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How can your business become HR ready for expansion?

By Stephen Cowburn

Expansion brings excitement, challenge, innovation, change to list but a few words. It might mean more product, wider and deeper services, perhaps greater specialisation to attack niche markets. It might mean expansion outside traditional markets.

Whatever type of expansion you are looking at, one thing is for certain.  You will need to bring new people on board.  But more than that, you will need to put strategies and systems in place that will help you manage your expanding team to best effect.  This article focuses on the people aspects of expansion and offers advice to MDs looking to improve their team expansion management skills.

Building a picture of the future

First off, it’s essential to map out your future team needs. Start by creating an organisation chart for your future business. At this point don’t include named individuals.  Focus on the roles you perceive are needed to enable this expansion to take place. Taking names out of the equation for the time being frees you up to think about how the organisation needs to be structured to deliver your hopes and aspirations.

This laser-like approach enables the following to happen:

  • Ensures the roles are filled by your best people
  • Identifies key roles where there are no suitable people, enabling you to look at options
  • A review on what staff are needed to fill gaps and to consider how those roles might be resourced
  • Where key staff are EU nationals ensure they have settled status NOW. Don’t wait till near the cut off point of 31 December 2020 either because government IT systems won’t be able to cope with the surge of applications, or it gives you time to manage any grey areas e.g. if the EU national hasn’t got evidence of having worked in the UK consistently for the past 5 years.

Ensuring solid foundations

Many SMEs have evolved with a variety of employment contracts that can prevent growth from taking place. Or deals have been done in the past that makes managing change (expansion) difficult in moving the business to the next stage. Or there are a range of different worker categories that may be borderline illegal now and a positive barrier to growth in the future.

To remedy these issues:

  • Try and move to a consistent employment contract across the workforce so you know what the rules are and can manage the business from a common start point.
  • Incorporate your policies into a staff handbook so that there is a consistency of approach rather than a default position to a ‘Wild West’ culture with no clear HR position. You don’t want staff issues blocking your energy in expanding the business.
  • Review where you are with freelancers and other off-payroll staff. The public sector has been hit. The private sector is next (from April 2020). This is about protecting business continuity and remaining in control.


Operational housekeeping

This is about sorting out absence, or untaken holiday, or incidences of long-term sickness, or correcting mistakes in your current operations to avoid future claims and possible financial shocks. Sort it. Clear the slate for expansion rather than get distracted by the negative energy required to deal with these legacy issues. Boring perhaps but it frees you up to think to the future and what is required to expand, successfully avoiding surprises or roadblocks.

Mentoring and coaching

For you and your key people, don’t assume that everyone is motivated by growth, expansion and opportunity. Are there voices are in people’s heads (yours?) saying: ‘I’m not sure l can do this’; ‘What if l fail?’; ‘It’s safest if l stick to the status quo’. As experienced advisers, who have run businesses or led functions of large organisations, we have the real worldview and the track record to help you through change. This might be more advisory (mentoring) or enabling (coaching) or both depending on what you want and need.

What now?

A few thoughts:

  1. Speak to me for a confidential (and free) chat about points raised in this article that resonate with you.
  2. Download our White Paper on managing your business through the seven stages of the business lifecycle by clicking here.
  3. Look here to view the range of skills and experiences in our team if, for example, you want a conversation with colleagues on expanding outside your traditional markets or want to review your strategy.

Stephen Cowburn has worked in HR in multinationals, professional practices and since 2005, in the SME sector where he provides an outsourced HR service to businesses across a range of sectors. Contact Stephen Cowburn or use the Get in Touch link below.

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