Whether you’re a small business owner or a corporate executive, it is essential to have a skilled, competent human resources specialist in place. To find out how your company can build a stronger infrastructure through an independent HR practitioner, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, invited Selina Thomas of 6 Degrees HR Consulting into the studio. Known as “SCV’s HR Guru,” Selina joins Amanda to discuss everything from creating a comprehensive, updated employee handbook to mandates involving employee perks and diversity training.
Benefits of Hiring an Outside HR Company
From small SCV businesses to global corporations, there are circumstances where it’s more beneficial to turn to an outside HR expert.
A small business such as a physician’s private practice may not need an HR expert on site, but they still need human resources infrastructure. That includes an employee handbook, employee files, and ongoing training to maintain a company culture that aligns with their mission statement. It is the skeletal building block of your small business. Contracting with an outside HR professional on a case-by-case basis is much more affordable than forming a permanent department in-house.
Even large companies with a human resources department on site can benefit from outsourcing certain services. In some cases, it can be a means of saving money for a corporate business owner, but there are other reasons to use an outside practitioner as well.
At times, sizable companies with an in-house HR department of their own need a neutral, outsourced person to handle policies involving employees or issues with clients. The benefit of using an HR professional who is not on their payroll is “they don’t have the people or the politics,” Selina explained. “Someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight or skin in the game.”
Circumstances where a company owner may outsource HR services include:
- Serving a client who wants to have the perspective of a third party from a trusted professional – for example, attorney Brian Koegle sometimes reaches out to Selina for this purpose
- Conducting a workplace investigation as a third party
- Handling recruiting and hiring off-site to maintain a discreet process
With the current workforce shortage, business owners needing help with turnover rates can reach out to a human resources specialist to fill gaps by connecting them to top talent.
When searching for new hires, business owners in Santa Clarita benefit from Selina’s connections. She regularly receives resumes from job candidates who are qualified for positions that become available. She posts job opportunities on various platforms such as the College of the Canyons job board, where interested parties respond to 6 Degrees HR Consulting instead of directly to her client. By using a third party instead of conducting a search internally, executives can have their query handled below the radar.
“I have people in the pipeline all the time – especially right now coming back into the workforce – that really rely on that connection,” Selina said, “and I’m glad to be that for everybody.”
New Trainings and Initiatives from Your HR Expert
The latest call for a new training program is sometimes the result of larger social issues. Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic there were certain matters that came to the forefront for business owners.
“Those things collided for me, which is what I specialize in,” Selina said. “So, you now have all of these things that were maybe not as prevalent being very prevalent in the workplace. Think about trying to be profitable and productive with these things happening.”
There are new mandates and initiatives that companies want to introduce and Selina has been hired by businesses in SCV to help them in the development process. She recently helped develop an initiative for Scorpion in Valencia to create a training for diversity, inclusion and belonging.
Harassment and Cyberbullying
Among the issues that business owners need to begin addressing are sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
There needs to be change in conduct when it comes to communicating in a way that is appropriate at work. Using Jon Gruden, who resigned from the Las Vegas Raiders, as a recent example, she said that a similar scandal could be fatal to the branding for a small business in SCV without support from an expert. But the resulting culture shock can also be damaging for a large organization like the Raiders. An international brand needs to pivot and not just recover, but ultimately create policy changes.
Selina works with clients to develop new reporting processes and adopting a zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior. “We have a communication process that allows everyone to feel psychologically safe,” she said. “You really need that when you’re working with people, that they feel psychologically safe at work.”
One of the problems with being lax around questionable behavior is that it segues into consequential actions such as cyberbullying, which increased 3000% during the pandemic. “Because people were comfortable behind the keyboard, behind the phone,” Selina explained, “they were comfortable in their home – they were relaxed, they were loosely dressed or not dressed at all. These are the types of things that people don’t realize – you’re still at work, you’re still accountable and you’re still impactful to someone else that you work with.”
Employees who are shuttered and lose sight of appropriate boundaries will ultimately burden the company when their actions result in a sexual harassment claim. That’s the type of pattern that emerged over the crisis.
Developing Preventative Policies
Your HR specialist needs to train staff members to develop a mindset and incorporate accountability – first on the individual level. When employees personally adopt that mindset, they can extend it to their colleagues and ultimately affect the company culture.
