisions and some specialists.

However, there is likely to come a time where either a particular project is needed, and the existing staff don’t have capacity or the particular specialism required is not within the remit of existing HR staff.

In such cases, outsourcing HR consultants is often the answer.

An example of this might be redundancy, where consultation and negotiation are delicate and intense and will take a period of time. A

Another example may be when a new company is bought in and has to be amalgamated with current business.  In this case, a strong knowledge of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) Regulations is vitally important. This will ensure that the transfer of staff is lawful and managed in the best way.

Get Bid & Transition support here

From time to time there, there will be a major project that will require specialist knowledge of matter and process.  Again, a large organisation may choose to refer this to an HR consultant so that internal staff can focus on their day-to-day responsibilities. Get specific Business Change support here

What’s Right for Your Organisation?

This is very much an issue of “horses for courses”.  Ultimately, it’s what’s best for you and your business, so you should make time to find the right consultant. When you make the choice depends on where you are in your business set-up.  And this will also govern what level of service you require.  A good consultant or consulting company should be fully flexible, able to listen to your need and respond directly to it, be it a simple, one-off task, or a full process.

Outsourcing HR

Some businesses will decide to outsource all of their HR functions to a third party to free up their time concentrate on the core business.  Although there is an expense associated with this, there can also be cost savings. This is because the HR professional is able to provide a process or solution bespoke and targeted to your business, leaving you and other staff free to produce your product and generate revenue. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the job is in safe hands. If this is what you decide to do, this will mean a longer-term relationship.

How will you choose?

You may decide that you need someone with previous experience in your sector.  Or you may prefer an expert with established and referenceable credentials, who can work alongside you to become a trusted business advisor for your business growth.  Or you may wish to simply outsource the “technical” aspects of your HR need, such as legal advice, payroll and pensions.

Be clear on what basis the HR provider will provide their advice.  If it’s ‘insurance backed’ this might sound good, but does it really suit what you need, or will it restrict the advice they give you?

In considering why and when to outsource, a vital part of your consideration should be the state of your employee engagement.

Maintaining good morale and an engaged workforce is a science and an art.  It’s a specialist area.

You don’t want to be burdened with high turnover, or poorly performing teams. You will want employees who come to work enthused, work creatively and effectively and help you to maintain your position ahead of the game.  Finding and maintaining the talent is an integral HR skill and, for you, is business critical.  In a future article we’ll be turning the spotlight on Employee Engagement in its many forms.

What Next for HR Support?

The most over-used and misunderstood phrase in people services is: “Our people are our most valuable resource.”

The reality is that your people are your only resource with the potential to grow with you, to enhance your value and support your goals and dreams.

Balance is crucial and appropriate HR intervention can ensure that the right people are in the right place at the right time. Modern day HR has a range of skills equal to all other business roles.

Contact us at for more HR Support and Advice or find out about our HR Support Packages here 

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