4 Steps for Excelling as an HR Department of One

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What’s it like to be an HR department
of one? Imagine being saddled with dozens of administrative tasks but also
expected to weigh in on high-level organizational decisions, often without
receiving the recognition you think you deserve.

“When I talk to [solo
practitioners] … I hear them saying that their job is important and interesting,
and most of them feel like a go-to resource,” said Lori Kleiman, SHRM-SCP,
president of the consulting firm HR Topics. “But at the same time, the job
is incredibly challenging, and they feel horribly underrepresented at the
senior leadership table.”

The good news is that “your CEOs
want you to be in strategic positions,” Kleiman said, citing recent
research on how top executives view those in solo HR functions.

But that means it’s up to HR to
offload the administrative functions that tend to gobble up their time.
“No one is sending you an engraved invitation [to be a leader],”
Kleiman said. She shared the following four tips for managing it all at a June
21 session at the SHRM 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition.

1. Get strategic. 

Start by identifying your career
goals. “Know what your corporate strategy is, but also know what your
personal strategy is,” Kleiman said.

“You don’t all have to be
promoted,” she said. “If you don’t want [to advance], own that and
accept it and wear it like a badge of honor. Give yourself permission to be
happy being the HR coordinator … if that’s what you want to be.”

At the same time, realize that if
what you want from your job isn’t what your company wants from you, it’s
probably time to make a change. “Make sure your own strategic plan is
aligned with what your organization wants." 

A good way to understand your
company’s strategy is by working closely with its top leader. "You have
got to know where your CEO’s head is at all times,” Kleiman said. Learn
from your CEO what drives the business. Is your organization primarily
motivated by profit? New product development? Being the industry leader?

It’s also important to showcase your
strategic focus. Office whiteboards can be a good tool for doing that, Kleiman
said. She asked those in the audience if they used them and while many did,
most did so only to track administrative to-dos. Instead, Kleiman recommended
using whiteboards to write down high-level initiatives and yearly goals.

“That’s what you want your
whiteboard to show [so other leaders] will understand your concentration is not
[just] on payroll. The big messaging … is that ‘I work on big-deal stuff.’

2. Set priorities to get results.

Be ruthless in prioritizing.
“We are constantly in a tug of war between our employees and the strategic
expectations in the business unit,” she said. “We cannot solve
everybody’s problem.”

She encouraged departments of one to
provide workers with do-it-yourself alternatives. “I don’t have to tell
you all about the joys of picking a menu for a company holiday party,” she
joked, describing the complaints some employees will make about virtually any
selection. 

She noted that, at the SHRM Annual
Conference, “if [attendees] do not like the lunch being served, they can
go get their own lunch. Your employees have that same choice.”

Also recognize the limits of your
time. If you’re running reports that no one seems to use, discontinue them and
see if anyone notices. Or, better yet, quickly summarize the report’s relevance
for top leaders. Say “I looked at the report, and we are red, green or
yellow,” Kleiman advised. “Be the executive to analyze the
data.”

3. Manage your vendors.

While many solo practitioners fear
that relying on outside partners will render their jobs unnecessary, doing so
can actually enhance their value. “One of the most strategic things we can
do as HR departments of one is outsource,” Kleiman said. “The biggest
timesaver is to get payroll out of house.”

Yet as helpful as vendors are, they
don’t manage themselves. It’s up to HR to fully understand their capabilities,
set up clear expectations, continually ask what new services are available and
stay on top of the competition. Kleiman suggested conducting a new request for
proposal every three years.

4. Embrace technology. 

Keeping up with technology is
essential as well. “These days, this goes way beyond just knowing how to
use a computer,” she said. “The way we did things even two years ago
is not necessarily the best way to do them today.”

One of her top recommendations is
adopting bring-your-own-device policies. Despite the ubiquity of smartphones
and tablets, only about 10 percent of the solo practitioners with whom Kleiman
works have arrangements in place to allow people to work on their personal
devices.

“There is a 16 percent increase,
even at work, of people accessing information on mobile devices,” Kleiman
said. And, perhaps surprisingly, usage is growing fastest among those ages 55
to 64.

There are also myriad ways technology
can be leveraged to create efficiencies. For example, use Outlook to schedule
recurring compliance deadlines, Kleiman suggested, and show employees how to
handle administrative tasks on their own using self-service platforms.

“My biggest tech tip: Give a man
a health care ID card, he has it for the day; teach a man to print his own ID
card, he has it for life.”

Here at Converge HR Solutions, we specialize in all your HR
outsourcing needs and can help you take your HR department of one to the next
level. We’ll handle it all for you: audits and
assessments, handbooks and policies, compliance, talent development, employee
compensation, and more. We design, develop, and implement everything within the
structure of a collaborative and responsive relationship with you. For
more information, visit our website at https://convergehrsolutions.com/ or directly at info@convergehrsolutions.com or 610-296-8550.

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