When, Why, and How Your Company Should Appoint an HR Officer

When, Why, and How Your Company Should Appoint an HR Officer

As a small business, it can be hard to know when you need a dedicated HR officer. Without a lot of employees to manage, it can seem like an unnecessary expense or one that does not have enough benefit.

But eventually, you may find that an employee filling HR duties is simply dedicating too much time to the effort. You may also realize that your needs become complex enough that you need someone with the right skill set.

It’s good to evaluate your business periodically and recognize your staffing needs. While HR may not seem initially like a role that bolsters your company growth, you’ll find that you will make up for it in efficiency and avoiding potentially costly HR situations.

When HR Is Not Performing Optimally

HR can be a lot to manage beyond just payroll. From benefits enrollment to 401k to compliance with state and federal laws, a knowledgeable HR employee can fill a lot of essential functions for a business.

In the beginning, it may feel that these duties can be juggled by employees internally that do not have a dedicated HR role. But as your company grows, you may find that it simply takes too much time or you lack the internal expertise.

Many companies find that they need a dedicated HR officer somewhere around 50 employees. This person can handle not only the logistics of human resources but also have the skills and knowledge to address hiring and personnel issues.

You may find that you have uncertainty around whether or not you are handling internal situations appropriately or complying with all laws. The HR landscape is ever-changing, and your company needs to keep any internal policies up-to-date.

Lack of an HR Officer Can Be Costly

HR is more than just paperwork. An HR officer can help to define employee roles, plan the workforce, and promote employee development. HR can have a direct impact on your bottom line in the following ways:

  1. Identifying and boosting overall employee productivity
  2. Retain employees and reduce turnover
  3. Help with employee evaluations
  4. Build employee knowledge through ongoing training and skills development

An HR officer can also mitigate employee risks. By documenting and managing employee issues, you can avoid litigation or be prepared if litigation arises. An HR officer can watch for signs of favoritism, acts of discrimination, or infringement on disability rights.

Bullying can also be a common occurrence in the workplace. While an anti-harassment policy is good on paper, it only has teeth if it is enforced. An HR officer can emphasize the policy through internal training as well as deal with any issues that may arise.

An HR Officer Can Help You Grow

As your business expands and you hire additional employees, HR can help support your growth. Beyond the paperwork and benefits, HR can play an integral role in the hiring process.

A successful HR officer can be crucial in identifying staffing needs and formulating job descriptions. When it comes time to hire an additional employee, HR is often the “first pass” at applications. This saves the hiring manager time in reading through lengthy resumes for people that would not qualify for the job.

Your company will also have an ongoing challenge of making sure that employees stay current on company policies and changes. An HR officer can provide ongoing internal training and ensure that employees adhere to guidelines. It may become necessary to have “refresher courses” periodically.

An HR officer can also draft internal communication regarding policies so that it is clear. Employees need to understand where they can turn for help with benefits, payroll, or employee issues. An HR officer can also make sure that communication is compliant with any regulations. 

How to Hire an HR Officer

Hiring an HR officer is similar to the process of hiring any employee. You’ll need to start with a job description. This should include not only the duties that you are currently performing internally but also what you want the role to become.

Think about the level of experience you want your HR officer to have. Do some research and identify if there are any certifications or special training you would want in a candidate. A recruiting agency that specializes in HR may be the best resource, although this comes with a cost.

When you craft the job posting, you can include information that you are looking for a new employee to take leadership within this role. Identify how the employee will fit within your organizational structure and what level of authority the person will have. This is critical as you consider different candidates in interviews.

Once you have identified applicants that have the desired skills, create a list of questions to ask during interviews. You will want the questions to reflect your expectations for the role and the skills involved. You can present candidates with “what-if” scenarios and ask how they would handle the situation.

Since an HR officer has access to sensitive employee information, you will want to conduct a thorough background screening. Also, check references to ensure that the final candidate is reliable.

Hiring From Within for an HR Officer

One option to hire an HR officer is to hire from within your organization. More than likely, someone has already been performing these duties and could fit into a newly created role.

There are benefits to this approach. You would know that the employee fits well within your organization and has knowledge of your company and other employees. You may have an employee that enjoys such duties and would not require as much onboarding as an employee hired externally.

On the other hand, the employee may lack knowledge of compliance and regulations that go with an HR role. If that is the case, you may need to look into additional training for the employee. 

You should also consider how that employee would interact with others. If the role moves the employee into a position of authority, it could put the employee at odds with others in a new HR role. Consider the impact on your organization overall and weigh the pros and cons when hiring internally.

Qualities of a Good HR Officer

An HR officer will have need certain qualities to be successful in the role. Whether you hire from within or externally, you will want to make sure that your successful candidate can bring a strong set of skills to the job.

Organized

An HR officer needs to handle a variety of tasks, often that have specific deadlines (like payroll and taxes). The individual needs to be able to identify and prioritize everything that needs to be completed, often without much oversight. Multitasking and self-discipline are essential.

Clear Communication

HR communicates critical company information. This ranges from announcements to one-on-one interactions to drafting policies. Your HR officer should have strong written and oral communication skills, including clear communication under pressure.

Conflict Resolution

HR should be able to manage conflict and know how to resolve it. This could include direct communication with employees or modifying roles so that employees do not interact if an issue cannot be resolved. A candidate should be comfortable handling conflict and know what steps to take to protect the employees and the company.

Knowledge

An HR officer should be an industry expert. From regulations to HR trends, the employee should be forward-thinking and responsive.

A Leader

Your HR professional will be responsible for providing answers to employees. The person needs to be well-respected and able to give the appropriate guidance.

A successful HR officer will be open and friendly, so employees feel comfortable approaching the person. At the same time, the HR person knows when to exert control and discipline in the workplace.

Ethical

You will be placing a lot of trust in your HR officer. In many respects, this person is the conscience of your organization. The HR officer should be trusted within the organization and know how to safeguard employee and company information.

Knowing When to Hire an HR Officer

The reality is that even small businesses can need an HR officer. It is a sign of stability and growth that you recognize the need to take care of your employees.

If you have recognized that it is time to hire an HR officer, the next step is to start your search. Whether you end up hiring internally or begin a larger search, you should define exactly the type of person you want to fit the role. The person should not only be able to handle the duties but also be a good culture fit for your organization.