HR Insights 5 min

HR for Small Business vs. Big-Business HR [Infographic]

December 2, 2019

Providing HR for a small business can mean running a one-person show. Human resources can be a stressful job even when you’re adequately staffed with experienced people, but in many small businesses, HR duties are handled by one person or simply handed off to anyone with an administrative job title. Those people find themselves responsible for a host of complicated, time-consuming tasks without the training, experience, budget, or support that a qualified HR professional—or anyone for that matter—would need to be successful.

In other words, HR in a small business setting can be a nightmare.

“If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to persevere.”

-Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant | Checklate

The Difference Between HR in Small and Large Businesses

By comparison, HR for big business seems rewarding and fulfilling: larger teams to share the workload, provide mentorship, and offer a sense of camaraderie; bigger budgets to invest in technology, and more support from executives who are learning the valuable role HR plays in building and maintaining corporate culture.

HR for Small Business: What You Need to Know

Of course, HR is never a walk in the park. Being an HR rep in any size organization comes with all kinds of difficulties, from compliance concerns to being seen as “the bad guy” by employees. But small-business HR woes are compounded by isolation and lack of direction, which makes those challenges even tougher to overcome.

So, how can HR for small businesses become more like HR in a big business?

“Recruiting people or supporting in-house HR activities will often require you to put the company’s interests first and make decisions that are purely good for business. Letting people go and providing tough feedback isn’t a dream-come-true part of the HR professional’s job. But it has to be done. So my advice is to accept the fact that you will be dealing with real humans, different characters and emotions, and you won’t always be able to please everyone.”

-Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager | Resumelab

We surveyed HR and non-HR employees at organizations big and small, and asked experienced HR professionals for their advice to those just starting out in HR. The results helped confirm some commonly held beliefs as well as grant some new insights. Some of these takeaways:

  1. The most significant difference between HR in small and big businesses is the internal and external perception of capability and positive influence.
  2. HR teams in small businesses can learn a lot about success from bigger, more experienced teams in bigger organizations.
  3. A more informed strategy and wise investments in HR software technology could change perceptions of small-business HR for the better.

These are some of the lessons you’ll find in our infographic, Tips from the Future: Big HR Ideas to Help Small HR Scale for Success. In the free infographic, we outline a few of the most significant differences between HR in big and small businesses in terms of how they’re viewed, what they prioritize, and how their different strategies impact perceptions. Ideally, by knowing what’s happening in larger organizations, smaller teams could improve the way HR is seen—and how they see themselves—in their growing organizations.

Check out the full infographic for free, right here.

We’ll also be compiling more statistics and observations into an ebook, but in the meantime, we’d like to offer some advice and encouragement for smaller, less experienced HR teams in smaller businesses.

Some Advice for Small-Business HR

First, realize you aren’t alone—there are lots of solo HR practitioners and “accidental” HR administrators out there who are experiencing the same issues in their organizations.

Second, perception is reality. You can make a huge difference and be a priceless business asset for your organization—big HR is proof of that. So, if you think you’re incapable of influencing the direction of your organization because you’re being treated like nothing more than a paper-pusher, you’re wrong! You probably won’t change the negative perception of HR all by yourself. But believing it is a sure way to keep yourself from achieving more.

Third, have a strategic goal. It may sound impossible when you can barely see over the pile of paperwork and the thousand boxes you need to check for benefits, taxes, training compliance, and more, but even one forward-looking report or a simple PTO strategy to ensure coverage can change everything. You’ll feel strategic and your organization will start to see you as strategic—and that leads to buy-in, which leads to more budget, more team members…in other words, success.

Fourth (and maybe foremost), ask for help. There are literally thousands of HR professionals in your state and around the world, and guess what? They’re all about helping people! So reach out, if you haven’t. Go to an HR event in your area. Read blogs and articles they’ve written…and read our blog because we love you and we want to help!

Finally, when we asked HR experts what message they’d like to send to themselves at the start of their HR careers, Dr. Keri Ohlrich, CEO of the HR consulting firm Abbracci Group, offered these excellent words of encouragement:

“Be patient and kind to yourself—you will have good days and not-so-good days, just like any job. In HR, we expend a lot of energy and emotion in the work we do. Don’t lose the passion for what you do. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, rely on your trusted peers to help you through the tough times, and celebrate the good times. And remember that you make a difference for the organization and for the employees.”

-Keri Ohlrich, PhD., CEO | Abbracci Group

Rob de Luca
Senior Copywriter

Rob de Luca is the senior copywriter for BambooHR. He believes HR professionals and others deserve information-rich content that enables them to do great work, and he has written extensively on the topics of HR leadership and best practices.