As your business grows, you may eventually need an HR professional or a labor lawyer. The real question is how do you find a “good” (reliable, successful, knowledgeable, skilled, wise, not too expensive, etc.) person?

Ask your Professional/Personal Network

When you need a subject matter expert immediately, the best approach is to heed the advice of a trusted colleague or friend. Dust off your “network” and make phone calls or send e-mails that briefly describe your situation/need and ask your personal and professional network for a recommendation. Don’t bother your network if the issue is “cut and dried” (e.g., “What’s the minimum wage for your state vs. the federal minimum wage”).  You can find that information online fairly simply. If the issue is as important as “how to best defend yourself against a charge of discrimination,” you should probably develop a relationship with a knowledgeable and skilled individual who can work through the complexities of the situation with you. You will need someone who is skilled and experienced, and a referral from a trusted source is the best way to find such a resource. If the people in your network don’t have a recommendation, then you may have to rely on more public resources for the assistance you need.

Consult Specialist Organizations of Good Reputation

If you’re searching online, the last thing you want to do is to collect a list of names of labor or employment lawyers with no way to decide which would be the best for your situation.  There are two public groups/resources you might consider contacting as a second-tier networking endeavor: the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Society for Human Resource Management is the world’s largest association devoted to HR management. It was founded in 1948 and has over 500 affiliated chapters in theUnited States. SHRM has more than 5,000 members, so it is highly likely that they have an SHRM Chapter in your area.  To find a chapter inNevada, visit https://nvstatecouncil.shrm.org.  SHRM may be contacted to ask for a referral of both knowledgeable HR professionals, as well as legal counsel for labor and employment matters.

The Small Business Administration is a government-sponsored resource that focuses on small business. The SBA might be able to give you names of people who might be able to help you with your specific need, or they might provide names of other small business owners in your area whom you may wish to contact (either as potential referral agents or to meet your need).  To find an SBA office inNevada, visit www.sba.gov.  The SBA also has a group called SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) who might be able to assist you.

Enter a Business Arrangement with a Professional Employer Organization

While this alternative might not meet your immediate needs, a third option is to enter into a business arrangement with a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO.

The National Association of Professional Employers Organizations (NAPEO) is the advocate for its members in government affairs, provides education and training programs, has a Code of Ethics and a number of best practices for its member companies. NAPEO has nearly 400 PEO members operating in all 50 states, and represents approximately 91 percent of the revenues of the $68 billion/year PEO industry. Its members are small businesses (in most cases) and their service/product is to “do it for you” when it comes to human resources, employee benefits, unemployment claims, payroll, and workers’ compensation. PEO’s do this by becoming co-employers of your people, so that both the PEO and you would have an employment relationship with your workers.

Under the co-employer arrangement, you and the PEO share and allocate responsibilities and liabilities for your people. The PEO assumes much of the responsibility and liability for the business of employment, such as risk management, human resource management, and payroll and employee tax compliance. You retain responsibility for and manage product development and production, business operations, marketing, sales, and service. As a co-employer, the PEO will often provide a complete human resource and benefit package for your “employees” (if this is something you want and can afford). Typically, the PEOs’ charge for doing payroll and providing HR services is between two and six percent of your gross payroll costs (not including the cost of the benefits you might choose to offer through the PEO). Your specific business arrangement is negotiated depending on the type of your business and the level of risk that would be assumed by the PEO as a co-employer.

Under a PEO, there are some advantages that have collateral benefits for a small business owner. In most cases, the PEO provides access to health insurance, retirement savings plans, and other critical employee benefits for the employees of a small business client–features that are usually not affordable from either a cost or an administrative expertise perspective. For example, if an employee files an Equal Employment Opportunity claim, the PEO would have the expertise to manage the investigation and the potential hearing and lawsuit if the claim were to proceed to those levels.

Government Agencies

There are a number of government agencies that have good information you can access online. The Department of Labor will not only have information about laws and regulations, but one of its departments, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has information about prevailing wages for over 400 common occupations.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has information and a list of available training for workplace safety.

The Social Security Administration has information not only about Social Security benefits, but also has a way for you as an employer to verify the Social Security number of individuals to whom you make an offer of employment – something that helps greatly when meeting your obligation to make certain any prospective employee has the legal right to work in the United States.

Business Publications

One website that is very useful is www.bpubs.com. It is a search engine for business publications and has a category just for human-resource related articles. While it is not designed to provide pinpointed answers for specific “at the moment” questions, it is such a thorough compendium of articles that doing a focused sub-search usually gets close to the subject at hand. Further, because each article lists the author(s), it is possible that these authors could be used as sources when trying to find specific human resource experts to assist you in addressing specific situations (assuming your question isn’t answered in the article itself).

General Internet Search

As a last resort, use your search engine and see what you get. You will have to thoroughly vet anyone contacted using this method, as you will not have the advantage of inside information from a neutral (or trusted) source. When vetting someone who might be asked to provide you with good consultative advice, here are some questions you should ask:

  • Length of time in business
  • List of the credentials/biographies of the individuals who will be providing service
  • List of all current clients with contact information so you can choose who you want to contact for reference purposes
  • Local area presence (must be able to meet and do business face-to-face)
  • Provide case histories for similar matters handled giving date, situation/problem, intervention, outcome
  • Check for complaints levied by former clients (if legal, Bar Association)
  • Do a search on the firm or individual to see if any legal process/litigation or past fines pop up
  • List of all related publications authored by potential consultant, if any
  • Verify claimed degrees/education
  • Make sure the firm is financially solvent
  • Get a copy of the formal contract or business terms for an engagement and review them carefully, especially if there are advance payments
  • Get a specific list of people who will be working on your matter, their hourly rates, and the number of other cases to which they are currently assigned (helps determine how much time you will get)
  • Get an estimate of total costs once the provider has been involved in the matter for a couple of weeks

Don’t underestimate your need for good help and advice when you are confronted with a difficult and unique situation. While an ounce of prevention in terms of your HR processes is the least expensive way to reduce the likelihood of a potential problem, getting good help as soon as the gravity of the situation becomes apparent is also wise, because the right advocate might be able to stem the tide before it rises to the height of a disaster.

 

The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates.  It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.