Can I be a big fish in a small pond?

For six years I have been
working in HR for a large organisation as one of many HR managers. I have been
asked to join a very small company as its first personnel manager. I’m
attracted to the challenge of setting up an HR department but I’m conscious
there will be no other staff to support me. Is this a smart career move? Will
setting up an HR operation look good on my CV, or will the small scale of the
company and lack of people management involved count against me?

Peter Sell, joint
managing director, DMS Consultancy

Your first consideration should
be what interests you the most. Moving to a small company could look good on
your CV depending on the scope of the role. You are  more likely to be able to contribute to the business and make an

Does status matter to you? With
no support you could end up doing everything including the filing. Or it could
offer you a chance to build a professional HR function with administration
devolved to line managers with scope to concentrate on more strategic issues.

If you relish a challenge, then
setting up a professional HR function will give you experience of all aspects
of personnel and development. This should give you a list of achievements for
your CV and you should have no problem developing your career in either a
company environment or possibly into consultancy.

Grant Taylor, HR
consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

You must first establish how
your role will be seen to contribute to business strategy. If you are setting
up an administrative function where you have little strategic input and no
staff management, this could reflect badly in the future. However, if the role
is part of the senior management team and viewed as an important strategic hire
in a growing business, it could prove to be an excellent move.

Moving to a small organisation
often gives you the opportunity to use more of your skills, more of the time,
and to take a more strategic approach than you probably have until now.

Setting up an HR operation is a
good experience, but you need to weigh up the pros and cons on how the role may
progress and how this will be reflected on your CV.

Peter Lewis, consultant,

This will increase the scope of
your role and responsibility. You will have the challenge of setting things up
from scratch and developing and implementing a strategy for HR.

How will this move fit into
your career plans? Is this a long term move in which you will grow with the
company, or a 2-3 year career stage, with a strong change agenda? Either way
you will need to acquire additional skills and you need to be clear how to
achieve this.

Being the sole HR person is
very different from being one of many. Understanding the ways in which you
prefer to work, perhaps using psychometrics, may well help you identify areas
of potential difficulty, where you may well need support.

Research the company culture
and be clear about what success in this role will look like for you. If you
decide to go ahead, work to establish a strong HR presence and review the
situation in 18 months’ time, when you should be clearer about your next career

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