#SHRM19 Speaker Spotlight: Building an Army of One as an HR Department of One with Melanie Booher and Colleen Pfaller



HR Departments of One (HRDOO’s) don’t want to miss this 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition (#SHRM19) session, "Building and Army of One as an HR Department of One" with Colleen D. Pfaller, Founder/Talent partner , A Slice of HR and Melanie D. Booher , Chief People officer , MB Consulting

It's no secret that HR has big-time expectations, and this is amplified when you are the solo HR professional (#HRDOO) for your entire organization. Your company size or budget doesn't justify adding more HR staff - you need to do it all! Prioritizing works for a while, but you need help.

This interactive session will help #HRDOO's build a virtual team of experts to conquer your most critical projects

HRDOO's (HR Department of One) typically have "no budget" and when I say, "no budget" I don't mean unlimited budget, I refer to literally zero budget... how can we staff effectively ?

This is a great question. If fact, I've just added it as a Q&A to the end of my presentation so I make sure to address this with the conference audience. 

One of the challenges that is especially critical for small business is budget. Leveraging the gig economy can be a great way to minimize the impact of hiring a full-time person. However, you will need some kind of budget to hire these individuals to help you achieve strategic organizational initiatives. And you have to be crystal clear on why you need extra support and exactly what they will be doing. 

First, Leadership needs to see HR as a critical piece of their overall business plan. If your leaders already see this, then the road to winning a budget is much easier. If your leadership views HR as fluffy-stuff, it's a bit harder. Either way, the HRDOO should be a part of the strategic planning meetings that lead up to the overall company operation budget. That way they can weigh in on what projects are going to take precedence in the coming year. In addition, they should come prepared with a plan (budget, timeline, organizational impact) on what they want to accomplish for the following fiscal year. Business leaders like to have budgets and plans to support operational goals. 

If your maintenance team was going to install a new parking lot, they would start the planning up to 18 months in advance. Review quotes, interview vendors, secure the capital budget. And it would either be approved or disapproved by company leadership. In much the same way, if HR can build a business case, the budget is much more likely to be approved. In my experience, a magical thing happens when you start talking in terms of "projects" instead of "additional headcount." It is an entirely different item on the balance sheet and much more likely to be approved.

As an HR Contractor, we see this a lot with recruiting. As an example, we work with a manufacturing client who needs to find and locate highly specialized engineers. She simply doesn't have the time to source and recruit to the degree that is necessary. And a typical staffing firm, might only send her the resume -- and expect her to do the rest. As an HR Contractor, take charge of the search including coordinating requirements and interviews with the hiring manger. The hires are critical to the success of the company, so it's easy to convince management that adding a budget line item for HR Contracting is beneficial. 

How do we know when to hire outside contractors vs. justify and make a case for hiring a full time employee? What do we need to know to make sure we're remaining compliant with FLSA - independent contractor or employee?

Outside contractors are best levered for strategic project based HR initiatives. Some examples of this might be making a critical hire, updating the company handbook, rolling out a new HR software, designing the organizational structure, creating or updating job descriptions. You as the HRDOO need to decide what your strengths are and find a partner who can help with the rest. In some cases, we have a very junior HRDOO who needs help from a contractor with the the strategic projects. However, some more senior HRDOO might need help with the less strategic things like filing or answering the phone. If you don't need a 'butt in seat' then we recommend hiring a contractor. If you have a project or task that you would like complete -- without a lot of direction and within a time frame (but the work doesn't need to be done during specific times), the independent contractor is your secret weapon. If you need someone to physically be at your office or you are unclear on what you need -- you just need help, then, legally, that will need to be an employee due to FLSA guidelines. It can be a little difficult for us as HR people to 'let go' and trust the expertise of an outside contractor. 

For example, I worked as an HRDOO for a manufacturing company. I need someone to put together the company newsletter, help at events, filing and all the other random things that was expected as the 'HR Person'. So, I hired an Intern. He would come in set-hours and help me pound out the days priorities.

However, when I had a big project -- like the handbook sitting on the edge of my desk that never quite got updated, I hired a contractor to come in review it, make suggestions and send me a bill. We had little interaction except for the kick-off and completion of the project. 

Contract workers can be a win-win for small businesses as full-time employees are the most expensive and least flexible source of labor for companies. The U.S. labor market is structured so that companies pay the highest taxes, and offer the most benefits and protections for full-time employees, which means that hiring an employee can cost 30-40 percent more than equivalent independent workers. (The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy). 

ABOUT THE SESSION: Building an Army in an HR Department of One

Join us Monday, June 24 at 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM There is no one-size-fits all solution to the businesses of being an HRDOO. However, in this talk, Colleen and Melanie will share their experiences on both sides of the equation and lead participants through exercises that will help them to start thinking of work differently.


Melanie Booher is a people connector, genuine leader, change agent, culture-champion and entrepreneurial business coach. Her passion lies in generating meaningful change in People Operations and Culture-Shaping.

With 17+ years experience, Melanie plays a key role in creating engaged cultures and improving morale, which impacts retention, productivity and profit. She has a proven track record of helping organizations become a "Best Place to Work" by utilizing the THRIVE model: assessing gaps, realizing pain-points, creating a plan, and implementing initiatives. Melanie utilizes her advanced people prowess and innate knowledge of culture-shaping strategy to create alignment, results and a competitive advantage. Because, when people matter, companies THRIVE!

Colleen Pfaller, founder of A Slice of HR, assists growing small businesses in recruiting and retaining amazing talent. Her 15+ year HR portfolio, started in a small startup brewery called Samuel Adams which helped lead the disruption of an entire industry. Her practice is in Cincinnati Ohio with a special focus on Family/Closely Held Businesses, Construction, Union-Shops, Manufacturing, Ad Agencies and Non-for Profits. She enjoys football, Pokémon Go, and everything else that comes with being Mom of three boys. Her HR expertise has been featured in CareerBuilder, Spark Hire, FitSmallBusiness, Undercover Recruiter, Bento for Business and Disrupt HR.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: