In my four years at Charlie, I’ve met many founders and people responsible for HR at startups or small businesses who come to me with the same question: how do I reduce my HR admin?

In the early days, I used to be convinced it only took some willingness and good organisation skills to make it all work, but I now know that, as a small business, it’s crucial to know when to seek help before you lose control.

If my role at Charlie mainly revolves around building and reviewing HR policies as well as giving advice about employment law among other things, I can also guide small businesses and startups towards scaling and building a successful business.

That’s why in this blog post, I’ll be sharing four of the best solutions small businesses and startups can use to reduce their admin.

Why you should be on top of your HR admin 

Looking after HR admin can sometimes appear like a tedious task, but it’s essential for your business to function properly. Let me give you a list of a few reasons why I think taking HR admin seriously matters:

  • It ensures you comply with employment law –  you can easily feel constrained in the rigidity that comes with employment laws, but ignoring them could cause a lot of issues in the long run – taking HR admin seriously right from the start will keep you accountable and avoid any legal issues. 
  • It attracts the best people to work for you – you’ll get the opportunity to attract the best talent at your business by giving them a good first impression as a company that knows what it’s doing. 
  • It improves retention at your business – small businesses and startups have to rely on their people to grow. With satisfied team members, you’ll get them to stay longer, progress and build a successful business venture.
  • It sets the right HR foundations to take your business further – HR admin might seem trivial, but it’s the first step to getting happy and high-performing team members. It will set the first layer of your HR strategy to allow you to focus on more impactful work whilst getting core HR right.

How can you start reducing the load of your HR admin? 

Reducing the load of your HR admin will be crucial for the future of your company.

As your company grows, you’ll have to streamline your processes to avoid mistakes and ensure all your team members get a consistent experience.

There are a few steps you should think about to understand how to reduce the load of your HR admin: 

  • Measure the time each of your HR tasks takes per week on average 
  • Shortlist the ones that are the most time-consuming
  • Start thinking about ways you could take these HR tasks off your hands 
  • Stay realistic about what can be achieved 

Of course, that sounds like a pretty straightforward plan, but a lot of small businesses I worked with at Charlie often wonder how this can concretely be done.

It might seem daunting at first, but there are a lot of solutions available out there to make it less admin-heavy and perhaps even take some of it outside of your business.

Let’s have a look at the four recommendations I usually give to my customers depending on their situation.

Solution 1 – outsource your HR admin to a freelancer or an HR consultancy

What does it mean? 

Outsourcing means getting a person – a freelancer or someone employed by an HR consultancy – to handle all of your HR admin without hiring them as full-time employees. 

How much does it cost? 

If you choose to go for a freelancer with an HR degree or specialist qualification, the price can be between £50-£100 per hour. 

If, on the other hand, you choose to go for an HR consultancy company, you’ll be looking at more expensive packages – around £15.70 per employee per month for a 10-employee company for example.

Who is it for? 

Outsourcing your HR to a freelancer or to an HR consultancy company is generally recommended for small to medium-sized companies that can’t afford a full-time HR hire. 

  • A person to communicate with if you have an issue 
  • All your compliance documents handled by HR professionals 
  • A representation in court 
  • Resources for your HR knowledge 


  • A person to communicate with if you have an issue 
  • Difficult to streamline processes
  • May not be able to get a hold of them whenever you need them, especially if it’s urgent 


  • Communication can be difficult as handled through a call centre – you’ll get a different person every time who is not familiar with your business
  • Consultancies are used to work with corporates and often hold little knowledge to the specificities of small businesses and startups

Example of HR consultancy 

WorkplaceHR hero shot

Julie - Director of a Tewkesbury based charity

"I will certainly recommend WorkPlace HR whenever I have the opportunity as the service you and other members of the company have provided have been efficient, professional and friendly."

Solution 2 – automate time off and timesheets processes

What does it mean? 

