Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A forward-thinking business owner from Illinois called me the other day to talk about the current success of her company and by extension, possible paths that her human resources program should take to underscore desired sustainable results. Hallelujah! The prescient owner views human resources as a capitalistic asset rather than as merely administrative function focused solely on legal compliance!

During our enriched discussion, the owner documented historical human resources achievements, while at the same time commenting on the sense of being overwhelmed by the daunting number of additional human resources initiatives to be adopted going forward. Trust me: I readily acknowledge her tsunami sense of concern, allocating available resources, and project prioritization. There’s always more to do.

I purposefully wandered into the next dimension with her. Without provocation, I inquired if she would ever consider selling her company, if the price and timing were right. All together now: “Yes.” Then I childishly asked, if she wanted to sell her company for more or less money. All together now: “More!” From that foundation, I suggested that we put her company on a two-year plan to optimize the company’s human resources program, as if she was really going to sell her company at the end of that two-year timeframe. That timeframe, replete with the presumed pot of gold at its end, intimately shifts the focus of completing human resources tasks from “we’ll get to them, when we get to them,” to let “let’s get them done to add measurable value to the company,” as judged by the hypothetical selling price.

She said “Yes.” We now had a challenging timetable to get human resources done right, and right away!

To date, the company had completed its I-9 audit, internal OSHA review, and file management examination, as well as its annual employee handbook, job descriptions with tandem performance appraisal forms, salary scales, organizational chart, and staffing program. While those fundamentals are in place, they are not complacent. On the contrary, each of them must be maintained on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis to maintain ongoing value. When considering selling a company, we must never lose any value we created.

Anticipating inevitable due diligence inquiry from the hypothetical buyer in two short years, we discussed a spate of audit procedures to confirm programmatic strengths, identify weaknesses, and reconceptualize improvements in a value-added mindset. The basic list of formal audits included: wage and hour, human resources, timekeeping, independent contractor, Americans with Disabilities Act, workers’ compensation, records retention, a mock OSHA safety review, emergency preparation, and sale/acquisition features.

Functionally, given the stability of her company culture, and legally-compliant employment application and pre-employment skills assessment, we agreed that attention must be devoted to increase the value of her company New Employee Orientation Program and On-boarding plans (i.e., enhanced employee retention). Moreover, the performance management system had to be leveraged through more systematic employee reviews, supervisory performance appraisal training, an 18-month organizational chart, and regularly-scheduled one-on-one meetings, Foremen pulse meetings, and rewards and recognition ceremonies.

Built upon the performance management emphasis, significant effort would be assigned to developing various formal field training certification programs (e.g., Construction Laborer, Construction Foremen, Irrigation Technician), with resources also devoted to often-forgotten management development programs (e.g., supervisory skills, leadership, customer service, project management, and interpersonal skills).

Procedurally speaking, a litany of standard operating procedures would also be constructed to drive performance accountability (e.g., installing backflows, creating sales proposals, installing pavers, conducting employee terminations, programming controllers, materials purchasing).

In sum, instead of merely viewing human resources as a placid administrative necessity, when reinterpreted as a determinant of anticipated monetized value, bound by an absolute timeline, a company, led by an ambitious owner, can substantively redefine human resources as a noteworthy investment capable of achieving sizable dividends that otherwise would have been left unrealized, when they are needed most.

Have you ever thought about selling your company? If so, what’s your HR plan for the next couple of years?

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.