Getting It All Done with an HR Department of One

HR & Safety

Carol Kardas, president, KardasLarson LLC

(March 29, 2012) HR professionals try to do it all: fight fires, educate senior managers, serve as an employee liaison: with limited resources. But when you are the HR department, how do you handle responsibilities often reserved for an entire staff?

According to Carol Kardas, president of KardasLarson, LLC and speaker at CBIA’s Annual HR Conference, accepting your limitations is one key to solo HR success.

“As HR folks, we want everything to be 100% correct,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent is sometimes good enough. Give yourself permission that 99% is sometimes ok. You can’t do it all.”

What Does the C-Suite Want?

But what can you do to make sure management views you as a strategic partner, not just an overworked administrator? By understanding what they really want:

  • Develop business and financial acumen: Understand how your business makes money.
  • Understand your company’s market: Learn about where your company does business and who its customers are.
  • Follow economic/competitive trends: Keep up with economic forecasts, 401(k) trends, etc.
  • Develop HR metrics: Demonstrate how you contribute to your company’s bottom line by measuring turnover ratio, expense and risk reduction, etc.
  • Offer insights and solutions: Bring solutions, not problems to management.
  • Master your profession: Stay up to date on HR trends and practices. Earn certifications.
  • Maintain your resources: Network, join local HR associations, use outside resources like CBIA and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Organizational Tips for HR Success

Kardas also offered this advice:

  • Multitask: Prioritize your projects. Determine what you can let go or postpone.
  • Be fair across the board. Make rules for the many, not for one.
  • Be credible and efficient: Tell people exactly how much time you need to complete an assignment and give yourself enough time to do it. Don’t overpromise.
  • Conduct an HR audit: Investigate your organizations current practices, policies, and procedures. Review benefits, compensation, legal compliance, personnel files, etc.
  • Get to know your managers: Learn their hot button issues, attend their department meetings, shadow employees to understand their jobs.

Patrick McHale, partner, Kainen, Escalara & McHale PC

Social Media Challenges

Every HR practitioner, no matter how big your department, must also understand the impact of new technology: particularly social media: on the workplace. A keen sense of your employees’ rights regarding what they can say and where they can say it is essential, as is keeping abreast of ongoing legal developments.

“We’re in our infancy of developing real law on what [activities are] protected and what’s concerted,” Patrick McHale, partner at Kainen, Escalara & McHale PC, told conference attendees. “At what point do comments about [your] business cross the line when they’re made for millions to see? We don’t know.”

According to Jonathan Kreisberg, Regional Director, Region 34, for the National Labor Relations Board, his organization and its general counsel compare conversations posted on Facebook to those that (used to) take place around the office water cooler.

“Employees can sit around the water cooler and have conversations about their work,” he said. “Having a conversation on Facebook doesn’t change that. We’re going to see how far that concept is taken, but for now, that’s the way we’re looking at it.”

Practical Suggestions from the Experts

The lawyers concluded with these additional social media tips:

  • Think through the purpose of your policy and what it’s trying to accomplish. Avoid using overly broad language: the employees won’t understand what behavior is expected of them and courts often find overly broad provisions illegal.
  • Follow guidance from the NLRB. Don’t give employees room to file suit and help shape new laws.
  • Don’t ignore comments about your business posted to social media. Instead, use them to create a dialogue about problems in the workplace.

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