Human Resources: Department of One

Human Resources: Department of One

Today’s post is a guest post from Oginga Carr, an organizational structure expert, and business consultant. I wanted to include a segment on Human Resources because many small business have to depend on one person as a Human Resources department. Oginga will explain just how to do that today.

I relate to that feeling because I was in corporate America as a manager, and the organization that I worked with changed to what they called a “small-business concept.” This meant that we had to start taking care of our own Human Resources responsibilities. My position changed from being a manager to the manager/ Human Resources department/payroll/janitor/babysitter/etc. So I understand what it is like to run your own business and be faced by the many compliance issues. If you don’t stay on top of it, legal compliance can be difficult and costly. I want to break down for you the 5 secrets to success as a Human Resources Department, Team of One.

1. Human Resources Department: EMPLOYEES VS. CONTRACTORS

One of the big tripping points for small- to medium-sized businesses is in classifying workers. For a worker to be a contractor, they have to be able to pass a three-prong test called the ‘ABC’ test.

The A portion of the test signifies control or direction of the work. If you tell a worker when to show up, when to take a break, how much you are going to pay them, etc., then they are probably an employee.

The B portion of the test refers to whether or not the service is outside your usual business or usual location of your business. For example, if you contract with a plumber to do some work in a bathroom before you paint, that would be an outside service.

The C portion test declares independent business or trade. Does your worker have their own workers’ compensation insurance or a waiver? Do they have their own business license? You would need to answer yes to those questions to be able to answer yes to portion C safely.

In general, a contractor must pass all three of these tests, and you must be able to prove it. Some states only require the worker to pass two of the three, but every state has requirements. If the worker does not pass the ABC test, then they are an employee, which means they must meet all of the standards and requirements of an employee. The fines for misclassification can be hefty.



Once you classify a worker as an employee, you then must classify what type of employee they are. You have two options: exempt or nonexempt. Nonexempt employees must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. Exempt employees do not have to be paid overtime but have to pass specific tests to be exempt. The two tests are the salary basis test and the duties test. They must both be passed for the employee to be exempt. You should indicate exempt or nonexempt in the job description. It is a great idea to review your employees’ status with an employment attorney or an HR consultant to make sure that your organization is abiding by these regulations.


Keeping the records of your employees can be confusing. For most businesses that do not have direct governmental oversight, a simple process will satisfy compliance. Keep personnel files seven years after termination. Examples of personnel information would be handbook acknowledgment pages, employee discipline, employee reviews, and general employee information. You also need to keep medical files six years after termination. Medical records would include doctor’s notes, reasonable accommodations, drug test results, workers’ compensation cases, and anything that speaks to your employees’ medical history.

Keep medical files at the ‘level of negligence.’ For paper files, this means in a locked room and in a locked file cabinet. These files must also be kept separate and distinct from personnel files. This means in a separate file drawer than the personnel file if you are keeping them as paper files. It is vital to remember that sensitive information must be kept in a locked room, in a locked file cabinet, or in a password-protected folder, if it is held electronically. Confidential information would be any information that includes identifying information on your employees, such as social security numbers or driver’s license numbers.


As someone with HR responsibilities, it is vital to know the handbook for your organization. You have to be able to coach and counsel employees when there is a handbook issue. You have to be able to recognize when a handbook issue is unfair to your employees and take steps to adjust the policy. Remember, you can make any policy you’d like in your organization as long as it is legal and applied evenly. This means that your policies can be as strict or as lenient as you would like; they just have to be consistent. When policies are consistent, the same type of employees have the same rules.


Many times, we can trace productivity issues in organizations to a lack of clarity in job descriptions. If you do not describe the employee’s job adequately, it doesn’t protect you legally or help your productivity. How can you expect your employee to do their job if they don’t fully know what their role is? You must be clear in your explanation of job responsibilities. A clear job description would include every recurring duty that your employee would have. This means your description could be 1, 2, maybe even 5 pages. This allows your employee to understand the expectations from them in the position. By being transparent in the job description, you can hire more employees that are capable of doing the job and know the expectations.

Follow these 5 simple steps, and you will start to really control the human resources department in your organization, and create a company that functions much better and produces more. At my company, we believe in productivity through the structure. The better organized we are, the more productive and profitable we can be!


human resources department

Oginga Carr is an author, national seminar leader, organizational structure expert, and Business consultant. He brings 20 years of experience in Sales, Management, and Human Resources. His passion is in the dynamic of change; dealing with it, working through it, and preparing for it. Oginga focuses on productivity through structure and human capital development. He is the author of the book, Your Limitless Life.