Flying solo: 5 steps to control an HR department of one

by Lori Kleiman

managing employeesIt is increasingly common that a sole practitioner run the HR department for an organization. The position varies from a high level HR leader to an organizational team member who does HR alongside other functions for the organization.

Regardless of the experience and totality of the position, sole HR practitioners can rely on these tips to get the job done.

1. Align your tasks with the company’s goals. HR people are pulled in many directions. Your CEO wants you to bring down costs … employees think you are there to meet their every need … outside entities are constantly calling with reference checks and compliance obligations.

Advice: Clearly define the actions you need to complete to meet the goals of your organization—and let the rest come later.

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2. Publicize your goals. Others will define your role in a way that suits their needs. Work with your manager to create three or four meaningful goals that support your organization’s strategic plan.

Then make it clear that this is what you are working on. Empower yourself and your HR function by saying no to those things that don’t fit into your goals or schedule.

Advice: Hang a list of your goals in the office for all to see.

3. Get control of your internal processes. Completing an HR assessment is a critical step to understanding where you may be losing time or have noncompliance issues.  

Advice: Constantly evaluate your processes and make life easier for yourself.

4. Manage vendors—don’t let them manage you. Know your key vendors and reach out to them to take critical tasks off your plate. Review contracts annually and ensure you understand the deliverables.

Advice: Set a meeting with each vendor to review the agreement. Check to see what services they may have to ease your workload.

5. Connect with others outside your organization. Sole practitioners especially need to get out of the organization and see how others operate. This helps bring new ideas to your role and complete goals without reinventing the wheel.

Advice: Mastermind groups and nonprofit boards are a great way to meet others with similar interests and share ideas and resources. Look for connections you can make today.

All sole practitioners bring valuable assets to the table—but flying alone doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone! Using these tips, you should be able to identify the areas that create alignment within your organization and give you back control of your day. Find others you can count on to gain control and elevate your HR function.


Lori Kleiman, SPHR, is the president of the HR Topics consulting firm and the author of HR-related books, including HR You Can Use. For information on her webinar on this topic, go to