What Maine Businesses Need to Know About HR – Angela Hansen

What Maine Businesses Need to Know About HR - Angela Hansen

Do you have a full HR department or just someone who handles HR along with all the other hats they have to wear?

In today’s episode, we talk to Angela Hansen of KMA Human Resource Consulting, who breaks down everything your growing business needs to know about HR. What are the bare minimums? What’s legally required? Do you really need an employee handbook? What happens when things go really, really wrong?

If you’d like to make sure you’ve got your bases covered, be sure to check out this episode of Fast Forward Maine!

Rich Brooks: She has more than 25 years of experience as a human resources professional with a focus on compliance and policy and process development relating to all areas of human resources, including benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, recruiting and organizational development. She’s a member of the Society of Human Resources Management and the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine.

Rich Brooks: She earned a bachelor of Science, Organizational Leadership Program, from the University of New England in Portland Maine. And she lives in the Greater Portland area with her husband and son. A fan of the outdoors, she loves to golf in the summer and spend winter weekends at Sugarloaf. She joins us today from KMA Human Resource Consultants. Welcome to the show, Angela Hansen.

Angela Hansen: Thank you.

Yury Nabokov: Angela, what a delight to have you on the show with us today. We are excited and so let’s dive deep into our today’s… in the topic of our today’s conversation, the importance of HR. And the very first question is right on the topic. Why is HR important in your opinion?

Angela Hansen: Okay, well HR provides a lot of different resources to an employer. The first of which is regulatory compliance. How important is it that a business follows laws? It’s very important. So, an HR person is usually very well versed in all of the employment related laws that an employer needs to comply with. Beyond that, having a strong HR presence in an organization may mean reduced turnover. So that could be reduced risks with loss of knowledge, loss of productivity, loss of money even. And you know, then there’s the employment relations piece where connections with employees really matter. And, you know, we’ve seen it everywhere on Linkedin and different mediums that employees don’t quit their companies, they quit … They don’t quit their company, they quit their boss. And so, those management connections with staff are really important to them and to the company. So to have an HR function that helps bridge that is really helpful.

Rich Brooks: It sounds almost like there’s a couple of things going on here, Angela. One is there’s the necessary evil, if you will, of HR in the fact that as business owners we need to make sure that we’re in compliance. The laws are always changing. But then, there’s the really positive side of this as well is if we have a good HR in place, and we’ve got the rules and regulations, and we’re treating our employees right, that we’re going to reduce turnover and we’re going to have more productive, more happy employees and thus more happy customers as well. Would you agree with that?

Angela Hansen: Yeah, I do. I think you got it. Spot on.

Rich Brooks: So I’m kind of curious, what drew you personally into the world of HR? Why did you decide on this career path?

Angela Hansen: Well, I started in health care in a clinical role and immediately realized that the connections with people and the collaboration and helping others … You know, I was promoted to a supervisory and a leadership position. And I really leaned most toward getting energy from and satisfaction from helping other people. And at the time, the organization needed a human resources function. I applied for it and was honored to get that job of director of HR at a major medical group in the Portland area. So, I just, from the beginning, had this propensity toward solidifying connections with people. And I think that’s what, you know, started me down the path and I’ve loved it ever since.

Yury Nabokov: Sounds like you had a pretty remarkable track record, so congratulations. And I’m excited that you’re bringing this expertise to our show today. Angela, as the follow up to my question, I wanted to know what is the cost of recruitment and how critical recruitment in the growth and advancement of any business or organization?

Angela Hansen: I think it’s very critical. If you get the right people that can do the work that your company needs done, and you can make those strong relationships with them, develop them, bring out their strengths, it’s a win win all around. The employee is happy and the organization wins. So you know, having a very strong recruiting process and selection criteria is important. Making sure everyone is on the same page with understanding the behaviors that your potential employee will exhibit while they’re on the … at the workplace. It’s hard, you know, in a one hour or two hour interview to figure someone out.

Angela Hansen: But there are tools you can use and there are experts who can pick up on those clues that might give you insight into behaviors. And yes, making that good match from the beginning is critical. And I would also add beyond that, once you have that good match and you’re bringing someone in, have a really strong onboarding process where you develop an immediate connection, you provide that new person with everything they need from information to other relationships with important connectors in the organization, and then continually solidify that. That will give you the best chance to keep the person in the role and keep them happy.

