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The solo HR practitioner's survival guide


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It can be a tough job, the sole HR practitioner in a small business. Embodying roles ranging from the tactical to the strategic, the HR department of one is the standalone expert on people policies. The job can be thankless and overwhelming, exhilarating and fulfilling — all in the same day.


For all of its challenges, being a one-person HR shop can be the perfect fit for those who thrive working with small businesses and seeing the impact of their work, Amy Polefrone, CEO of HR Strategy Group said. 

"In some ways, it's a ministry," she said. The most successful solo HR practitioners love taking care of employees and the management team, give themselves time to gain experience and trust, and can put out forest fires, while keeping brush fires to a minimum, Polefrone said.

Ease the recruiting and payroll load

Investing in HR technology, like an applicant tracking system (ATS) can substantially help with the recruiting process, especially if an organization recruits frequently or recruits for tough-to-fill positions. While some business owners might suggest keeping track on an Excel spreadsheet, an ATS can significantly improve how the HR manager receives, screens and tracks applications for a small monthly fee. Likewise, a solid payroll system can decrease administrative time while increasing accuracy, allowing HR to work on other projects. If investing in HR technology isn't feasible, consider outsourcing those tasks.  

Have a good understanding of employment law

It might not be possible to be an expert on every law, but it is critical to know the basics, like the Fair Labor Standards Act's classification requirements. The NFIB's Legal Guide series is a resource to use.

Develop a good relationship with your benefits broker

Use your broker as an advisor and make sure you're getting the level of service you need. Your benefits broker may be able to offer benefits you aren't aware of that can add value for employees. Use the broker as a partner to build business cases for ways to improve the employee experience that still helps control costs. 

Create processes to avoid reinventing the wheel

Save time by creating a playbook of repeatable processes such as hiring and onboarding practices and standardized job ads. Make sure application forms are updated. 

Find and hang on to a legal lifeline

Keep an HR consultant or employment attorney on speed dial for work issues requiring a trusted advisor.

Network with other HR Professionals

Join professional HR organizations — and ask your employer to pay for your membership. Participation can help you keep up with changing litigation and can be a wealth of information at the local level.

Source: HR Dive