How to Be an Amazing HR Department of One

The human resources department is one of the most vital parts of any organization. Its responsibilities are also some of the most varied you can expect to see: hiring and training, filing paperwork, listening to employees, employee engagement, performance and talent development, total reward, keeping the company in compliance, and often managing payroll. But what happens when all these responsibilities fall on one person?

Ideally, there should be 1.4 HR professionals for every 100 employees, but this isn’t always the case. And as you know, running an HR department of one can be an incredibly difficult task — but not an impossible one. To succeed, you’ll need to master time management, delegation, and other powerful techniques to ensure you don’t miss a beat and effectively run your department.

With that in mind, here are several tips for becoming an amazing HR department of one.

5 Ways to Thrive as an HR Department of One

While you may have an excessive workload in your lonely role, the good news is that you have more control over your workflow than you might think. Here are 5 tips to start you off on the road to becoming a more successful HR department of one:

1. Build Relationships

Building relationships with your coworkers requires time you don’t think you have, but it’s in many of these impromptu discussions that you’ll notice various issues that may escalate into problems further down the road — problems that require significantly more time to resolve. Additionally, when your coworkers feel more comfortable talking to you, it’ll be easier to handle future issues. 

When you build relationships across all levels of the organization, you foster a sense of trust that empowers you to be an influencer within the organization, allowing you to gain buy-on from others on the HR agenda. It’s especially difficult as an HR department of one to spearhead initiatives without the buy-in from upper leadership, as you’ll need them to adhere to policies and best practices, participate in the employee listening process, and partner with you on HR initiatives and change that occurs across the organization.

Outside of your company, reach out to other HR professionals in your industry. Doing so can help you stay fresh on workplace trends and best practices, improving your skills and empowering you to be more efficient with your time.

2. Manage Your Time

After talking with your coworkers, start thinking about what’s working and what isn’t, and develop a strategy for updating your policies and procedures. Get specific and populate your calendar with action items, rather than vague goals. Consider the time-chunking strategy, so you can focus on each action item at a time, and build a project plan for those larger initiatives, such as rolling out a new performance management plan.

As a good rule of thumb, you’ll want to prioritize the goals that will have the greatest positive impact on your organization. But you also shouldn’t forget to set aside blocks on your calendar to account for time-sensitive issues that walk through your door.

3. Educate and Delegate

Tedious questions about pay or minor policies can often take away your precious time. But usually, such matters can be quickly answered by managers and team leaders. To this end, consider hosting lunch-and-learns, where you can either educate managers or employees en masse regarding minor issues or common misconceptions or FAQs. This one hour could save you countless others down the road.

When it comes to delegating, keep in mind that you won’t always be able to pawn off some tasks onto other teams or individuals, but you should look to do so wherever appropriate. This might look like coaching managers to better handle workplace conflicts so they can resolve them before they escalate to HR. 

As another example, if your schedule is bogged down by scheduling interviews and reviewing résumés, this workflow can often be shifted away from HR so that you’re focused on other areas of the hiring process. 

4. Communicate

As an HR department of one, you may feel like an island (or for that matter, a sinking ship). But it may come as a surprise to hear that your company executives likely don’t have any idea how difficult you have it. This means you can sometimes relieve your overburdened workload by simply communicating your grievances.

When communicating your needs, try to speak the executive’s language by focusing on business benefits. For example, you might explain that your organization risks losing out on high-quality talent to other companies with larger HR teams that can move faster. Consider tying HR initiatives, such as hiring or employee engagement, to financial numbers to help executives better understand financial risk or reward. 

This is a perfect time to leverage those influencing skills, developed by the strong relationships you build with upper leadership, to also help them understand how HR initiatives impact their individual business areas. As an example, if you’re looking for support for the VP of Engineering to get a bigger budget for hiring advertisements, explain how other competitors are acquiring software engineers and explain how this budget can better improve the quality of engineering talent. By connecting your pain points to the company’s, you’ll find getting the support you need much easier.

5. Automate

It’s not uncommon for HR professionals to be weighed down by ineffective tools — or worse, paper documentation procedures that haven’t evolved in decades. This is especially true in small businesses, where funds are spent sparingly and often earmarked for departments that the CEO deems most profitable.

But when you can take advantage of modern technology to dramatically free up your time, you should make every effort to do so. Whether it’s having access to a living database of common HR forms and documents or a chatbot that answers your questions about compliance and regulations, you can reclaim your workday and become exponentially more efficient.

Get the Technology Help You Need

VirgilHR can significantly ease the challenges of being an HR department of one by providing a chatbot that provides instant legal guidance, a vast array of helpful resources, an employee handbook builder, a compliance library, and other tools to make your life easier. To help HR department of ones get easy access to the tool, VirgilHR offers pricing starting at $49/month.And to celebrate Small Business Saturday, we’re giving single-person HR departments a chance to win a 12-month license to VirgilHR. Learn more or request a demo today!