Yury Nabokov: So it sounds like a two step approach. It’s the recruitment process and then the onboarding process.

Angela Hansen: Absolutely.

Yury Nabokov: Awesome. Thank you.

Rich Brooks: So I’ve been running my business somehow for the past 20 plus years. And I’ve never had an HR person. We’ve just not been perhaps at that size. So, for somebody like me who maybe is little bit too small to have an internal HR person, what are the basics that I need to know as a business owner about HR?

Angela Hansen: Yeah, that’s a really good question, Rich. And I think a lot of companies in this area are in your shoes. And I think the basics are structure. So an employee handbook, no matter how big or small you are, is really important because it provides a framework of all of … first of all, all of the laws and regulations that you need to follow. But it also is that basis for an employee to say, “Well, what’s it like around here? And what do I do if this happens? And what’s in it for me?”

Angela Hansen: So the handbook is a very good resource and is a legal living document that can and should be updated regularly to reflect not only your employment practices but what you expect and what the employee can expect. So the structure of the handbook is one of my … our top recommendations. Beyond that, I think the owner or the managing partner needs to have a general understanding of employment law. And that could be, you know, a sit down with an HR expert to just go through the high level things that you need to have an awareness of so that you know, if something happens, when do you pause and reach out if you need further assistance with an issue?

Angela Hansen: So high level awareness of the main and federal laws that relate to your business is really important, so you know what to be careful of and what to look for and when to pause. And then, certainly if you want to dig a little bit deeper as a smaller company, to utilize a consultant or go through a fitness test, so to speak, of all of the various areas of human resources, the function of HR in your organization and how you’re doing with each process. So those are some ideas. But a handbook and knowing the laws, big picture, are really important.

Rich Brooks: So, I just want to ask you a follow up on that handbook thing. So you mentioned that there’s some legal stuff that goes on in there.

Angela Hansen: Yeah.

Rich Brooks: At the same time, it feels like this may be a way to establish company culture. So how much of your handbook should be on the legal side of things and how much of it should be more about company culture? Is there a proper ratio?

Angela Hansen: Oh, I love that question. And I love to hear business owners concerned about company culture because, yes, in the writing of your structure, your frame work that has to follow laws, you can also add to it the language that indicates your company culture. So a handbook that’s written in a perspective, or from a perspective, that is more employee friendly is really great to read. I mean, if you think about it, as an employee, you want to feel like you’re in a place that values you and it’s not just saying, “You will do this and employees must and, you know, employees should.”

Angela Hansen: You would, I would imagine … I would love to read a handbook that has more of a conversational kind, informative approach that feels helpful as opposed to punitive. So, I think that’s a really good place to insert your company culture. And then, of course, actions speak louder than words. Right? So in your day to day interactions with people, your culture will manifest and show itself that way as well.

Yury Nabokov: Angela, when we were talking about culture and the development of the culture, who are the key players that need to be a part of that conversation? Should we have HR, marketing, sales, customer service, the leadership of the company involved? What are the recommendations on tackling that beast?

Angela Hansen: I would say it would be more between HR and the people who are in charge. So, if it’s the owner, or the CEO, or a management team of some sort, those folks are the ones who really set the tone. Their behaviors, their, the way they handle problems, those are going to be the signals that employee is pick up on and clue into and contribute to or not. So, I think the leadership is of critical importance in setting the tone of the culture.

Yury Nabokov: Yeah. I like the topic of culture because we all know that culture eats strategy for breakfast. And if your employees aren’t on board, then the rest of the organization aren’t going to follow through and probably it’s going to be pretty short run for any kind of business.

Rich Brooks: So, another part of HR seems to be training. And here, in the age of MeToo and all these other things, what kind of trainings should we be offering our employees or should we be putting on? I mean, obviously there’s sexual harassment training. Is this something that happens every year? Is this something we’re obligated to do or just a good idea? And what other kind of trainings do you think businesses here in the states should be focused on for either a quarterly or monthly or an annual review?

Angela Hansen: Okay, that’s a really good question because it is a tough time in our world right now with all of the accusations. I think the first thing for leadership to be aware of is their own level of emotional intelligence. There’s a lot written about this. And I just think that if we as leaders have a strong sense of ourselves and how we affect others and how to self regulate our behaviors, that’s huge. That’s foundational. Beyond that, organizations should be teaching all of their staff members about harassment, sexual or otherwise, because it can take many forms from different genders and classes of people. And so sexual harassment or harassment of any type, just building an awareness around it and teaching people how to talk about it and even maybe say to someone who’s giving them some behaviors that are uncomfortable, you know, teach people how to say, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m not in that place with you. Please don’t say those things anymore to me,” in a nice way that is assertive and teaches both parties this is unwelcome.

Angela Hansen: But the main state law says that employers with 15 or more employees need to have an annual sexual harassment training. So that’s sort of back to the law. Those are the requirements. I would argue that any employer would benefit from a training because it builds awareness. And an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely. Is there a place online or somewhere else that a business can go and see all the regulations of the types of trainings that they need in the state?

Angela Hansen: Yes. The … I’m just going to get on my computer here and I’m going to pull up a link. The main state, the main government site, Maine statutes, has an employment practices page. And it lists all over the different statutes that employers need to follow, and their eligibility for whether they’re covered or not. So, that is legislature.maine.gov and it will take you to a statutes outline.

Yury Nabokov: Awesome. Thank you Angela. We’ll definitely include this link to the show notes, so everyone who’s listening can check it out and find out more. Thank you.

Angela Hansen: Okay.

Yury Nabokov: Angela. I also wanted to … kind of like the follow up question on the the Hashtag me too, a very heavy topic, but I was thinking about social media and the proper use of social media for business owners as well as their employees. ‘Cause I’m thinking about what can we do to help our … to use our workforce as the brand ambassadors and help promote the businesses that we represent? Any recommendations on trainings around the social media topic?

Angela Hansen: Well, I think your question is asking about how to use it to promote the business. That’s a better question for Rich, I think. But there are employment laws around the use of social media, especially the state of Maine has a very specific statute about it that is very detailed around employee rights as it relates to social media use. And it’s a very detailed piece. So I’d be happy to, you know, go into that further at another time. But employers should really pay attention to the Maine state regulations around social media, the employee rights. And I think, rightly so, employers may be concerned about, “Well, what are my employees going to post about this company and how can I regulate that?”

Angela Hansen: And we have to be careful of not limiting an employee’s ability to discuss working conditions. Because that, in and of itself, is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which is a federal law that says companies need to not prohibit employees from talking about working conditions. Because if you do so, it could limit their ability to collectively bargain. So, that’s sort of the origin around it. But Maine has a very detailed piece of legislation about rights and responsibilities and it would be worth it for any company to go make sure they fully understand that and are abiding by it.

Yury Nabokov: That’s quite an insight, Angela. Thank you, appreciate it.

Rich Brooks: So, one of my least favorite things to do in a given year is to do employee reviews. And I’ve never, never been good at this, Angela. So what kind of advice can you give me to create some really productive employee reviews next time?

Angela Hansen: This is my absolute favorite topic. Because, if you think about our history and our culture in this country, we’ve leaned toward the form that is filled out once a year by a manager and the manager rates and employee on various competencies, one to five. You know, you’re a one because you didn’t do this and that and the other. Or you’re a five because you always do this perfectly. So that’s one way to measure performance.

Angela Hansen: And if your company needs a number, I think there is a lot of value to utilizing scales like that. But really, if you think about another option, think about … If you think about how you want to be evaluated and how you want someone to give you feedback, it is probably likely that someone else assigning you a number is not going to hold a lot of water for you. I have done a lot of research and reading. And there is this trend right now away from those long drawn out performance evaluations where someone rates someone else, because we humans aren’t very good raters of other people.

