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LAS VEGAS—Being an HR department of one is a challenging, undervalued
and often unappreciated job. But it’s interesting. And, have no doubt
that it’s important, said Lori Kleiman, SHRM-SCP, president of
consulting company HR Topics, during a June 29, 2015, concurrent session
at the Society for Human Resource Management 2015 Annual Conference
& Exposition. Kleiman, who specializes in HR for small businesses,
offered some tips to beleaguered solo HR professionals.
HR departments of one often are viewed as administrative workers. The
challenge is to change that assumption. “When executives think we’re
just administrative,” she said, “we have to remind them that we’re the
people who get their strategic action plans done.”
To stay focused on the strategic aspects of the job, be aware of, and
aligned with, your organization and its priorities, Kleiman said. And
to shed nonstrategic tasks, consider outsourcing tasks that are
process-based, like payroll. “Outsourcing can be a very strategic
decision,” she said. Some people might be wary of outsourcing, but there
should be no reluctance. “Many departments of one may be hesitant
because they fear they’ll outsource themselves out of a job,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s possible.”
Kleiman advised solo HR practitioners to become “executives” within
their organizations. In other words, be seen as a top leader. Typically,
HR is the only department that interacts extensively with all the other
departments in the company, she said, and that involvement puts HR in a
unique position to contribute as a leader. It’s also essential for HR
departments of one to “get out of your own space,” Kleiman said. Gain
valuable knowledge and experience by tapping into external connections,
such as peer-to-peer advisory groups, trusted advisers like the
company’s employment attorney, and vendors.
Vendors need to be managed, too. “Vendor management is a key
executive skill that we as a department of one truly have to develop,”
Kleiman said. Solo HR practitioners have to know specifically what
services their vendors are providing and what extra value they can
provide. Make time once a year to sit down with your vendors to review
the contracts, Kleiman said. And every three years prepare a request for
proposal to hear what competing vendors could do for you, she said.
To work smarter, not harder, HR departments of one need to prioritize
their initiatives and constantly evaluate what they’re doing and how it
can be better, she said. Publicize initiatives and strategic goals so
other people know what HR is working on. And embrace technology. There
are many technological systems available to help departments of one.
Kleiman said tech solutions that solo practitioners should have include
time-keeping systems, applicant tracking software, self-service programs
for employees and virtual personnel files.
John Scorza is associate editor of HR Magazine.
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