Once a business grows beyond just the owner, employee management becomes an incredibly important aspect of ownership.

Usually, larger companies begin to develop a human resources department to focus on the different facets of employee management—but, what is it that HR professionals do? And, how can their presence benefit a small business?

We sat down with Florida Capital Bank Human Resources Director Pamela Davis to really understand what it means to be an HR professional, and what benefits they bring to small businesses.

FLCB: What are some of your key responsibilities as an HR professional?

PD: Some key responsibilities include employee relations, benefits, compensation, employment law, compliance, recruitment, onboarding, training, and employee engagement.

FLCB: What are some of the more difficult parts of being an HR professional?

PD: The realization that a poor hiring decision was made; knowing that an employee is a good person with a strong work ethic but they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to do the job for which they were hired. Poor hiring decisions can cripple a small business. Lots of time should be invested in the interview and staffing process to ensure the right person is hired. Onboarding and training are also critical to success.

FLCB: What is a misconception some may have regarding HR roles?

PD: Some employees believe an HR professional is like a police officer or enforcer, and they become uncomfortable in their presence. HR professionals serve as a bridge between employees and senior managers, and they want employees to have fun at work and be happy on the job. They are not trying to catch employees doing something wrong.

FLCB: Are there any legal benefits to hiring an HR representative?

PD: Businesses must ensure they are in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations [and] an HR representative will possess expertise in areas such as discriminatory practices and compensation laws. This can prevent costly fines and lawsuits and avoid the risk of tarnishing the reputation of the business.

FLCB: What should a business owner look (out) for when hiring an HR professional?

PD: Prior HR work experience, preferably in same or similar industry, and HR education and/or certification. Small business owners will also want an effective communicator who can relate to employees, senior managers, applicants, vendors, directors, and customers; and the right person must have sound ethics and judgment to handle sensitive and confidential situations and information.

FLCB: At what point would you advise a small business owner to hire an HR assistant or HR manager?

PD: From the very beginning, someone in the company needs to be designated to make key strategic human resource related decisions on hiring, compensation, benefits, etc. This is likely the business owner, but could also be the Chief Financial Officer or another trusted member of the team. This person may be able to handle the human resource function until company size reaches 30 – 50 employees, but this depends on many factors.

Attempting to resolve a conflict between two employees after receiving a complaint, and the investigation reveals two completely different versions of what occurred can also be a difficult part of the job.

FLCB: How can small business owners handle HR effectively by themselves?

PD: There are a number of outside sources business owners can leverage when handling HR functions without an internal professional. As the business is launched, dedicate time to human resource issues and planning. Create employment and safety practices that adhere to federal, state, and local laws. Using an HR consultant is advised; the consultant can provide education on basic employment laws and help guide process. Consider outsourcing payroll and use staffing services for recruiting to limit applicants for open positions. Use the payroll vendor and other HR-related vendors to help make decisions and follow the laws. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) can help; SHRM provides articles and webinars and other online tools specific to small business needs.

FLCB: What is the biggest benefit of having an HR pro as an employee?

PD: The business owner will not need to be as directly involved in time-consuming human resource functions and instead can focus on increasing revenue and growing the business.

The decision to hire an HR professional includes many considerations. While there are some aspects of employee management that can be handled by a business owner, experts advise that a developed HR department will be able to support the growth of a business, giving employee management the attention it needs.