It takes a village. But what if YOU are the village?
Holly DePalma |
The nucleus of any successful organization is its Human Resources department. HR is a well-oiled machine powered by a series of critical components. Surely it takes a village of professionals to keep it running smoothly.
But what if YOU are the village? What if YOU and you alone are tasked with providing a sound HR infrastructure from developing and retaining human capital, to implementing administrative processes and providing quality training opportunities, to Compliance, Payroll and Benefits, for a company with up to 150 employees? Sound familiar? As overwhelming as that role may be, you are not alone, and it can be done.
MEA is committed to helping you navigate the challenges associated with being an HR department of one. This article will highlight a four-pronged strategy that I refer to as KAPO. KAPO represents a quartet of objectives – Knowledge, Attitude, Partnerships, and Organizational Skills, that when applied synchronously, will empower you to manage an effective and efficient HR department.
The most powerful tool you need in your repertoire is knowledge. You are a RESOURCE to your organization. Without a thorough understanding of both your industry and your own essential job functions, you will be ill-equipped to provide critical support or add value to your organization.
First, it is paramount that you understand the business. A cursory level understanding is not enough. Immerse yourself in learning the intricacies and nuances of the field in which you work. This will guide your decisions, recommendations, and essentially influence the way you conduct your daily business. How do you become a subject matter expert? Be an active listener, ask probing and pertinent questions, attend meetings, and talk to workforce members at all levels of the organizational hierarchy from team leads to floor employees. If you work in an environment structured by shifts, be present at the start of each shift. Get to know your employees and leaders, and recognize each as a valuable cog in a cross-functional wheel.
Next, you must know your craft. You need not be a Human Resources expert – the field is simply too vast to know everything. But in order to demonstrate credibility and cultivate trust, you must be able to answer basic questions and be an asset to your managers, leaders, and employees. For example, “Do I have to pay overtime if Johnny works more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week?” or “Can I ask someone if they have a car during the interview?” If you have not done so already, consider taking the PHR or SPHR exam. These are great ways to stay abreast of HR basics and master knowledge that an HR practitioner should have.
In a nutshell, know your business, know your role, and know your people.
“I don’t feel like I have a voice in the company.” “I feel like the police. My managers don’t want to listen to me.” Do these sentiments resonate with you? You’re not alone. While providing support to your managers and maintaining a compliant workplace may feel impossible at times, these objectives are not mutually exclusive. So how do you strike the delicate balance between advocating for your managers and upholding workplace standards and procedures? For starters, eliminate the phrase “No, you can’t do that,” from your stock line of responses. Semantics and delivery are powerful forces that shape the dynamic between you and your employees.
In other words, how you deliver a message is just as important as the message itself. For example, if a manager asks, “Can I give Johnny extra hours? He said that I don’t have to pay him overtime. That would really help my budget,” your natural response may be an emphatic “NO! Are you crazy?!” as thoughts of a DOL audit dance through your mind. However, it is during these types of exchanges that dialog is critical. By offering an emotionally-charged, knee-jerk reaction in the form of a “No,” you are inviting the manager to label you as an “unsupportive traffic cop,” the very perception that you work hard to dispel.
Instead, take a difference stance. Position yourself as an ally, not an adversary. Talk to your manager about staffing levels and find out why overtime is needed. Does it make sense to add headcount? Revisit recruiting processes? Only after clear, two-sided dialog occurs should you explain your legitimate reasons for denying the manager’s request. This empathetic and strategic approach to communication will foster trust and collaboration among managers. The attitude you project can mean the difference between being considered a source of support to your managers and being a roadblock on their path to success.
Find them. Cultivate them. Maintain them. Partnerships will provide the extra “muscle” needed to get everything done in a timely and sufficient manner. When you wear a lot of hats, additional support is not only welcome, but sometimes necessary. Identify and utilize your resources. For example, as a member of MEA, you have a strong partnership at your fingertips for compliance and general workforce needs. Call the Expert Hotline if you need clarity on a particular issue. In addition, I strongly recommend having a strong benefits broker. With the ever-changing landscape of the healthcare industry, especially for small to mid-sized employers, it is imperative that you have a well-versed broker to guide you. Make sure you that your broker is readily accessible with resources available for both you and your employees.
Also, budget permitting, it is prudent to seek out partnerships in other specialist areas as well. For instance, if recruiting is not common practice for you, look for a viable partner to work with you and provide ongoing assistance. Training and Development is another key component of HR that might require utilizing resources outside your organization to maximize performance.
Rounding out the KAPO foursome is Organization. Organization is a requisite skill when it comes to HR operations. From cataloguing employee and recruitment files to processing time sensitive documents, superior organizational skills are a must. Commit to creating and adhering to a system. Organization breeds efficiency and creates value in the workplace. Employees will appreciate the quick response time that you can provide by simply having access to uniform documents, information, and files.
In summary, managing an HR department as a soloist is no small feat. Hopefully the KAPO ideas we identified in this article will prove helpful as you plan and manage a challenging landscape. Be sure to have level expectations and be reasonable with the demands that you place upon yourself, but more importantly with your ability to meet the demands placed upon you by others. Be transparent and reliable in terms of delivering on promises. Approach the position with confidence, embrace your multifaceted role, and take pride in the fact that you are a village when it comes to supporting your organization’s HR needs.