Angela Hansen: We can rate ourselves. We know how well or not so well we do with something. But it’s difficult if we’re not in that other person to rate them accurately. So I favor, if an organization is at a place to be ready for it, and maybe yours is Rich, this coaching model where what you do is not so much sit and say, “Let’s talk about the past year and how you did.” But it’s more present and future based, where you sit with your very important employee and say, “You know, you’re important to me. You’re important to this organization. Let’s talk about the work you’re doing every day. Are you using your strengths? Do you like it? Do you want more of it? What can I do to help you get it done or achieve what you’d like to achieve?”

Angela Hansen: So, my perspective is that if you focus on the strengths and the positive aspects, you’re going to get more of that. If you point out the nickel and dime nit picky things, it’s only going to be frustrating for both parties and you’re going to get more of that. So, let’s focus on the good and bring out strengths in people and coach rather than evaluate.

Rich Brooks: But there’s gotta be a place for providing constructive criticism, for lack of a better phrase, to employees. Is that better done in an immediate situation in private as opposed to waiting three, six, nine months to do it in the employee review?

Angela Hansen: Definitely. Oh my gosh, yes. There is absolutely always going to be a place where, you know, we’re doing something wrong and we need a course correction pretty quickly. So, the way you approach that with your staff member and, you know, the tone of how you approach it, the words you use, being very mindful about that and doing it in a way that is helpful as opposed to critical and berating, I think will make all the difference.

Yury Nabokov: Fantastic. Angela, thank you for the recommendation. There’s a follow up, just kind of like a quick question. Are they any specific resources online available that can give you like a little bit of a blueprint on how to conduct these types of reviews, books, anything that you would recommend to our listeners?

Angela Hansen: I … Immediately, what comes to mind is Marcus Buckingham is an author and researcher who’s done a lot of work in this area of strengths based performance evaluations. So, he’s an immediate resource that comes to mind. If you Google him and his work, there will be books. And I can certainly put together some other information. But Harvard Business Review even has some really good articles about performance evaluation and coaching for performance acceleration.

Yury Nabokov: Fantastic. Well, Angela sounds like we’re going to have a little bit of a follow up, collecting all the resources that you have in mind for our listeners. So thank you for continuing to contribute to the success of the Fast Forward Maine, and the businesses across the state. So, speaking about the state, I wanted to ask you a very, very important question that is on our mind this morning. If there was one thing you can do to improve the business eco system here in Maine, what would it be?

Angela Hansen: One thing would be to spread the word and teach people more about that strength based performance acceleration method. We’re … I think we’re stuck in the past a lot of times. And maybe we need to be for a certain reason. So I understand that. But I think for the companies who are ready for more progressive approach to performance acceleration, performance management, I believe right down into my soul that if we can get this right and we can do it consistently, we’ll have a better employment connections with people. We’ll have better productivity.

Angela Hansen: People will enjoy their work rather than feel like they’re being rated and berated. So I think, you know, it’s like that’s a good segue question from what we were talking about earlier. This is a very … It’s a wonderful tool to be able to use. And if our managers are taught to be coaches as opposed to managers, I think it will help a lot, our community, our state of Maine.

Rich Brooks: I love that rating and berating. This has been great.

Angela Hansen: I just came up with that, Rich.

Rich Brooks: Well, we’ll give you full credit. And this actually sounds like it could be a good topic. So maybe one of these days you’ll come on the road with me and Yuri when we do our Fast Forward Maine workshops and you can talk about strengths based reviews. This has been great. I really appreciate your time today, Angela. We both do. Where can we find out more information about you and KMA online?

Angela Hansen: Yeah. So I am proud to be a part of a very, very good organization called KMA HR Consulting. And you can find us online at kmaconsultingllc.com. We have a tremendous business owner, Kim Anania, who started this business 11 or 12 years ago and has grown it, because there is a need for organizations maybe too small or maybe so big that their HR staff has project work that needs to get done.

Angela Hansen: And to have a resource like KMA to reach out to and help fill in whatever gaps may be there has been very helpful to our clientele. So yes, KMA HR … I’m sorry, kmaconsultingllc.com, and there’s a lot of information about our team and the things we offer are there. It’s a really good organization with great expertise.

Yury Nabokov: Fantastic. Thank you very much.

Rich Brooks: This has been great. Angela, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your expertise with us.

Angela Hansen: Thank you. I appreciate it. It was fun.