Bausch & Lomb, begun in 1853 as a small optical shop, has grown into a multibillion-dollar corporation with more than 14,000 employees worldwide and eye care products available in more than 100 countries.
David Nachbar began his career in the human resources department at ABC television in New York City and has worked for PepsiCo, Citigroup, and the St. Paul companies. He currently chairs the Human Resources Advisory Committee for the Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan group supported by businesses to develop policy ideas on key issues. Most recently they have been focusing on health care issues.
PEOPLE OVER POLICIES
Smart people management helps businesses in every way. It doesn't matter if you're running a company of 10 or 10,000. We're all trying to find the right people to work for us. Every business, big or small, thinks that way. I have not met a business owner who says, "I want to hire dummies." We're all competing for the same talent base.
So, once you've chosen, how do you keep employees in the game? Keep them productive and motivated?
Small and large businesses alike appreciate the value of their people. Even more, though, small businesses have a better shot at retaining people because they have a real personal knowledge of their workers.
Everyone wants to learn more or do something bigger. To this end, look at what skills employees already have "on the shelf" and what they need, and try to provide the experiences to help them get where they want to be.
It can be risky to go to the outside to find employees. To reduce this risk, I spend a lot of time with human resources professionals teaching them Behavioral Event Interviewing, a technique that they can use to assess the way people work at a company and find out if the person has the maturity, mental capabilities, and motivation to fit in.
IN-HOUSE OR OUT?
As any business expands, the type of problems it faces expands with it. Growth can put small businesses in unfamiliar territory. When the business is an owner and maybe just a couple of people, the owner can make judgments, with some tasks covered by a lawyer and an accountant. As the business grows, issues with people start to become bigger. This doesn't mean the business immediately needs to have its own HR person. A consultant can supply a lot of resources without the day-to-day expense of being on staff. Retired HR professionals have networks in many towns and often are willing to help. Or ask a human resources executive in the community to be a member of your board.
HEALTH CARE COSTS
A growing number of small businesses right now are dropping health insurance because they can't afford it; or they're forced into making the terrible trade-off between paying a decent wage or offering health care. As the cost of insurance and health care keeps rising, it's becoming more difficult for any size business to afford them. There are some practical things small businessescan do now:
- Bring in as many vendors as possible--insurance brokers and carriers. Try to play one against the other and make them compete to get the best rates. It may be worthwhile to use a broker who can offer choices of carriers and coverages.
- Make sure any plan you offer has a preventive and diagnostic benefit. Encourage your people to use it. Give them time off to get tests, even if it's with pay. That small injury or illness could be a major expense later on.
- If you can form a buying group--even through the Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce--do it. The extra bargaining leverage is important, and costs will be lower.
- Encourage employees to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. We provided a small incentive for employees to fill out a questionnaire, which was offered by an outside company that uses doctors and nurses to contact employees and encourage them to change high-risk habits. While this may not produce an immediate result, we know that people will feel better and be more productive in the future. That's the ultimate win-win.