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  • Learning about HR

    Large companies and major corporations have the means to hire a team of human resource professionals to boost the venture's productivity.

    Choosing the right person to lead your HR department is especially important for small businesses.Fledging startups and small businesses aren't so lucky, but that doesn't mean their HR departments should go unmanned.

    So what should you do if you're a small-business owner who can't afford to hire a full staff of HR professionals? 

Settle on the right person and give them some leeway.

    According to Sarah Derry of People Reaching Potential, plenty of companies are successfully relying on a single HR professional to carry their company during the early stages of investments and development. Derry is both the principal and sole HR person for her company. She told Human Capital Magazine that she often works with other unaccompanied HR workers.

    "You really get to put your stamp on it," Derry said. "As a solo person, you get to work closely with the leadership and sometimes when there's a lot of hierarchy, you don't necessarily get that exposure."

    She said you're also much more likely to have a better grasp of all the employees. As a lone HR representative, you are their only outlet.

    "If you have a team of 10 people in HR and you've got 100 staff, you might only see a person once every six months," she said. "But if you're it and you're the key contact, you are going to get a lot of contact with the employees."

    Avoiding HR mistakes
    Tim Sackett, an HR consultant and blogger, said there are generally a few traits that separate a great HR leader from an inadequate one. Sackett told Human Capital that line is often drawn when it comes to taking the right kind of risks.

    "Lousy HR leaders love to cover their own (butt) more than any other single thing they do," Sackett told Human Capital Magazine. "Organizations take risk every single day. It's not HR's job to eliminate risk, it's our job to champion appropriate risk and be all in with our business partners."

    Two other pitfalls Sackett warned HR leaders to avoid is gathering poor data and failing to emphasize the company vision.

    When it comes to data, finding and utilizing the right information can mean the difference between a successful business and bankruptcy. It can be hard to quantify the data that actually matters to a company, but the good HR leaders will be able to cipher through the information to make the company as knowledgeable as possible.

    In terms of a company's vision, HR leaders need to act like they are behind the wheel. A good driver doesn't look at the road directly in front of their tires, a good driver is gazing out into the horizon, looking at everything that is coming - or could come - their way.

    "Another sign of lousy leadership is when your leader just uses the organization vision and can't break it down to a functional level," Sackett said. "This is just flat out lazy." Derry added to Sackett's theory.

    "You've got to really understand the direction the organization is going in," she said. "Are you a strategic HR person or are you expected to be hands-on and operational? Basically I think it comes down to HR people needing to understand the type of HR that's required and what's going to have the biggest impact."

    Problems for HR pros that fly solo
    Derry said one of the biggest problems for a company's lone HR representative is finding the time to do everything.

    "You've really got to know what's going to add the most value," Derry said. "So any activity or project that you do, you've really got to think it through. The challenge is deciding what is going to add the most value."

    Derry said a single HR professional running a company can't be all things to all of its employees. So figuring out and understanding the role will go a long way in making the job easier.