There is something about the words “Individual Contributing Role” that has always made me think of someone working in a dungeon away from the rest of humanity. Dramatic as that may seem, these words do not give everyone the best feeling, especially people who thrive in team-based environments. When I first started my last role, those words conveyed the same feeling, a feeling that I believe I contributed to by referring to myself as a “department of one”, I gave myself that label.
Being the sole HR practitioner in any organization can be a very daunting experience. Depending on the size of the organization it can be extremely overwhelming working with the business to meet employee management needs and obligations for compliance with applicable laws and regulations, as well as communicating with senior leadership. Out of breath already?
As I read books, blogs and watch videos on this subject, I have come to this realization: you are not a department of one. Even if you are the sole HR person in your organization, working with employees and managers on a day to day basis for the greater good of the company, you are not alone. On those days when you are at your lowest, to the days when you are at your best you are not alone and here is why…
Get to know your people
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of understanding what you are working with, get to know the people in your organization. They were there before you and they know the business inside out. Take some time to talk to everyone, from the ancillary staff to the CEO. Find out what they like about working with the organization, what they do not like, what they believe the key objectives are for the company, what motivates them to come to work every day. Steve Browne speaks to this in his book “HR On Purpose” while giving some insights into his experiences in HR over the years which brings me to my next point.
Connect with other HR People
In the age of technology and endless networking events, there are amazing opportunities to get to know other HR people to find out their experiences and best practices. Sharing is caring and one thing I have learned is that HR people including myself, love to share if you just ask. So where do you find all of these amazing colleagues? Start with your local HR organizations, in Barbados, we have the Human Resource Association of Barbados (HRMAB) but globally there is also the Chartered Institute of Personel Development (CIPD) based in the UK and Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) based in the USA. As you filter down there are lots of other organizations that can assist you in your role and help you to feel less alone.
Next is LinkedIn which has an amazing repository of HR people. There are over 11 million people in HR registered on LinkedIn alone, along with numerous HR Communities, join the communities and ask questions, there is always someone there that is willing to give an answer.
Get yourself a Mentor
Steve Browne again speaks to this in his book. He gave an interesting experience about how he developed a relationship with his mentor and he said that it happened “organically”. Over time this man became his mentor and they have had a close relationship for over 15 years. The same can be true for you. Having a mentor has really helped my career. Having someone as a sounding board, who understands your industry and can relate to your stories is huge. Your spouse, partner, sibling, parent, a best friend can only relate to some extent but they can never fully empathize with you or give you the best advice especially as it relates to law and policy so if you do not have a mentor, I highly recommend finding someone tomorrow.
Automate, automate, automate…
One of the great things about my current role is that automation of processes is greatly encouraged. There are lots of things to consider in your digital transformation such as ensuring that people want it first and foremost, finding the right software to ease your pain and not make it worse and as we know in HR the most important thing is the cost. Since we are not considered to make money, we need to be able to show the cost-saving benefits to purchasing the software in that it will reduce the time it took previously to do the process so that you can focus on more important things. One such software is BambooHR which I can personally say has made the life of my team and I a lot easier. You can store all of your employee information in this cloud-based HRIS including hard copy documents which are easy to scan and upload, you can manage employee leave, onboard new employees as well as keep track of promotions and reporting line changes.
Seek External HR Services Support
It is difficult to hire, strategize, formulate and implement policy, advise management, process payroll, and benefits all in one big swoop. A dizzying list of which I have barely scratched the surface of what we do and the value we add as HR People. Seeking HR services is always a good way to get additional support. In Barbados, we have the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC) which has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to assist you before it gets too much. Alternatively, you can find a list of the top 50 HR services companies here.
There is a saying that goes “No man is an island”. I believe this to be very true. With all of the mandates and requirements expected of HR now and as the future of work changes, we know that it is no longer practical or feasible to have us working alone without some extra support to move things along. Build your case and present it to your leadership because no one knows what you need to achieve your objectives better than you do. In the meantime try some of these suggestions to help you along, so that you no longer feel like a department of one.