How to Start Up an HR Department in a Company

office workers image by Tracy Martinez from

Your company has grown from a small start-up to 50 people. Things look great for future growth as evidenced by the amount of office space the company is occupying. Sounds like your firm is positioned for success, which is the reason you’re considering a human resources department. As the point person on the launch, apply due diligence to achieve your aim and it won’t be long before you’ll be hard-pressed to recall corporate life without your HR department.

Ask your executive committee to describe the ideal human resources department so you understand what it is seeking. Make your job easier by presenting principals with a checklist covering tasks that are commonly handled by HR departments, including hiring, firing, payroll, interoffice communication, compliance, authoring employee handbooks, labor law and benefits management.

Requisition private offices with single-entry, locking doors so files and sensitive information about staffers are kept safe. Install other data safeguards; locking file cabinets, a security monitoring system, password-protected computer setups and other measures in line with the firm’s budget and commitment to protecting the privacy of personnel.

Hire professional staff, including at least one HR generalist with previous experience steering an HR department. Seek candidates with education in human resources, psychology, sociology, industrial relations and similar disciplines. Expect to dig deep into corporate salary resources if you’re seeking a staffer with significant experience and/or graduate degrees. Subject finalists to background and employment checks.

Hire the candidate that resonates with management and offers the best combination of credentials, references and knowledge about compliance issues such as Equal Opportunity statutes, the Americans With Disabilities Act and right-to-work laws. Determine where to slot your HR staff into the reporting hierarchy; ask the person to whom HR will report to draft job descriptions for the new staff.

Commission the writing of an employee handbook if no such publication exists or the one the company uses is outdated or lacks substance. Ask firm principals to appoint one or more point people to vet the handbook so the three most critical areas are explored in depth: terms of employment, benefits and disciplinary processes. Send the final draft to your corporate attorney before publishing.

Assign responsibility for handling cost-cutting research on behalf of company benefit plans, including new quotes for health and dental insurance plans and finding retirement plan administrators with more attractive programs, to your HR staff as it becomes a seasoned unit. Encourage the team to explore morale-building programs such as a corporate wellness plan and a company newsletter.

Encourage your HR department to become corporate ambassadors responsible for finding top talent at college and job fairs. Send department members to workshops devoted to helping HR professionals handle workplace violence, conflict resolution, mediation and other incidents that pervade the work environment.

2016 Salary Information for Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers earned a median annual salary of $106,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, human resources managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $80,800, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $145,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 136,100 people were employed in the U.S. as human resources managers.


About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

Photo Credits

  • office workers image by Tracy Martinez from