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5 Productivity Hacks for Small HR Teams

September 14, 2020
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Companies expect a lot from their HR teams. But at small businesses or startups, they’re often understaffed or worse — departments of one.

If this is the case, you oversee and own every step of the employee lifecycle, from an employee’s first day to their last. That task is challenging enough for an entire team, let alone one or two people. If you're on a small team, it’s crucial that you use your time efficiently and effectively to ensure that you and your employees are set up for successful careers at your organization.

To alleviate some of the pressure, many companies implement HR software to help automate administrative work and lighten the workload. In addition to tools like these, there are low-cost workplace hacks you can use to streamline your workload and be more strategic with your time.

Here are five productivity hacks that help you streamline your efforts and prove yourself as a small — but mighty — HR department.

1. Develop an employee referral program.

When it comes to finding top talent and filling open roles, your current employees can be a valuable resource. By launching an employee referral program, you can tap into your employees’ professional networks and connect with quality candidates who are familiar with your company and its culture and mission. Plus, employee referrals tend to result in shorter hiring timelines and a higher likelihood of candidates being hired as opposed to those sourced from other channels.

“Your people are your best way to hire top talent,” said Jaci Sanchez, People Operations Manager at Fountain, a hiring software company for recruiting gig and hourly workers. “It’s important to actively encourage and remind employees to reach out to their networks and promote your open roles.”

Sanchez also recommended hosting a “sourcing party” every quarter. Order pizza or offer lunch reimbursement for employees, and then talk about what roles your company is actively hiring and ask people to reach out to their friends and former colleagues who may be a good fit. Not only does this make finding top candidates easier for you, but it also helps employees feel that they’re helping shape the future of your company.

2. Create onboarding cohorts.

While you want to get your new hires up to speed as quickly as possible, employee onboarding can be a huge time investment, especially for small HR teams. Instead of onboarding new employees one by one, group their start dates together to create onboarding cohorts so you can get everyone up to speed and process new hire paperwork more efficiently.

“There’s a lot of administrative work that goes into integrating new employees into your company,” said Vincent Scaramuzzo, President and Executive Recruiter at Ed-Exec, a Connecticut-based education executive search firm. “Onboarding employees one at a time isn’t an efficient use of your time. Lining up start dates and onboarding new hires as a group can shorten the process from weeks to just a day or two.”

And don’t be afraid to enlist others in key roles in your organization to help with onboarding. Senior leaders or representatives from other departments can share a short presentation with news hires. For instance, your finance team can share payroll information, IT can cover security protocols, and sales can go over information about your products and/or services and give insight into who your target customers are. This enables new hires to meet more people in the organization and hear firsthand what specific departments own and are working on. Importantly, it will also take away the burden of having to handle the whole process by yourself.

3. Streamline your benefits offerings.

Don’t waste time and money administering benefits your employees don’t use. The best way to learn what your employees care about is to ask. Send out an annual benefits survey to ask employees which benefits and perks are nice to have and which are necessities. This will allow you to be more strategic with your offerings and build a competitive benefits package that your employees genuinely need and appreciate.

“Surveys can help you find out what is important to your employees,” noted Sanchez. “Are most employees commuting? Perhaps offer a commuter benefit stipend. Do you have a lot of employees with young children? Maybe offer a dependent care FSA plan.”

Customization is key. “If you customize your offering based on what your people want and need, employees will know that you are listening and care about them personally,” Sanchez said.

4. Implement a system for fielding questions.

Fielding one-off employee inquiries can take a lot of time, especially for small HR teams. To minimize disruptions during your day and better manage your time, consider implementing designated HR office hours so you can efficiently answer questions without interrupting your work.

This can be especially helpful in the weeks leading up to open enrollment, Sanchez pointed out. “Invite your insurance brokers to your office hours, as well. Having their experts there to answer more complicated questions is very helpful,“ she said.

Or, to enable employees to help themselves, start a running document of the most commonly asked employee questions along with their answers. Then post this FAQ sheet on your company intranet so employees can quickly find the answers to their questions and resolve their issues on their own.

“Address changes and benefits questions comprise the vast majority of one-off questions,” said TyAnn Osborn, founder of executive and leadership training consultancy Osborn Consulting Group and former Global Director of HR for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “Post FAQs everywhere — on your door, on the intranet, on the HRIS portal, in your internal email signature, on the back of the employee badge — that easily show where people can get answers. It might take a little while at first, but people will start using the new process and it will work.”

5. Partner with internal teams — and delegate.

Every HR department has a lot on its plate, from handling compliance to recruiting to engagement to benefits. But that doesn’t mean you have to shoulder it all.

“The key is to realize, early on, that you simply do not have enough hours in the day to do everything,” said Osborn. “It isn't possible, and trying to do it all is the quickest way to burn yourself out and fail to deliver value to the organization.”

Don’t be afraid to reach out to other departments for help. Finance can help with budgeting and payroll questions, marketing can assist with employer branding, hiring managers can contribute to writing job descriptions and sourcing and screening candidates, and your C-suite can help define company values

“Being crystal clear on the highest and best use of your time is imperative,” said Osborn. “For everything else, you can partner with consultants, vendors, and other teams to help you.”



Even if you’re the only member of your company’s HR team, you don’t have to do everything alone. Aside from reaching out to your colleagues, it’s also helpful to develop a network of peers or find a mentor you can bounce ideas off of and turn to with questions. Having access to the right people and knowledge will give you the confidence to overcome obstacles and succeed in your career, no matter what challenges come your way. Grow your professional network by joining our Slack community of People Ops leaders today.

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