Getting a platform that deals with your time off and timesheet management process takes a very long process off your hands. 

How much does it cost? 

It really depends on what sort of solution you go for. If you simply want a time off management platform, you can find one from £2 per employee per month.

If you’re using timesheets, you can get a free platform, but if you’re looking for something more advanced, you’ll find it with prices starting from £7.50 per month.

Who is it for? 

Small businesses and startups have fundamental HR needs and sometimes can’t afford anything more sophisticated when it comes to HR automation. I would say it caters to the needs of your business at the very start when you don’t want to spend too much or if you’re in a tight spot. 

  • Cost-efficient 
  • Removes manual processes for time off and timesheets 
  • Records different types of leave 
  • Has everything in one place 
  • You’re still the bottleneck for all requests 
  • No clash notification for requests sent for the same time off 
  • Limited opportunities to record time off 
  • No reporting 

Examples of time off and timesheets management systems

Buddypunch website picture

Cindy J. – Getapp review

“We're saving time and money, and doing a much better job of keeping up with everyone's time.”

etimesheets website picture

Hussain S. – Capterra review

"Excellent software. It helps you track hourly time for payroll with a simple interface your employees will love."

Solution 3 – invest in employee self-service 

What does it mean? 

Employee self-service, also called ESS, is where your team members can complete some of their HR admin tasks by themselves – meaning they don’t have to pass through you and get to automate some of your HR processes

How much does it cost? 

There’s a wide range of different employee self-service platforms that you can use, so the price range varies quite a lot, but if you’re getting employee self-service for basic HR tasks, it can start from £9 per employee per month. 

Who is it for? 

Employee self-service is a great way to get started when it comes to startups or small businesses – it removes chains of emails with team members as well as a lot of data input. 

  • Time off management is handled on one platform
  • New team members input their own details such as address or passport details
  • No need for you to update employee’s personal details as they can do it themselves
  • Ability to download important documents such as P45 and P60
  • Limited in what it can do if you’re looking to scale
  • Still a lot of administration tasks to take care of when it comes to HR
  • No answers to basic questions about the business (HR policies, address, etc.) 
  • Can be difficult to set up depending on what you go for

Examples of Employee Self-Service  

Workday website picture

Keiko S. – G2 review

“Working with Workday is very comfortable, the implementation is simple, it is responsive, it increases the effectiveness of our Human Resources department, it helps manage our recruiting processes, attract unique candidates and easily manage all the internal steps of the selection in a genuine and safe way.”

Zoho website picture

Rashmi D. – G2 review

“All my documents are placed at one place and are accessible to me whenever I want from where ever I want. My daily attendance, all new joiners their bdays everything is visible on the dashboard.”

Solution 4 – Use HR software instead of an HR department 

What does it mean? 

HR software is a user-friendly HR automation tool that takes care of all of your core HR admin and offers support as you grow. 

How much does it cost? 

Again, HR software is available in many different forms and it can be tricky to choose the right one for you, but affordable HR software for small businesses can cost as little as £5 per month.

Who is it for? 

HR software caters to the needs of many different sizes of companies and comes at various prices and with a lot of different features. However, you can get some that have been specifically designed with small businesses and startups in mind like CharlieHR

  • All your main HR tasks automated in one place 
  • Employee records and information securely stored 
  • Self-service process for time off management, onboarding process and performance reviews 
  • Automated onboarding flow that makes new hires feel welcome 
  • Time off management where requests are submitted, accepted or denied and that flags any overlapping leave 
  • Performance reviews that run themselves where managers and team members can have meaningful conversations 
  • Not suitable for a big company 
  • Can’t automate all tasks but can use integrations 
  • Doesn’t include an HR professional – but possibility to get HR advice with some solutions

Examples of HR software

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Administrator in Management Consulting – G2 review

“I so wish we'd joined years ago. Every startup should do this! It's so much better to get things (policies, handbook, processes) in places when you're still small before you scale.”