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Ohio Council Project Targets Small Businesses
 

By Kathy Gurchiek  4/23/2012


Small businesses in Ohio can turn to free seminars that address compliance, employment policies and attracting employees and customers thanks to the efforts of the Ohio State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The council created six modules to introduce basic HR concepts and processes to business owners who have no HR staff and have fewer than 50 employees.

The concept, “HR Makes a Difference,” won the council a coveted SHRM 2011 Pinnacle Award. It was one of two state councils and seven professional chapters that received the award Nov. 18 during SHRM’s 2011 Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va.

Nearly 70 applicants vied for the annual award that ADP Inc. sponsors. Winners receive $1,000, and chapter presidents and state council directors receive a diamond Pinnacle pin; board members of each of the winning groups receive replicas of the pin. The Ohio State Council intends to apply the $1,000 to its continuing education efforts for its council members.

Putting It Together

Based on the many requests for help with HR questions that the state council received, “we saw there was a huge [knowledge] gap” among small-business owners, said Andrea M. Gurcsik, SPHR, director of the council.

Small businesses often do not have an HR representative or will foist HR duties onto an employee who does not have HR skills or education, the council pointed out in its Pinnacle application.

“It’s a good way we can educate people [so they] understand some of the liabilities they need to be aware of,” she said of the program.

The council’s board created a six-member team to build the program, which worked for nearly two years to develop the purpose, contents, pilot, an implementation outline and a toolkit for chapters to use to organize their own such event.

The team and HR professionals across the state volunteered their time to create the seminar, often meeting virtually and working nights and on weekends. Each of the 26 state chapters was involved at different parts of the program’s development.

In creating the content, the team and volunteers were guided by the question of what information could have the most impact on a business if it was unknowledgeable about HR practices, Gurcsik said.

Seminar content was organized around the employee lifecycle. State chapters were encouraged to modify and add to the following content areas to create a more comprehensive seminar for their community:

  • What is HR management? This covers topics such as legal interview questions and providing offer letters.
  • How do I keep from being sued?
  • How do I hire employees?
  • How do I pay employees?
  • How do I retain employees?
  • How do I manage performance? This covers topics such as how to tie performance to pay and how evaluations can help the employer and the business.

The council piloted the program on a Saturday in December 2009 in Columbus, Ohio; Franklin University served as co-sponsor. More than 45 people attended the free event and were asked to evaluate it at the end of the day.

The council released the program to chapter presidents in 2010. It consisted of a tool kit with an outline of the entire program and ideas chapters could use to plan their seminar—costs, location considerations, marketing, the benefits of co-sponsoring with a local university, handouts and seminar contents. It also included an insert from the Columbus Dispatch, which had printed a story about the program.

The 22-page online toolkit offers planning and marketing tips, PowerPoint slides for the presentations, and an evaluation form for seminar participants.

In its online introduction of the toolkit to chapters, the State Council points out that the program has collateral benefits, including branding, an increased awareness among the business community about SHRM and the expertise that exists among local HR professionals.

Five seminars, which drew a total of about 100 small-business members, had been conducted in Ohio communities by the time the state council submitted its Pinnacle application; more were planned for 2012.

There was zero or minimal cost to the program, according to Gurcsik. Most chapters were able to have space for the seminars donated by a local business or a chapter member’s organization. Most presenters were volunteers from SHRM chapters. She suggested the seminar might be used as a fundraiser for a chapter.

Marketing was word of mouth. The State Council had a database of small businesses in Ohio it could use.

“You have to take in what your needs are as a state,” Gurcsik said, adding: “You can make it what you want.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.

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