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Burdened with too many tasks?

Outsourcing HR can free you up to grow your c/gas business.
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Juggling multiple responsibilities such as recruiting employees, processing payroll, and following evolving government regulations can be a heavy lift. So, it’s not surprising that c-store and gas operators find it challenging to run their business while dealing with the complexities of human resources. But with the average annual salary for a full-time HR director hovering north of $115,000, according to Glass Door, most small and medium-sized businesses end up shouldering the load.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options to outsource or automate most HR operations, saving you money, time, and resources you can then apply elsewhere. Depending on your pain points and the size of your business, an outside HR expert can take over things like benefits administration, time tracking, performance management, accounting and staff training. You can also delegate more complex tasks including policy development, compliance management and labour law issues.

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Getting some relief

In the six years since Susan Jensen has owned Duchess Station in Duchess, Alta., she became tired of trying to understand evolving governmental regulations and tracking down paperwork.

“Because we're an independent, we don't have the backing of a department or people who focus on those sorts of things, and I don't have the expertise or the interest in it,” explains Jensen, who has 10 part-time employees.

Instead, she bought some peace of mind: About two years ago, Jensen hired a local company, HR Covered, to handle tasks she was eager to offload. 

“They monitor what the government's doing, and I get a newsletter to see what's new in Alberta, and then they take care of all the compliance and policy stuff. For example, when Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis wanted a tobacco policy, we got a policy for tobacco,” recalls Jensen.

[Read more: "Alberta Retailers Coalition calls on Minister to address contraband tobacco"]

“When I want to hire a new person, I send them that person's email and they send out what they need, like the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. Employees do the courses online, so I don't have to worry about it. If I have any issues or need to fire anybody, I have a designated representative to say, ‘Here's what you need to do.’”

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Shrinking your to-do list

Outsourcing HR allows c-store and gas operators to improve and streamline their processes while mitigating risk, says Wendy Giuffre, CPHR, president of Wendy Ellen Inc. in Calgary. That usually begins with creating a basic HR infrastructure that includes a set of policies.

“Typically, a business will have a code of conduct and code of ethics with things like vacation policies, leave of absence policies, hours of work, overtime,” explains Giuffre, who is the co-author of The Only HR Best Practice You’ll Ever Need.

“We look after the nuts and bolts of everything, whether it's performance management around setting goals or providing feedback. We have some clients where we do everything from running their payrolls, benefits and administration, to onboarding. We often implement a basic HR information system where all the information is held electronically at everybody's fingertips.” 

Giuffre’s team can also help with crisis management. Their licensed investigators can step in if there’s an incident of harassment or violence, she adds.

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A chance to focus on strategic planning and growth

“As a business owner, you need to be out there, working on your business, not working in your business,” advises Tanya Sieliakus, CEO and founder of HR pros Inc. in Halifax. 

“While franchises often provide paper support, it doesn't often translate into tactical support for franchise owners.”

To alleviate some of that stress, outsourced HR pros can build tools and processes that educate small business owners about everything from recruitment to employee onboarding and management so they can replicate the experience and apply best practices, says Sieliakus, who encourages small business owners to think about HR as a system custom-built for them.

“It will be simple, easily managed and easily administered. We will train you how to use it, and then hopefully when you call us, it'll be for something else so that you can spend your time as the face of your business, growing your business,” she says.

Do your homework to find the right provider

Before hiring an HR outsourcing firm or purchasing software solutions, think about the internal operations you need taken care of and research options online, suggests Giuffre. Some of the things to inquire about include whether an external HR company has industry-specific knowledge that applies to your business, whether they offer onsite assistance, online support or both, and how they plan to create processes that meet your needs.

Check references and read online reviews to get a better idea if a third-party provider is right for you and see if they’re open to a pilot project to assess the fit. You’ll also want to verify the terms to see if you’ll be locked into a contract, can access à la carte services or get a bundled monthly package with the services you require.

There are also many cloud-based HR solutions c-store operators can lean on for everything from talent management and performance reviews to risk-management support and policy compliance—including Folks HRCangaroo, Matchr and HRdownloads. An HR consultant can help you decide on the best fit and thanks to their networks they can probably find you the best deal, too.

“Look at what your need is and then match the services. From there, it's price and fit,” says Giuffre

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There are different pricing models

Because many HR outsourcing services base their fees on a client’s needs and number of employees, costs can vary widely. However, most consultants offer project-based rates, monthly retainers or multi-year contracts.

Giuffre says a standard set of policies costs about $2,500. With a retainer package, she includes an offer letter and onboarding process, which would otherwise cost $350.

“We also have a subscription service where you get access to online templates you complete to suit your business, plus up to five hours of complimentary consulting a month,” she adds.

“Our templates are updated to reflect provincial and federal legislative changes. For businesses with 15 people or less, that's a good solution.”

Sieliakus offers similar packages, plus a project-based rate, a small business rate, a discounted not-for-profit rate and a mid-size and government rate.

“Our small business rate is $150 to $160 an hour,” she notes.

For many c-stores, bringing in an expert that can jump right in and provide top-notch help can streamline business operations, reduce the risk of compliance issues and fast-track onboarding so new employees can quickly get up to speed—a sound investment for sure.

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