Control Your Controllables: HR Pro Teresa Miele leads with clarity and kindness
3 minute read

What if the job candidate ghosted the interview? Or your employee was late for the third day in a row. Even worse, your office manager left the customer hanging with no follow up…again. Although these scenarios sound disheartening for the small business owner, there are resources available to achieve more positive outcomes. Human Resources professional Teresa Miele has helped clients face and manage those challenges, and many more.

VtSBDC has called upon Teresa to provide the advising team with valuable tools to share with their clients who are experiencing HR dilemmas or who want to enhance their leadership skills in managing one or more employees. Her business, HR Acquired, LLC delivers customized solutions to businesses and takes the “guess work” out of human resources.  A lifelong Vermonter with 25+ years of human resource experience, Teresa is strategically positioned to work primarily with small and medium sized businesses.  Her practical approach allows for ease in understanding and implementing practices that are of benefit to both employer and employee.

The Starting Point had the opportunity to meet with Teresa to discuss the most pressing HR issues affecting Vermont’s small business community. Among the top challenges, recruitment and retention were foremost on Teresa’s mind when we spoke. To be most effective, Teresa explains, business owners can benefit from focusing on leadership, clarity, and kindness.

In Teresa’s own words: 

My training in education provided a natural segue to human resources. I learned how to be a mentor and how to lead with kindness and compassion. With experience, I began to appreciate how important HR is to running a business. Since I love working with people, my passion became my profession.

Then in 2015, a traumatic event brought my HR career to a new threshold. I

was the Human Resources Manager at Rutland Plywood Corporation when a catastrophic fire burned the business to the ground. This disaster required me to use all my knowledge, skills, and abilities to support employees through this tragedy and the loss of their jobs.  It was one of the most difficult and eye-opening experiences in my career, a chapter that led to my decision to start my own company.

While we managed to rebuild payroll and make sure that every paycheck was issued for all 170 employees, I also learned the importance of community. Our community resources stepped up to help, providing unemployment assistance, volunteer legal advising, and more. This traumatic event made me value the importance of HR to an even greater degree.

Today I say that I work with “people and paper,” based on whatever the client needs for their individual situation. This may sound surprising, but one of the most important things I do is to comfort clients, reassuring them that they are not the only ones in their situation, and they are not alone. Because HR can be so complex, I let them know that we can solve problems together. With so many regulations, companies interested in “outcomes” and “deliverables” have peace of mind knowing that they are meeting their compliance requirements. I encourage clients to “control your controllables” by putting processes in place and being consistent.

Whether as a result or a by-product of the pandemic, a predominant concern right now is recruitment and retention. People are not showing up for interviews, not responding to emails, and not demonstrating the kind of behaviors suitable for an employee. These are difficult situations, but I encourage my clients to be persistent and to maintain their standards. Some of my recommendations include:

  • Reevaluate the job description
  • Consider how you market to potential employees and perhaps make some changes
  • Establish a workplace where people want to work
  • Take a leadership position where you don’t “settle,” and you hold people accountable

The bottom line is that it is counterproductive to allow bad behavior. Employers can learn how to train their employees, and how to have the serious conversations to ensure quality, safety, and productivity. Ask yourself, “How can I do a better job supporting my people?”

I work with my clients to help them frame their expectations and provide them with tools to reinforce positive behaviors, suggesting improvements where they are needed. Instead of being frustrated, they have an opportunity to be a role model by demonstrating how kindness, graciousness, and courtesy lead to a safe, happy, productive work environment. My goal is to be supportive of my clients and to teach them how to lead with conviction and kindness. There are key pieces that people can learn and practice to establish the workplace they envision.

It is so rewarding to see my clients learn and grow, cultivating their employees, and building their businesses. I have loved every minute of it.

Have questions about HR in your small business? VtSBDC can help.

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