While visiting recently, our granddaughter (almost four) was proudly telling us she had pancakes and bacon for breakfast. There was a heavy, delightful emphasis on the bacon part; rightly so. In response, my spouse excitedly told her he had oatmeal for breakfast. Her angelic face turned sour, gave him a death stare and said “No. Oatmeal is for kids!” Her disgust was deep and her judgmental disapproval swift.
I’ve been thinking about this moment since. It’s sweetly hilarious and it got me thinking about strong perceptions and opinions on business practices. I’ve been guilty of believing there is only one way of doing something or one optimal resource for a specific task. On the other end of the spectrum I’ve also (sometimes) wrongly assumed other methods and solutions are not for me and my organization because “we are not that big”.
I wasn’t always an HR Department of One. I began my HR career as part of larger HR teams. My first role was an Employee Relations Specialist for a location of a national warehousing/distribution company. From there, I served in an HR co-managing role with a focus on Training and Safety in a heavy manufacturing environment. Later, I led my first team of four at a Tier 1 supplier of plastic injection molded parts. I transitioned from manufacturing to financial services also leading a team for a multi-unit, multi-state organization. When that company sold, I joined my current employer.
Each organization had their own ways of doing things. Early in my career, I leaned more on the “Oatmeal is not for kids” way of thinking, genuinely believing that my prior ways of doing things were obviously the right way. Thankfully, my mindset shifted since this way of thinking could be a trap that hampers growth and potential. That is not to say there are not best practices or legally required ways of doing things. For sure there are! What I learned was that, when in doubt, I had to research and confirm before assuming one way or another. And even best practices or best systems are not the best right here, right now.
As an HR Department of One, I’ve taken what I’ve considered the best practices and resources from the above roles that best meet our current needs as an organization. This has evolved over time but some examples are:
Automation – one of my goals is to utilize the systems in place to automate and streamline as many tasks as possible. The more I can seamlessly automate, the more time I have to devote to what us HR folk love to call “strategic matters”.
Going paperless – I hate paperwork. I hate files. I don’t have an assistant. Perfect reasons for not having files! The majority of our employees are remote to me and everything is emailed securely as PDF. Why print it? Secured electronic records are my jam. Same for reports. I print very little.
Business Partners – good brokers and payroll companies are lifesavers! Yes, it is their job. Fostering a partnership helps all provide the best services to employees. When I’m on vacation, I can count on them to be the main go to for employees.
We don’t have systems with the most bells and whistles because they don’t make practical or financial sense for us. Some of the above are no additional cost/low cost. These solutions help delay the need for additional HR headcount. A tangible way I can support Operations is to minimize what it costs THEM to have fully functioning HR. Tech solutions and systems have helped maximize my availability when they need me the most.
As to whether or not oatmeal is only for kids, I’ll let you decide. Speaking of oatmeal, my spouse prefers overnight oats. If you want my not so secret method, reach out!