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Top 10 HR Best Practices from GrowSmart

I just finished facilitating GrowSmart programs in Savannah and Atlanta. Great groups of small business owners and operators. Module 3 (of 5) is on Leadership and HR Management. One of my favorite activities on this particular day is to solicit best practices from the participants. This is where I hear some of the best ideas for leading and managing people anywhere.

Here is a sampling of what I heard this month:

#1.Hire slow, fire fast”

Maybe the best advice for any small business owner. Many tend to do the exact opposite. They hire way too fast and they wait way too long to let under-performers and “terrorists” go. To slow down the hiring process, try building “speed bumps” for yourself and your hiring managers. See #3 below. Force yourself as a matter of process to hire slower.

To speed up the departure of your laggards, make sure you are crystal clear of your expectations of each employee. Very few people wish to be fired. Many will fire themselves before you do if and when they realize they are at risk.

#2. Testing

I am a big fan of using testing in the hiring process including skill tests, drug tests, behavioral assessments, and more. They are also very helpful in addressing performance issues and developmental opportunities.

#3. 3x3x3 Interviewing

Very important to slow down the hiring process. We need to interview at least three candidates for each open position. This prevents us from “falling in love” with the first person who agrees to work for our company. It also gives us other candidates to compare to. Before hiring someone, they must go through a minimum of three interviews including a screening (phone) interview, an extensive (two hour minimum) office interview, and than at least one additional interview. Finally, the winning candidate must be interviewed by at least three different people. Too easy to fool one person.

#4. Performance “Previews”

This idea comes from Vistage speaker Gary Markle. Mention “performance reviews” to anyone and their respective stress level goes way up. Very stressful events for both parties. Why? Consider what we are going to talk about. The future? No. The past? Yes. Can we change anything about the past? Of course not. How stressful will that meeting be? Very.

How about if instead of spending all of our time in this meeting on the past which we have agreed we can’t change, we shift our collective attention to the future. Let’s discuss your employee’s goals, their strategies, their ambitions for the next year and how we intend to support them. Sound different? Far less stressful and far more productive use of our time.

#5. Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing has been used in large companies for many years and is just beginning to filter down into small businesses. The basis for this best practice is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior under similar circumstances. Hence for every job attribute that we are interested in, we will ask the candidate for multiple examples of when they have demonstrated that particular behavior before. This is a very effective interviewing practice and should consume at least 50% of the job interview.

#6. “Hire the Athlete. Teach the Sport”

You’re hiring a sales rep. Should you hire the guy (or gal) with a history of success in sales or the guy with a lifetime of experience in your industry. This best practice suggests hire the sales guy (the athlete). We are often tempted to hire the industry guy only to find out he can’t sell. We can teach the sales pro our industry in most cases. Very hard (and expensive) to teach sales.

#7. No “Probation”

This best practice I heard from several labor attorneys. You have a new employee and you feel like you may want to first want to put that employee on a probationary period before making a full commitment to them. Good practice. Just don’t call it “probation”. Why? If the employee “passes” the probationary period, it then becomes very hard to ever fire that same person for cause. In the eyes of the court, you have blessed that new employee for life when they pass probation. Just don’t use the term “probation” verbally or in writing. 

#8.Daily Huddles”

This best practice comes originally from two best-selling authors Patrick Lencioni and Verne Harnish. The idea is to gather your direct reports for a very brief, standing only, mandatory meeting each day. No more than fifteen minutes. It’s a quick check-in for each person. Very short agenda. Big time saver for the leader and facilitates a more effective support system for your direct reports. Try it for at least thirty days.


Do it to one, do it to all. Your human resource practices must be consistent for all employees and prospective employees. This is where most employee lawsuits are derived from; a lack of consistent HR practices. If you test one job applicant, plan on testing them all unless you have a very good reason not to. If you offer a particular benefit to one employee, be prepared to offer it company-wide.

#10. Offer to pay new employees $2000 to leave

This best practice is reported to have originated with Zappos, the mega online shoe business. The CEO would meet with every new employee after their initial thirty days and offer them $2000 to leave the company. Why? After thirty days either a new employee has decided to stay or is thinking of leaving. If the employee is thinking of leaving, why have them stay on your payroll and most likely under-perform? Make it easy for them to leave with a little bit of cash in their hands.

What are your favorite HR Best Practices? Send them to me and I will share them next month.

“Inbound Marketing”, by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

If you didn’t read the first edition of this book published in 2009, here’s your chance to learn more about Inbound Marketing than you thought possible. If you did read the first edition, as I did, I think you will find this a very helpful refresher on the current state of digital marketing.

The authors of the book, Halligan and Shah, are the cofounders of HubSpot, one of the leading inbound marketing and sales software companies in the country.

The book, in layman’s terms, explains what Inbound Marketing is and how small business can leverage the different technologies to “attract, engage, and delight customers online.” The book divides the Internet into three main areas: search engines, blogs, and social media. Each area has unique strategies and tactics. At the end of each chapter is a list of specific action items for the reader for their small business to apply the reading.

Here are several key takeaways for me from the book:

  • “There’s a fundamental mismatch between how organizations are marketing and selling their offerings – and the way people actually want to shop and buy.”
  • “Inbound marketing is about pulling people in by sharing relevant information, creating useful content, and generally being helpful.”
  • “The Internet has become increasingly “noisier”, and your buyer has incrementally less time to find your signal within all of the web’s noise. This phenomenon has led to a rise in “visual communications”, or design heavy content that provides a degree of communication”.
  • “The true power of inbound marketing lies in its ability to not only stretch the top of your sales funnel (and pull more people in), but also stretch the middle (get more to convert)”.

If you are like most small business owners and are trying to figure out how to shift from traditional outbound marketing to today’s world of inbound marketing, this book is for you. 

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