The mindset comes from an infrastructure created through policy, training, protocols, and process. The goal is to create a campaign of awareness that makes a difference, not just put a policy in place and hope it works. An ongoing strategic partnership with an HR expert provides the collaboration and support for your business that makes the changes sustainable.
“Some of it is truly just processing the crisis and helping the owner realize ‘how did it evolve?’” Selina explained. “So, we’re doing a little bit of debriefing, too, so we can avoid it happening.”
To survive and thrive, an international corporation or small SCV business needs to update its policies and procedures. You’re mitigating risk when you have these training programs, but it’s not enough. You need to have a mindset, a company culture that ascribes to that training in real life.
“Compliance with the people part is essential because there has to be the buy-in for that to really emerge in action,” Selina said.
The Employee Handbook
An outsourced HR professional can help you create or update your employee handbook. One of the handbook’s most important features is the definition it provides new hires.
“When you’re orienting them to who you are and what your standards are, what your expectations are – it’s in that book,” Selina explained. “It truly is your company bible.”
The introduction to your company is essential – the new employee is getting to know you and vice versa. For HR best practices, the employee handbook should include such content as:
- Sick pay
- Holiday scheduling
- Policy for extended leave
- Medical/dental benefits
- Maternity leave
- Code of conduct
- Dress code
- Policy on use of cell phones
- Policy regarding use of Internet and email
The rules and guidelines in your employee handbook reflect your company’s expectations – you don’t want a cookie cutter guide. In heavily litigious states such as California, defending your company really does come back to what you provided the employee as a guide to who you are and what the rules are.
Every new hire should receive a full copy, digital if possible, so they can refer to policies even when they aren’t at work. With attrition rates and employment turnovers, you don’t need to print a hard copy for everyone; but keeping one on site is a good idea.
You should update the handbook once a year, typically January 1, because mandates change annually. An outside HR professional can offer you an overall assessment of your current handbook to see where you are and provide a trajectory to make it current.
If you’re a growing SCV business that’s evolved as a company, there may be regulations that are no longer applicable. And the reverse is true as well.
“You could be shrinking your business and you need things to be tighter,” Amanda pointed out. “And maybe roles have changed.”
Throughout the COVID epidemic, many companies instituted remote employment options. “The whole process of accessing your employees and expectations is different, so they had to restructure their handbook for the remote worker,” Selina said. “There are different guidelines for that.”
Questions that employers now need to consider include:
- Are you required to be on camera when you’re on a meeting?
- What are you allowed to say?
- What access does the business owner have to your home office?
- Can they tap into your computer when you work remotely?
“We’ve evolved, so your handbook has to evolve,” Selina said. “These are things that people don’t think about, but that I specialize in.”
The process of incorporating an outside HR practitioner is organic. You may reach out for changes to the handbook, then realize they can help your small business grow more inclusive by training staff, or prevent labor lawsuits with proper recruitment practices.
“I have so many different types of companies, but the common denominator in each one is that there are people,” Selina said. “Whether it’s a different industry or not, I just love being around people. I love helping companies grow. I love seeing owners who are coming out of recovery at this point saying, ‘Our company is in a comfortable place, in terms of the company culture.’”
Meet the Experts
Selina Thomas – SCV’s HR Guru
As the owner and founder of 6 Degrees HR Consulting, Selina Thomas is a strategic partner working with businesses in Santa Clarita as well as others in California and across the country. A seasoned professional with 15 years of human resource experience, she’s a proven compliance and safety specialist with an emphasis on human resources infrastructure and business development. She offers support for business owners, managing the company’s day-to-day HR needs including offer letters, background checks, on-boarding, employee records management, employee relations and more.
With PHR (Professional in Human Resources) certification and as a SHRM-CP (Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional), Selina is committed to lifelong learning which includes earning a minimum of 80 continuing education units annually. This enables her to be updated on new mandates, both in and out of California.
Selina launched the company in 2014 working out of a local Starbucks, choosing the name 6 Degrees which refers to the global concept that everyone on the planet is connected by six people. An advocate for the business community, employers, and their employees, she brings the voices of the community to the public in a bi-weekly podcast show for the SCV Signal, providing the latest information and stories about the people behind the businesses of SCV.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!