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  • Writer's pictureLaia Sastre

SME business leverage with Kate Bacchus (HR)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

I met Kate last year at a networking event and I instantly loved how proactive and genuinely interested in people she was. Not long after, someone from my network had some issues with a team member and she instantly came to my mind. I could see then the huge value that an HR specialist can offer to small business owners facing difficulties.

HR is a challenge that many small businesses face, so I’d like to introduce you to Kate Bacchus from hr butter. Kate’s area of expertise lands at end to end HR support for SME, as well as facilitation and coaching. Based in Auckland, she works with clients in NZ and the East Coast of Australia, in person and/or online: “With my clients, I do like to have a mix of in person and virtual work, as there is really nothing like communicating face to face when we can. However, lots of work can equally be delivered via email or a phone call!”, she says.

Kate has kindly agreed to giving us tips and tricks on simplifying HR and having positive workplace communications. I hope you find it as useful as I did!

Why HR, Kate?

Rachell Allen
Kate Bacchus

I started off my work life in Hotel Management, and didn’t even know HR was a job, let alone a career. However, after a couple of years working in hotels, I realised that the aspects in my role that I was proudest of and most motivated by were focused on the development of others. For example, it was the cross-training program I’d devised or the development of a uni student with no experience to become a star receptionist, and then a duty manager. It was at this point, I transferred internally in the HR department and I went back to university to study Human Resource Management whilst working full time. HR allows me to help create awesome workplaces for people but across a mass variety of industries, which I enjoy.

What does a day in the life of hr butter look like?

It is incredibly varied, and probably involves assisting some of my larger clients on delivering their HR calendar of events and projects. This is interspersed with taking quick calls to calm the nerves of a business owner or MD when needing to have an unexpected conversation with a team member - that is when that ‘trusted advisor’ role kicks in.

Other days, I’ll be booked to deliver workshop facilitation or coaching for groups or 1 on 1 at client sites and events.

Finally, there are some days when I just work at home in my casual clothes, and also get out to enjoy a good cafe latte with people in my network and get re-energised by awesome conversation and creativity or challenge of thought!

Why did you start your own business?

I’ve been working in HR for 25+ and across a massive variety of industries from rail and roading, to viticulture, manufacturing, professional services, transport and warehousing. I had been working as the General Manager People with a portfolio across Australia and NZ during Covid, and in early 2022 I identified I needed a change.

hr butter was created and launched in July 2022, and it allows me the ability to positively influence change and help individuals and teams unlock their potential on a smaller scale where you know you’ve made a difference. I work with a massive variety of organisations, including some incredible charities, and I also get flexibility to work when and how I want and incorporate my other roles as mum and chauffeur to my kids in Auckland traffic!

How do you think your area of expertise impacts the success of small businesses?

Having the basics right, being clear on expectations and having a shared understanding of these and the ability for the owner to communicate effectively, clearly and with empathy are foundational requirements to have an engaged, motivated and committed work team. This also removes significant risk in your business in regards to employment relations.

My expertise is about making this simple for the business owners, ensuring the HR requirements are delivered and the manager or owner has a ‘trusted advisor’ onside as well!

What are the most common challenges your clients face?

Owners usually have one of two types of challenges. They are on the cusp of scaling in size, and realise that they don’t have the ‘people focused’ basics covered - and so I can come in and help with developing policies and frameworks for change, and work with the owner on developing the team or engaging and communicating with them about change.

The second type of challenge is that a business owner is passionate about their product or service, but feels challenged by knowing about and complying with employment requirements, or how to manage performance, or about how to treat and communicate with team members. This could be in terms of both employment minimums as well as how to motivate and retain team members. So I work and tailor solutions for these clients depending on their needs.

How do you support small business owners?

I often find owners can be uncertain how to tackle sensitive or challenging discussions with employees. This might look like a need to have courageous conversations or manage a workplace investigation but they are scared about getting it wrong, and so sometimes do nothing. This invariably makes situations so much worse!

Having me as part of the virtual team, means that they can proactively and effectively tackle employee challenges and work through people related challenges, opportunities and development.

My role is to act as the trusted advisor, to work with the owner and/or their team on improving understanding and confidence around excellent people management, and in creating awesome workplaces.

What are the services you offer?

I provide a variety of services and these are tailored for business. However, they fall into 3 key services:

  • Day to day HR support or HR project work

  • Workshop facilitation: developing team ways of working, supervisory skills, management skills, communication foundation, culture club

  • Coaching: working with leaders and emerging talent on their career goals and growth aspirations

One thing that small business owners could do today to leverage their success in HR this financial year?

Recognise and reward your team members

I read this stat recently that “87% of people at work have had no appreciation or recognition in the last 2 weeks!”. Think what this means on a monthly or annual basis for your team of employees; and how this impacts on their motivation, productivity, customer services and employee retention.

So I’d recommend you provide them feedback on work well done and coach when there are opportunities for improvement but also recognise the effort put in. I’d also recommend to pro-actively recognise life or work milestones, and the team or company successes in a daily way and personal to the individual.

If you need to, diarise this as an action to take!

Where you can, make reward and recognition personal and connected to the person's actions, and timely. Also, it doesn't have to be a gift - authentic and positive verbal or written recognition can be very powerful, or teamed with giving them their favourite chocolate bar, takeaway coffee order or energy drink works too! (However, be aware of different cultural or personal preferences so as not to cause offence, or just miss the mark.)

Anything else you’d like to add?

The thing is generally if we don’t do something often, we don’t hone the skills, and then it doesn’t necessarily go so well, and so we tag it with negative emotions, and don’t like doing it or do it again. It’s human nature, and we can refer to it as the ‘vicious cycle’. This can often happen with providing feedback or having courageous conversations in the workplace.

So set yourself up to have clear expectations, follow through on those, practice the feedback and provide feedback in a timely manner and suitable location. Now it’s super important, when I say practice, think about it like this if you’re giving feedback or delivering challenging news, then prepare the key points you’d like to say. Practice saying these out loud and hear yourself say the words. This action will help to embed what you’re saying, calm the nerves and give you more confidence. In turn, then you’ll be more likely to feel more comfortable in the situation and respond appropriately and so the interaction is going to go better. Then you’ll tag it with positive emotions, and be more likely to repeat and repeat and repeat!

How can people connect with you?

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