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I’m a Star Trek fan. Today it’s more about nostalgia and sharing with my children. In the Star Trek Next Generation series, a villain was introduced called The Borg. For those who don't know or remember, these were cyborgs who forcibly assimilated other cultures and lifeforms into their “collective” and are famous for catchphrases like, “you must comply,” and “resistance is futile.”

Many business leaders, regardless of company size, feel as though we are being attacked by The Borg when it comes to government agencies forcibly assimilating us to comply with a myriad of regulations at different stages in our business lifecycle. Whether you have been recently acquired by a public company, or you are a small grower or landscaper being chased down by the EEOC, OSHA and DOL to comply with a never-ending list of employment laws, in the end we all must comply. Resistance is futile and can mean the death of our business if we try.

Whether you are an owner, manager or executive, there are many things you’re really good at. As entrepreneurs, the agile way you pursue business growth can be far more thrilling than trudging slowly through a rising mound of compliance hurdles as your business hits 5, 25, 50 and even 100 employees or more. But the journey doesn’t need to be so daunting. Many of us typically, take the approach of, “Fine, I'll comply, just show me what I have to do.” It’s the affordability of the HR compliance solutions in the face of so many other competing costs, that concern us.

Compliance solutions for small businesses

Rest assured, there are many affordable compliance solutions specifically designed to assist smaller-sized businesses. I recently spoke with four people whose companies that do exactly that, and here are their suggestions and recommendations, many of which may surprise you.

Many companies hire a single person (HR Generalist) and expect them to know it all and get it all done. Unfortunately, there are so many elements that just hiring an HR Generalist to do everything is exactly where the strategic partnership between HR and the business breaks down. Hiring an HR Generalist is a good first step, but they need support with the numerous elements of compliance that will help them guide management in making the best strategic business decisions.

Solutions often begin with a single identified need, such as payroll or employee file maintenance. At first glance it appears to be something that can be completed by one person. However, just like many other operational, financial or sales solutions, reacting to each issue one at a time is like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. Solutions should be part of a strategic plan, thoughtfully laid out in stages to meet goals for growth. The solution should scale with business growth, otherwise it likely will be obsolete in a year or less.

The horticulture industry is at risk in areas such as: Learning & Development; Employee File Maintenance (everything from record retention and organization, to access controls, and I-9 compliance); OSHA (safety programs, MSDS sheets, and enterprise risk); and Wage & Hour compliance (timeclock, payroll and FLSA management). Business leaders often look to HR for an out-of-the-box (OTB) Human Resources Information System (HRIS), but this can be an expensive solution, eating up HR’s time and keeping them from strategic initiatives. A better starting place is with an Administrative Services Organization (ASO), which provides cost-effective services for pennies on the dollar compared to OTB solutions and the cost of building out an entire HR team.

“The cost of an HRIS tool for a small business is relatively inexpensive. The investment in the software is an annual cost and a fraction of what the whole program costs. The benefit of using an ASO is that it will cost you less than hiring a full-time employee and the expertise provided by an ASO is better 99 times out of 100 than when you hire an HR Generalist,” according to Tom Quinlan, VP of sales for emphasisHR, an ASO that takes a holistic approach to helping clients build workplaces where people and businesses thrive.

The cost-effective nature of an ASO is reinforced by Andrea Brummett, head of both the Pabulum Group and reddeHR, consulting that caters to the small- to medium-sized businesses.

“Starting at just $69/month, Bamboo HR is a system recommended for businesses with less sophistication needing a simple solution and not a whole lot of reporting. For organizations with high regulation and needing more data reporting, deeper service support, digitizing of hard-copy documents, and thorough employee file maintenance, reddeHR is extremely cost effective with pricing starting as little as $50 per employee per month,” she says.

It is always best to leverage existing systems. This may require breaking down the silos between departments and utilizing the full knowledge, skills and abilities of those you employ to build out robust Excel workbooks, Access databases and make the most effective use of SharePoint to retain digital files. Digitizing files is a critical element given the dangers of weather, storage space and the sheer volume and speed of business today.

Hyland, best known for their industry-leading software OnBase, provides robust content management tools that save HR departments time and money, ensuring records are securely and safely archived, retained and destroyed as required. Hyland’s solutions bring efficiencies to operations while reducing administrative headaches and providing a clear picture of the necessary daily business decisions. It helps you strategize on how best to handle and respond to business challenges. Hyland is able to scale with your business as it grows from a small to medium and even large business. Pricing varies depending on solution and scope.

Leveraging existing systems and/or records management are great starting places, but perhaps you need more, like a targeted approach to OSHA compliance due to the nature of your business.

Steve Yates, CEO of Optimum Safety Management, provides OSHA compliance safety management solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses nationwide. There are various levels their organization can provide up to an entire Enterprise Risk Assessment (ERA). A good entry point for businesses at risk for OSHA violations is their Learning Management System (LMS). With a setup cost of just $3,000 and affordable annual maintenance costs, they will manage the entire site, freeing you and your team to focus on your business. They develop industry-targeted compliance and OSHA-specific training that can be used throughout the year. These short but effective weekly training modules can be shared with each shift and have been integral at reducing workplace injuries and lowering Workers Compensation.

“Hiring a full-time safety person in many small to medium sized companies is not always cost effective,” Yates says. “Bringing an expert in who can help get systems up and running quickly is usually your best bet. Someone who does this day in and day out is the best place to go. You have to get real before you get good.”

Whether your business needs a simple solution already present in your current systems, or something more robust and complex to handle all of your HR compliance needs, know that the solutions today are not nearly as expensive as you may think. The costs and penalties of violations are far more expensive. It’s the law. You must comply. Resistance is futile.

Michael Maggiotto Jr, PHR, SHRM-SCP is a Sr. Human Capital Advisor at BEST Human Capital & Advisory group and leads the human resources advisory services as well as providing retained executive search. He developed the firm’s WR2 HR Analysis designed to identify the Wins, Risks, and Remedies for horticulture and other niche industry companies.