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Discover HR Best Practices, Including Attracting Top Talent Here.

9 HR Best Practices for Small Businesses [2024]

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A lot has changed in the workplace since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the rise of remote work to an increased focus on healthcare benefits, HR professionals in small businesses face the need to redefine their strategies to attract and retain talent and reevaluate HR best practices to keep up.

But what is the best way to address evolving employee expectations? This post outlines 9 HR best practices that small business owners should tackle this year.

What Are HR Best Practices? (And Why They Matter)

HR best practices are the guiding principles that businesses keep in mind when managing their relationship with employees.

They set the groundwork for fostering a positive workplace culture, while improving operational efficiency, and ensuring compliance with evolving regulations.

No matter the size of your business or who oversees your HR efforts, you should set some time aside to discuss HR best practices and define how to bring them into the workplace.

9 HR Best Practices to Follow this Year

1. Get High-Quality Talent on Board

In such a competitive landscape, small businesses might find it harder to attract top talent than larger organizations.

To bridge this gap, you need to adopt a strategic and proactive approach that resonates with potential candidates.

Here are three actionable tips to discover top-tier candidates — and get them to say YES!

  • Leverage local networks. Tap into your local communities and networks to identify talent. Building relationships with local universities, attending community events, or participating in industry-specific gatherings can give you access to a pool of skilled professionals who are already connected to the area.
  • Highlight company culture. Emphasizing your business’ unique culture and values in job ads and recruiting materials can attract candidates looking for more meaningful and impactful work experience.
  • Build a strong online presence. Refresh your company website and be active on social media. Potential candidates often research companies online before applying, so be sure to make a good impression.

2. Design a Memorable Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is much more than paperwork and basic orientation. In fact, research shows that companies with a solid onboarding program see 50% greater employee retention and 62% greater productivity than those who don’t implement one.

Effective onboarding is about making new hires feel supported and integrated into your company culture.

Here’s how to improve your onboarding process:

  • Create a 30-60-90-day plan for your new hires. Provide clear expectations and set realistic goals right from the start. Be sure to include regular check-ins to follow up on their progress.
  • Let your best employees be part of the training process. Encourage employees to have an active role when someone joins the team: this not only speeds up the new hire’s learning curve but can also foster supportive relationships.

3. Invest in Training: If your Employees Grow, You Grow

When you invest in training, you invite employees to develop their skills, keep them motivated, and encourage them to do their best work.

Having a solid training program also gives you a competitive edge and helps you stay ahead of the curve with new trends and technologies.

Even if you are a small business with a limited budget, there are creative and cost-effective ways to implement training programs to improve your employees’ skills and contribute to your business growth.

A few ideas to plan your training strategy for the year ahead:

  • Provide diverse learning options, from e-learning courses to mentorship programs.
  • Emphasize soft skills training, enhancing communication, customer service, and leadership abilities.
  • Are you growing fast? Align training initiatives with your strategic goals and train employees in the skills they’ll need in the near future.

4. Embrace Regular and Constructive Employee Feedback

Providing regular feedback contributes to a healthy work environment. But employee feedback is not just about evaluating performance and showing employees what to improve — it’s also about encouraging open, honest communication.

Keep this in mind for your performance evaluation conversations:

  • Be solution oriented. Your goal is to help employees grow and improve their performance. Keep your feedback actionable and focus on the future.
  • Recognize and reward employee contributions, motivating outstanding work.
  • Promote a culture of continuous feedback rather than limiting it to annual reviews.

5. Stay Up to Date on Labor Laws & Regulations

Staying compliant is a critical responsibility, regardless of the size of your business. It involves staying on top of the latest regulations related to data protection, employment laws, health and safety, corporation taxes, and industry-specific regulations, among other areas.

Understanding this amount of information might be overwhelming, but it’s key to avoid costly fines and penalties.

Here’s how to navigate compliance nowadays:

  • Use HR compliance management software to stay up to date with compliance requirements, get access to real-time reporting and analytics, and ensure you are ready for audits.
  • Consider partnering with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). A PEO helps you handle compliance and minimize risks while providing expert assistance and support. Check out our compliance services at EmPower HR to learn how we can get you covered.

6. Foster Team Building and Employee Engagement

If finding top talent is a challenge, keeping your workforce actively engaged is an even bigger one. In small businesses, a close-knit team is crucial for success. Research shows that teams with high engagement levels were able to reduce absenteeism by 81% and boost profitability by 23%, among other benefits.

How to promote engagement among employees?

  • Organize regular team-building activities to strengthen relationships. From a team lunch at the office to an off-site team-building day, there are plenty of options to allow workers to share some quality time together, stay motivated, and encourage collaboration.
  • Define specific strategies to keep remote and hybrid workers engaged. Recent studies have shown that remote and hybrid workplaces have an eroding connection to the purpose and mission of the organization. To address this, schedule meaningful conversations on a weekly basis, encourage open communication channels, and provide remote-specific professional development opportunities.

7. Encourage Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules allow for a more harmonious work-life balance and contribute to improved job satisfaction and productivity.

There are different models you can implement, such as remote work, flextime, or compressed workweeks. Choosing the right model for your business will depend on your workforce’s preferences and needs, as well as your goals and priorities.

If you are implementing flexible work models this year, you can consider:

  • Allowing employees to set flexible working hours to fit family needs and responsibilities.
  • Emphasizing results over rigid working hours, focusing on productivity. To prevent burnout, it’s important to set realistic expectations and performance goals beforehand.
  • Implementing technology solutions that facilitate remote work and collaboration.

8. Prioritize Mental Health and Well-being

After the pandemic, mental health has taken center stage among HR best practices. Recognizing and prioritizing the mental health and well-being of your employees is the key to an open and supportive work environment.

Creating a healthy workplace has a positive impact on productivity and employee satisfaction. Employees are taking it seriously: research from the American Psychological Association indicates that 81% of workers will be looking for places that support mental health when looking for job opportunities in the future.

How can you promote a healthy and supportive work environment?

  • Encourage open conversations about mental health in the workplace. Foster an environment where employees feel supported and heard. Break the stigma around mental health and empower employees to talk about their feelings and challenges.
  • Implement mental health awareness programs. Introduce initiatives that raise awareness about mental health and provide resources for support. This could include workshops, webinars, or seminars led by mental health professionals, addressing topics such as stress management, work-life balance, and resilience.
  • Provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be a valuable resource for employees facing personal or professional challenges. These programs typically offer confidential counseling services, mental health assessments, and referrals to external resources.

9. Craft an Employee Handbook for Clarity and Consistency

Creating a comprehensive employee handbook is a fundamental step to make sure that employees understand your business policies.

An employee handbook is a vital document that outlines company policies, procedures, and expectations, promoting clarity and consistency across the organization.

Consider this when crafting your employee handbook:

  • Tailor policies to your culture. Customize your handbook to reflect the unique values and culture of your small business, ensuring that policies resonate with your team.
  • Communicate clearly. Use plain language to articulate policies, making them easily understandable for all employees. Foster an open-door policy for questions or clarifications.
  • Regular updates. Keep the handbook dynamic by updating it regularly to align with evolving company policies and compliance requirements.

HR Best Practices Final Thoughts

HR best practices help you navigate the challenges of the modern workplace while preparing your organization for success.

However, we know that staying on top of all the responsibilities of being an employer can be overwhelming. At EmPower HR, we serve more than 400 small businesses across many industries, taking the heavy work off their plates so they can focus on what matters most.

From handling HR administration and payroll to providing employee benefits, we can be your dedicated HR partner. Contact us to learn how we can elevate your business with HR best practices!


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