Recruiting and hiring.
Compensation and benefits.
Organizational design and development.
Compliance and employee relations.
Training and performance management.
Change management and internal communications.
The list goes on…
In today’s world of work, the areas of expertise that define HR are varied and complex. Yet, most companies are too small to employ a dedicated staff of specialists. It forces the question:
In an era of increasing specialization, how can one person successfully run an entire human resource department?
Of course, this isn’t just an academic exercise. For many HR professionals, nonstop multitasking now seems to be a way of life. Recent research by The Society For Human Resource Management suggests that there’s a widespread need to support small HR shops. According to SHRM, a majority of its 275,000 members represent HR departments of 1-5 people. They know what it means to juggle many demands on a daily basis. But how can they perform effectively?
- Dave Ryan, SPHR, Director of Human Resources at Mel-O-Cream Donuts, and
- Donna Rogers, SPHR, owner of Rogers HR Consulting, and management instructor at University of Illinois Springfield.
(Note: For details, see the highlights slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)
Context: How essential is HR, itself?
Recently, a debate has been brewing about the value of HR departments, overall. Bernard Marr questioned the need for an HR function, while Josh Bersin championed its role. Bersin emphasizes the fact that, despite a tremendous need to reskill and transform the HR function, human resources professionals help solve some of today’s most fundamental business problems. Top executives recognize the strategic role that talent plays in organizational success, and HR professionals are best equipped to define, shape and implement those strategies.
• We don’t pick up the phone and call our corporate HR team. We ARE the corporate HR team.
• We are comfortable with research and making judgment calls.
• We constantly seek out opportunities for professional development — if you’re not growing you’re dying.
Comments from the TalentCulture crowd
Because many #TChat-ters understand the challenges that multi-tasking HR generalists face each day, the vast majority of Twitter chat participants sang the praises of one-person shops. In addition, many offered thoughtful advice. For example:
A1 try to learn and understand the organization goals. Listen before speaking, so-to-speak #TChat
— Garvin Whitfield II (@HRGeneral) December 5, 2013
You know what startups need? In every department? Efficiency and accountability and results. From vendors, emps and HR #tchat
— Maren Hogan (@marenhogan) December 5, 2013
A4: I have seen power in the One Person HR one wouldn’t expect to see. Power of integrity and honesty in their relationships. #tchat
— Felix Nater (@FelixNater) December 5, 2013
a2 Don’t be so focused on cranking out new policies and procedures you forget to leave your door open & be available #tchat
— Alli Polin (@AlliPolin) December 5, 2013
— Michael VanDervort (@MikeVanDervort) December 5, 2013
A2. HR pros need the systems for self-service and clearly defined processes for using them. #TChat
— RecruitingBlogs (@RecruitingBlogs) December 5, 2013
— Amanda Sterling (@sterling_amanda) December 5, 2013
As the #TChat discussion demonstrates, solo managers don’t need to wait for industry events to connect with smart advice. Social tools make it easy to create a network of virtual resources to assist when you need it. Do you have a question about an unfamiliar subject? Tweet it with a relevant hashtag. (Try #TChat!) Post it to a LinkedIn HR discussion group. I guarantee you’ll get responses, faster than you expect.
Social tools also are useful for communication within your organization. Intranets are a great way to enable collaboration and communication at a relatively low cost. Cloud-based tools are available for internal discussions, project management, and reporting. Hiring systems and performance management solutions also offer social integration without steep IT costs. The possibilities are limited only by the time and interest HR managers invest in professional networking and research.
Above all: Aim for agility
It seems that, of all skills needed for one-person HR superheroes, the most important is agility. Put aside the notion that you can execute perfectly, across-the-board. Prioritize carefully. Then, with the time and budget available to you, apply tools and resources as efficiently as your able, while making it all seem effortless.
Scared? Don’t be. If you’re reading this, you know that a worldwide community of like-minded people is right here to support you. We’ve got your back!