The manager in Bob Freese knew that his growing company needed a dedicated human-resources (HR) administrator, but the entrepreneur in him hated bureaucracy. He decided to start small by hiring a part-timer and got a bonus: more experience than he'd hoped to attract.

Freese's company, Alphatronix, a software developer based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., had grown to 40 employees. Freese's vice-presidents were spending too much time writing help-wanted advertisements, filling out interview reports, and the like. CEO Freese lists the HR pressures: "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Americans with Disabilities Act, hiring, firing, and corrective action. You can handle them yourself for a while, but it becomes hard to make sure everyone knows the rules."

Good HR administrators can centralize that expertise. They can also train people to interview without inviting lawsuits, write the antidiscrimination policies government contracts require, keep those policies up-to-date -- and do it fast.

Freese couldn't justify a full-time position, so he advertised a three-day-a-week job, without benefits, on a prorated salary. Responses flooded in. But what really surprised Freese was the caliber of the respondents, many of them big-company veterans who had left their jobs to have children and wanted to continue their careers with more flexible schedules. His eventual hire, Suzanne Jones, has seven years' experience in HR.

"If you have 30 employees, you have HR issues," Freese says. "This is a great way to get your feet wet."

* * *