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What am I supposed to do as an HR Department of One? Help!

Updated: Apr 25

Being understaffed, underfunded, and under-understood is not a new game for HR folks. But there is a particularly vulnerable version of HR departments that tends to spring up in smaller and midsize companies: the HR department of one.

If this is you – or a colleague – we see you, and we recognize you. Read on to learn how you can maximize your support.

When the Helpers Step Up…

It’s a familiar story that takes a few different forms. Your smaller company needs to hire more employees. You’ve worked there for awhile, so your overextended boss asks if you can develop a hiring process for them. Or a midsize company starts to offer health insurance for the first time, and you sign on with your newly minted Bachelor’s in HR. Maybe an HR manager leaves, and their assistant takes on all the responsibilities of the department.

One way or another, you ended up here: an HR department of one.

You likely feel saddled by one or more of these thoughts on a regular basis:

  • “I’m not being compensated enough for what I’m doing.”

  • “It’s concerning how inexperienced I am and how my mistakes could cost the company so much money – or worse.”

  • “My Imposter Syndrome is giving me hives.”

  • “I’m overwhelmed and have no one to bounce ideas or brainstorm solutions with.”

  • “It’s hard to stay organized when I have so much to do.”

  • “I feel that our company is overstaffed for having such a small HR department… Is this even legal?”

  • “I don’t feel understood by the higher-ups. I’m always fighting tooth and nail for the support I need.”

I’m sure you can expand the list. The bottom line is: you need support and resources. But while you might not find that in the office next door, you can reach outside of your organization to find tools to make your life easier.

Resource #1: SHRM Is Your Best Friend

If you don’t already know about the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), this is your first stop. Anyone working in the HR industry, including students studying it, can become a SHRM member. Membership benefits include access to a suite of resources. To name a few:

  • Compliance training materials (i.e. customizable powerpoint presentations)

  • How-to guides

  • Sample policies, interview questions, and job descriptions to help you model your own

  • “Ask an Advisor” service – chat up a more experienced HR professional with your struggles and questions

  • Printed HR materials for your office

  • Conferences and seminars to grow your knowledge base, confidence, and network

You can also join your local chapter of SHRM, which will give you access to a group of friendly HR colleagues in town – whether you need to compare harassment report protocols or just blow off some steam at the end of the week.