Understanding the Importance of HR

by WOHe

During the past 12-plus years, I have written over 100 articles
on human resource management, and I’ve developed and delivered
dozens of seminars on the subject. I’ve used my experience and
extensive research on this very important management responsibility
in my consulting business.

I’m not really sure how all of this evolved. I always saw myself
as a pretty good HR manager, but stronger in the areas of marketing
and financial management. I know I learned very early that people
are the most important asset of virtually every business. I learned
that firm, fair and consistent people management got results. I
also learned that these same people wanted, needed and deserved
rewards and recognition. And, as local, state and federal
governments continued to implement laws and guidelines regarding
how we had to treat employees, I recognized that I needed to learn
and adhere to those laws or I could lose everything I had invested
and worked hard to grow.

As I travel the U.S. and Canada, I am happy to report that more
and more owners and managers of kitchen and bath firms are
recognizing that a highly skilled and motivated work force is
pivotal to success. In bottom line terms, employees represent the
intellectual capital that can make or break a firm’s ability to
remain competitive.

As businesses have become more complex, so have the human
resources functions. These now encompass everything from assessing
staffing needs to launching effective training initiatives,
interpreting federal and state codes, and implementing policies and
benefits that safeguard workers while protecting company interests.
And, the stakes are high! The legal and economic consequences of a
major HR misstep can be disastrous.

Today’s kitchen and bath dealers as well as their vendor,
distributor and manufacturer representative partners need a
practical and comprehensive HR plan. This plan should include
information, insights, guidelines and tools to help align the
firm’s HR practices and policies with its overall business plan and

Anyone and everyone that is involved with the common HR
functions of hiring, firing, benefits administration, job
descriptions, performance evaluations, training, motivating and
regulatory issues needs to become a strong human resource

Growing Business
Very few of you became
owners and managers of your businesses because you wanted to become
accountants or HR managers. You wanted to design and sell beautiful
kitchens and baths. But, the fact is, if you want to operate a
successful, growing, profitable, fun business, you need to become a
well-rounded manager.

Remember the three legged stool I keep referring to? If you want
to have a strong, well-balanced stool, all three legs need to be of
equal strength and length.

Every business is made up of three legs: financial management,
marketing management and human resource management. Are all three
of your business legs equally strong? If not, make a commitment
right now to start strengthening the weak areas.

Here are several broad areas that I would like to challenge you
to become proficient in:

1. Evaluate your company’s current HR policies and practices to
prepare for the business challenges of the next decadeand there
will be a lot of them.

2. Be sure you understand the HR-related issues that will impact
the work force of the future. Then, make the necessary long-term
plans for success. (Changing demographics will be one big area of

3. Develop and implement an HR program that responds to the
needs and resources of your company.

4. Interpret the key regulatory issues that affect every
business owner and manager and thus be in a better position to
guard against costly legal disputes.

5. Develop a strategic staffing mindset, ensuring that hiring
practices and decisions are linked to long-term and short-term
business objectives. Of course, first you need to identify those

6. Examine what today’s most successful and progressive
companies are doing especially those in the kitchen and bath
industry with respect to orientation, training, benefits,
performance management and discipline.

7. Gain insight into some of the new HR practices that are
becoming basic components of today’s “employee friendly”
marketplace, such as flextime, telecommuting and cafeteria type
benefit programs. Determine which ones might be right for your
company and then administer them successfully and cost

Consider starting an HR “General Knowledge” binder in which you
can file articles that address key HR issues. Over time, you will
have a manual that you can easily read and refer to often.

Finding Balance
As the owner/manager of your
business, one of your jobs is to focus on the practices and
policies in your company that directly affect the welfare and
morale of your company’s most important asset your employees. It’s
up to you to help the company strike the optimum balance between
the strategic needs of your business and the basic people needs of
your team.

Striking this balance has never been easy. Most people would
agree, however, that the task is not only harder to achieve than
ever, it’s also more important than ever.

For one thing, the market today for employees with the skills
and knowledge that growing, technology-driven businesses require is
competitive. Consequently, a company’s ability to attract good
employees relates more closely than ever to the human side of the
day-to-day working experience (the general atmosphere that prevails
in the workplace, and the extent to which a company’s practices
help people balance the pressures they face at work with the
pressures they have to deal with at home).

Kitchen and bath firms are lucky they are generally small
businesses with 10 or fewer employees. It’s much easier to develop
a “family” environment and a true team spirit with smaller numbers
than it is with a whole lot of folks.

The changing demographics of the work force is another factor to
consider. The percentage of working mothers with children under six
has jumped from less than 10% in 1970 to almost 35% in 2000. This
helps explain why child care is now a highly requested benefit.

Another fact is that people are living longer today. Because of
this, an increasing number of employees are taking on the
responsibility of caring for their aging parents or other

This has introduced a new term to the benefits vocabulary: elder

Baby boomers, those 78 million Americans between the ages of 36
and 54, are starting to gray. Five thousand of them turn 50 every
day. Many will retire from their regular jobs, but won’t to be
ready to stop working. This will open up a new resource for mature,
experienced, dependable people to enter our kitchen and bath

It’s a fact that the “human” side of the work experience is no
longer an issue that companies can afford to take for granted.
That’s why the HR function itself has begun to assume so much more
business importance. Human Resources, in short, has become a
business unto itselfand the principal asset of this particular
business is people!

In future articles we will address the most common areas that
fall under HR management including, but not limited to:

  • Staffing: Strategically determining, recruiting and hiring the
    human resources you need for your business.
  • Basic Workplace Policies: Orienting your staff on policies and
    procedures such as schedules, safety, security, dress,
    smoking/drugs/ alcohol, etc.
  • Motivation: The basics of rewarding and recognizing employees
    and raising the level of productivity and efficiency.
  • Communication: The use of verbal and written communication to
    enhance overall job performance.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Establishing effective and
    attractive wages and perks.
  • Training and Developing Employees: Ensuring that your staff
    grows in knowledge and experience to help your company grow and
  • Regulatory Issues: Those things that your company must do to
    stay in compliance with the ever-increasing number of federal,
    state and local regulations.

Now that’s an ambitious agenda. But the importance of the
subject dictates that we follow through and take it very seriously.
Our jobs and our businesses depend on it.

Many of these topics are also covered in my book, “How to Be a
Better Manager a Human Resource Guide for Building Industry
Professionals.” It’s an accumulation of 35 articles on various
human resource subjects.

Readers of K&BDN interested in purchasing a copy can contact
me at 2010 Granite Bar Way, Gold River, CA 95670.

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