BodyShop Business
Mastering HR

8/5/2014


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For years, key managers at Collision Care had divided up human resources (HR) responsibilities, from overseeing vacation time to answering employees’ questions about the company’s 401(k) plan and benefits. The controller served as the HR point person. But growth over the years – Collision Care now operates eight locations with 120 employees – has created a more complex HR picture.

“When you’re smaller, you can juggle the responsibilities, but [as you grow], the company winds up being exposed to serious liabilities without a full-time HR manager,” says Lou Berman, vice president of sales for the Philadelphia, Pa.-based company.

Employees need access to a corporate representative who can answer all questions related to HR in a timely manner, Berman says. Giving employees a single-source contact ensures that Collision Care’s people can fully take advantage of the benefits and culture the company offers.

“There is limited time when employees can break away from their production duties to contact us to talk about issues that are of real importance to them, whether it be family and medical insurance or their 401(k) plan,” Berman says. “From that perspective alone, we feel it’s important to hire an HR person full-time so employees get the access they deserve.”

Offering solid systems in the form of HR and general options is actually a hiring and retention tool, Berman points out.

“You want to hand employees something tangible that they and their families can refer to that shows what your company has to offer,” he says.  

Collision Care is currently in the process of hiring its first full-time HR manager – a central contact for employees and an issue spotter who will help the business stay compliant and avoid legal exposure. This comes following years of solidifying its employee manual and training, a priority for the company, Berman says.

A Milestone
Hiring a dedicated HR person is a significant milestone for growing MSOs, and an important step toward maintaining consistency across operations – two of the greatest challenges that MSOs face during expansion. A third is integrating employees from an acquired location into the company culture, says Marcy Tieger of Symphony Advisors in Irvine, Calif. In fact, proper HR practices are important for shops of any size, with a single location or shops in multiple states.

“When there are not policies and practices that are clearly stated in writing, and in a central location, there is the risk of each location doing things differently, which can create some [legal] exposure for the company,” Tieger says.

Consistency, across the board, is the key to maintaining an effective, compliant HR practice that grows along with the company.
 
Get It On Paper
What’s the vacation time policy? How does the business handle sick days? What benefits does the company provide, and how does the 401(k) program work? These are HR questions employees can ask, and depending on who fields the question, the answers could be very different. That’s never a good thing.

“You have to treat everyone the same, and without a manual to go by, that can be difficult,” says Bob Juniper, president, Three-C Body Shops Inc., Columbus, Ohio.

The problem is that many growing MSOs have pieces-parts of an employee manual, but not one polished document that has been carefully reviewed for legal compliance.

“Sometimes, there’s a failure to bring all the threads together as a business grows,” Tieger says.

As companies grow from one to two or more locations, the need for standard operating procedures and HR policies is even greater because of increased exposure.

“A single location might not have to put a lot of its policies in writing, then as they grow, ad hoc, they start adding sections to a manual,” Tieger says. “Before they know it, they have a hodgepodge, and the manual becomes the last thing they take care of because they’re growing and not thinking about this [policy] infrastructure.”

A concise, professional policy manual can ensure that employees are treated the same, Juniper emphasizes. “Everyone wants to be treated fairly,” he says simply.


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