#Nextchat: Stepping Into Your Role as an HR Department of One


At many small companies and startups, the human resources department consists of one person – a “generalist” who must do it all. These HR professionals – also known as an “HR Department of One” or “HR DOO” – must handle every HR function for the entire organization including recruiting, onboarding, training, compensation, benefits, employee relations, compliance, technology and analytics.

HR Departments of One share many challenges – the biggest being time management – and the overwhelming amounts of administrivia can hinder their ability to focus on strategy.   

When an HR DOO steps into a new role and organization, a thoughtful plan for a smooth transition is key to success. There are three building blocks upon which a DOO can establish a solid foundation:

  • Understand the business
  • Build relationships  
  • Set the tone

In her blog post Stepping into a New HR Role? Do This First, HR small business and outplacement consultant Sabrina Baker says:

“From day one you demonstrate to people how they can treat you by what you will accept. If you accept your CEO leaving you out of crucial conversations that should involve HR, they will continue to do so. If you accept rogue leaders making decisions that put the company in legal risk, they will continue to do so. If you accept employees never finding anything on their own and asking you for every form and phone number, they will continue to do so.

“I’m not suggesting you go in with guns blazing proclaiming a new sheriff in town, but I am suggesting that you mind how you allow people to view your role as HR from the beginning. I go back to one of the most commonly shared topics by HR Departments of One – not being taken as a serious business partner. It is hard to turn that ship around once it is settled on a course. Act as a business partner from day one, and you are likely to be taken more seriously as one in the long run.”

What are your experiences as an HR DOO, and what advice can you share for getting off on the right foot?

Please join @shrmnextchat at 3:00 p.m. on February 13 for #Nextchat with special guest Sabrina Baker (@sabrinalbaker). We’ll chat about how HR Departments of One can transition into the role and into an organization with the most success. 

Q1. What are the most common mistakes that HR professionals make when they begin a job as an HR Department of One?

Q2. What advice can you share for how HR Departments of One can best build relationships with key stakeholders as they begin a new job as an HR DOO? 

Q3. What questions should HR professionals be asking about the organization as they begin a new job as an HR Department of One?

Q4. What critical areas of the business/audits should HR Departments of One focus on during the first three months at a new job/new organization? 

Q5. From day one, HR Departments of One need to demonstrate to their organization how they wish to be treated and what they will accept. What are the most diplomatic ways to do this?

Q6. In an HR Department of One, what functions are best outsourced, and how do you manage vendors to get the most assistance?

Q7. As an HR Department of One, what technology are you using to help ease the burden of administrative duties that prevent a more strategic focus?

Q8. What are the best resources, forums or networking opportunities for individuals who are HR Departments of One?

How to participate in an HR Twitter chat


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