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12 Pieces of Advice For an HR Team of 1

By Erika Rahman
Image of headshots of the various contributors to this blog post.

What's the best piece of advice you would offer to an HR team of 1?

To help you succeed as a small HR team, we asked HR professionals and business leaders this question for their best insights. From empowering managers to asking for help, there are several pieces of advice that may help you feel more supported and succeed as the HR lead at your company!

Empower Managers

Single-person HR teams are doomed to a life of administrivia unless they are able to negotiate a reasonable service level agreement with managers. This begins by outlining the services you can and cannot provide given current budget and then obtaining agreement from leadership. There will always be one-off “emergencies” but having a contract of sorts to reference will help keep you focused on the most important aspects of your role while empowering manager to take on those items that are truly part of their purview.

Tim Toterhi, Plotline Leadership

Have a Vision

As a solo HR manager, it’s important to keep what you want to accomplish in mind. Take time to dive in and research what you can make possible with the resources you have. Utilize networking events to meet other HR professionals and learn from them to help craft your vision. whether it be developing a positive company culture or a strong, communicative team. When you’re the sole HR professional in your company, it’s important that you become your own expert in your area and to stick to what you want to achieve.

Jacob Dayan, Community Tax

Recognize Signs of Burnout Early On

image with text - it's important to be mindful and not only recognize signs of burnout but plan well in advance to mitigate its impact on your health and productivity.

Being a one-man team and juggling numerous responsibilities comes with its fair share of challenges, which can often lead to high-stress levels and symptoms of burnout. For this reason, it's important to be mindful and not only recognize signs of burnout but plan well in advance to mitigate its impact on your health and productivity. This includes creating streamlined processes that are easy to stick to, checking in with yourself on a regular basis, and learning how to unplug from work when the time comes.

Harry Morton, Lower Street

Serve From a Full Cup

We keep hearing that we should "put our own mask on first" when it comes to taking care of ourselves as HR leaders. After all, we can't help our people if we're burned out and stressed.

But the connotation of that is that we are merely trying to survive. The metaphor I prefer is to serve from a full cup--we can't serve others if our own cup is empty. This simple shift helps to reframe the work we have the privilege to do as HR professionals and also helps to remind us that we need to pour into ourselves before we can pour into others.

Ben Eubanks, Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Automate the Hiring Process

The best advice to an HR team of one is to automate the hiring process in order to make things easy and quick. Using automation tools can make the HR process easy and streamlined for small businesses or companies that have only a single HR member. These applications can come up with algorithms that can tell which hiring practices have been successful in the past. It is used to learn what types of communication will appeal to specific candidates and discover good leads in surprising places.

Azza Shahid, Physicians Thrive

Stay Up to Date

The best piece of advice I would offer to an HR team of 1 is to always stay up-to-date on the latest changes in employment law and to never stop learning. Employment law is constantly changing, so it's important to be diligent in reading and understanding new updates. Additionally, it's helpful to seek out training and education opportunities related to HR so that you can stay current on the latest trends and best practices.

Claire Westbrook, LSAT Prep Hero

Networking is Essential

If you serve as the one and only HR representative for your company, you will find the most success by building a strong network of HR professionals within and beyond your local community. These individuals will be a valuable resource as you navigate daily HR operations, whether you are searching for the answer to an HR-related question or are feeling overwhelmed by on-going work demands. The key is to find other HR professionals in the field that can assist you with questions related to your region or industry, whether on LinkedIn, SHRM, or another professional networking site.

Brett Estep, Insured Nomads

Keep Yourself in Check and Continue to Learn

As an HR department of one, you don't have another HR person around to tell you that you're wrong, so you have to hold yourself accountable. You need to keep reading articles and attending webinars for HR professionals so you are always giving the most up-to-date answers and practicing HR at the highest level.

image with text - Keep yourself in check and don't get too stuck in your ways or you'll miss opportunities to get better at your job.

Also, networking with other HR professionals can be very helpful so you have someone to reach out to when you are unsure about something. Keep yourself in check and don't get too stuck in your ways or you'll miss opportunities to get better at your job.

Suzanne Crest, Eos HR Consulting

Use Hr Apps and Platforms

HR apps and platforms are not just great add-ons but essentials to the lone HR employee. A single HR executive can only perform well by addressing every need, concern, and demand made from an HR perspective. Thankfully, apps and platforms have all these details covered already. With these solutions on their side, HR executives can deliver results that are quick, correct, and thorough and meet regulations.

Krista Haws, Dripped Coffee

Boost Productivity with the Four Quadrants of Time Management Method

image with text - Focus on that which is most important and yields the most ROI.

Focus on that which is most important and yields the most ROI. The famous Four Quadrants of Time Management are a wonderful tool to do just that. Ideally, you want to be spending most of your time on the tasks that are most urgent and important (i.e. Quadrant I). This is where the company's most pressing needs (for example recruitment for key positions) are and should occupy the most of your attention and time.

All other non-essential and nice-to-have tasks and projects should be secondary. Therefore if you're a team of 1, look to make a bold and wise decision as to what constitutes an actual priority and where can your work have the greatest impact for the company.

Peter Bryla, Zety

Discover the Why

Encourage managers to conduct stay interviews with their people spontaneously and often. Help them discover WHY their people choose to be at your organization, and then align their motivations with your business needs. You’ll save time and money by reducing unnecessary turnover in the long run and create a world-class culture while you do it!

Ryan Lambert, Adobe

Ask for Help

Being an HR team of one can be extremely stressful and that is why it's important for those individuals to remember that it is okay to ask (and expect) help from other departments. It is the job of all leaders (managers and executives) to ensure that they are supporting the goals of the HR team so, getting their support to help leverage some of the work is completely understandable.

For example, you can ask your performance managers to deal with raise requests and other reviews because they are already having a weekly meeting with employees one-on-one anyways. If your colleagues are not able to do this, consider getting support from outside vendors and connecting with other HR professionals who have been in your position before.

Bryan Philips, In Motion Marketing

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