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How to keep from getting stressed out when you’re an HR department of one

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You may know from personal experience that being an HR department of one is challenging. But there are several things you can do to make it easier to be successful in that role.

Lori Kleiman, SPHR and SHRM-SCP, president of the consulting firm HR Topics, divided them into four categories during a presentation at the 2022 BambooHR Virtual Summit.

Use tech tools

Helpful tools Kleiman recommended for staying organized and saving time when you’re an HR department of one include:

  • Outlook reminders for important deadlines. Tip: Give yourself a cushion of a couple weeks before the hard deadline.
  • FollowUpThen, which is a free app for day-to-day email reminders like “Ask how this person’s liking their new job” or “This person is eligible for 401(k),” and
  • Calendly for appointment scheduling. “Instead of people just popping by whenever they want, let them schedule an appointment. And you can say how long you want those appointments to be,” she said.

Get help for your HR department of one

The reason you’re an HR department of one is probably a tight company budget. Consider delegating some of the more routine aspects of your job by:

  • Off-shoring tasks to freelance professionals in countries like India and the Philippines via sites like Upwork.com or Fiverr.com, which should cost less than outsourcing
  • Asking appropriate external stakeholders, such as your benefits broker, for help. For example, if an employee’s going on short-term disability leave, have the vendor email them the paperwork, or
  • Enlisting interns. “Contact your local community college or local four-year college (or) your local job placement agencies and see if you can’t find an intern who can come and work for you to get some things done,” Kleiman said.

Demonstrate leadership to your team

Remember, not only are you the one that’s in charge of HR, you’re one of your organization’s leaders. To reinforce that with your employees, Kleiman said to:

  • Stay current with your HR knowledge (HRMorning‘s got you covered there) and the business news that’s impacting your industry. And because you’re an HR department of one, you don’t have time to read all the latest best-selling business books. Kleiman recommended checking out their summaries at Summary.com.
  • Keep your goals and deliverables specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and timely. “Make sure, wherever you can, under-promise and over-deliver,” she added.

Communicate effectively

Effective communication is crucial to being a good leader. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Whether it’s in-person or in an email, strive to use plain language and strong action words, and be careful not to use too many acronyms. (e.g., Not everyone knows what FMLA stands for.)
  • When making a business case for something you want, connect it to the things that your CEO and CFO care about, tell how it benefits the company, back it up with data points, provide a cost estimate, outline a plan of action, and then ask if it’s OK to move forward.
  • If you’re going to mention metrics, make sure they’re relevant to the stakeholders in the room.

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