HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

HR Department of One
Are you an HR department of one? No need to panic! The HR Mavericks have your back. Read on to learn about the challenges you might experience and tips for handling them.

What Is an HR Department of One?

Are you an HR Department of One? HR departments of one are often small business owners, an office manager or a sole HR professional at a small company (typically < 100 employees). These individuals are tasked with performing all the duties associated with HR.

The Challenges of Being an HR Department of One

Fortunately, what are considered to be challenges for departments of one can also come with just as many resources.
  • Compliance. Creating, posting and managing labor law posters, OSHA, Section 125, 401k and general employment factors (Title VII) are just a few of the compliance examples to be expected.
  • Recruitment. As the company grows or experiences attrition/turnover, the department of one will be tasked with performing or delegating full cycle recruitment.
  • Payroll. Depending on the headcount and methods of employee payout (bonuses, 1099, etc.), payroll can be time consuming, especially for an HR department of one.
  • Employee relations. SHRM, the HR Encyclopedia, and even your organization’s attorney are just a few of the resources available to delve into employee relations matters.

Priorities of an HR Department of One

Here are a few of the most common priorities for an HR department of one. Please note that these priorities are interchangeable based on your organization's needs and are frequently changing.

Compensation, Payroll and Benefits

You will want to decide if payroll should be outsourced or completed internally. If outsourcing the function, PEOs (professional employer organizations) are wonderful resources and will ensure compliance with multi-state laws and tax laws. They even guarantee liability! If payroll will be assigned to an internal employee, the organization should still invest in payroll software, such as Eddy, to streamline the process. A compensation philosophy will help employees understand the structure in which they are compensated and salary increases. The philosophy can also help the organization remain fair and consistent. The benefits package provided to employees will be a factor in recruitment and retention. This is another area where a PEO can be beneficial. If you do not wish to outsource to a PEO, a benefits broker can assist with defining the benefits package, go to market during open enrollment and act as an administrator for new hires, terminations and life events.

Talent Acquisition

Having a talent acquisition strategy will make the arduous task of recruitment slightly easier. If you’re in a niche market, will you utilize job boards designated to that field (e.g. - using ASHA for audiologists, speech therapists, etc.), connect with a local university, source from job boards such as Glassdoor, and/or use employee referrals? Will assessments be utilized to help with hiring decisions? These decisions are all the responsibility of the HR department of one.

Culture and Engagement

A company’s reputation can precede them. Determining the desired culture is imperative for retention, morale and recruitment, and an important responsibility of the HR department. This can be defined in the mission, vision, and values or can be a separate statement about how everything intertwines. Remember, how you treat your employees will have a direct impact on your customers and vendors.

Tips for Effectiveness as an HR Department of One

Being a department of one can leave you feeling burned out while also being a tornado of task orientation. Here are some tips to help manage this challenging situation.

Tip 1: Use Your Calendar!

Giving yourself deadlines and setting aside time for specific duties can save a lot of time and energy. Color coding those items will also help you determine how much time is spent on certain tasks. This also helps anyone coming to assist with HR-related tasks pick up where you’ve left off.

Tip 2: Create Lists

Every HR professional starts the day with optimism that today will be the day everything is completed. Then stuff happens. Creating lists prioritizing the to-dos keeps you organized and aware of what can or cannot be delegated or placed on hold.

Tip 3: Lean on Me

It’s important to establish a dependable network of HR professionals who have been there and done that. Without HR confidantes, being an HR department of one means you’ll be out in deep waters trying to stay afloat.

Tools to Help an HR Department of One

Fortunately, many HR ancestors were once departments of one as well, and they started to devise resources. Here are a few of the most helpful.


Implementing a human resource information system will help you with anything and everything from candidate tracking, payroll, performance management and benefits.

HR Mavericks

The Mavericks are a team of HR professionals who have put their collective knowledge into panel discussions, an encyclopedia with over 1,000 articles and more.

PEO (Professional Employer Organization)

PEOs are beneficial for companies who either do not have an HR person or department or have a department of one. The PEO will have HRBPs, attorneys, payroll specialists, benefits specialists, etc. on hand to call upon. They will also have an HRIS available for use, can cover the Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), workers’ compensation, and other costs that become cumbersome to track.

When to Hire Additional Employees

There is no definitive time for when to add to an HR team. However, the individual acting as a department of one can best gauge what tasks are pulling them away from more important matters. For example, if the organization is in a consistent recruitment mode, hiring an HR assistant/coordinator or designated recruiter to take on that role with onboarding, etc. would be a good place to start.
Sarah Marchese

Sarah Marchese

Sarah is the HR Manager for a small non-profit in Phoenix, AZ. Her specialty is working with small organizations in developing the HR department. She holds a Master's degree in I/O Psychology and considers herself to be a true HR nerd. When she isn't helping the organization succeed, Sarah enjoys reading, running and spending time with her friends & family. Sarah dreams of one day being an Employment & Labor attorney.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
Benefits Manager
Campus Recruiter
Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)
Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
Compensation Analyst
Employee Relations Manager
Executive Recruiter
Global Mobility Specialist
Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
HR Burnout
HR Business Partner
HR Careers
HR Certifications
HR Consulting
HR for Owners
Hiring Manager
Hiring Team
Human Resources Assistant
Human Resources Generalist
In-House Recruiter
Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
Recruiting Coordinator
Recruiting Manager
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
Talent Acquisition Partner
Technical Recruiter
Training & Development Manager
Vice President of Human Resources
Work-Life Coordinator
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