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HomenewsLocal business becomes pioneer in fractional HR

Local business becomes pioneer in fractional HR

Jan. 16, 2024

This paid piece is sponsored by Alternative HR.

Fractional services have been around a long time, especially in the areas of finance, marketing and IT. Businesses that cannot justify a full-time bookkeeper, chief financial officer, marketing manager or IT director, for example, might engage those services on a fractional, or part-time, basis.

Other types of fractional services also are becoming more popular, and one of the fastest-growing areas is that of fractional human resource services and support. In fact, a Sioux Falls firm is one of the nation’s early providers and pioneers of fractional HR services.

Dan Oakland founded Alternative HR in 1992 and continues to serve as CEO.

“We’ve been providing outsourced and fractional, or part-time, HR support to small and medium-sized employers for over 30 years,” he said.

“Smaller businesses need a ‘go-to’ resource, whether that’s for an occasional project or an on-going need. We can tailor our service to each client.”

Oakland started Alternative HR after having spent a dozen years with a national restaurant franchise learning business and human resources management. He recognized that only about 5 percent of employers nationally were large enough to justify having a dedicated HR professional on staff.  The other 95 percent, he explained, were simply too small to afford that expertise.

“But they still had to compete with large employers for talent, comply with complex employment regulations and create an environment where their people and their organization could excel,” Oakland said.

That’s a tall order for a small employer that may not have the specialized skills and knowledge to fill that gap.

For several years, Oakland operated the business alone.

“It was a new concept,” he said, “and a lot of employers viewed HR as a ‘necessary evil’ rather than as a ‘game-changer’ in helping drive organizational success.”

One of Oakland’s early clients was Howe Inc., a Sioux Falls plumbing, heating and cooling contractor. Thirty years ago, Howe needed only fractional HR support. But after setting up the HR function and as the company continued to grow, Oakland then helped Howe find its first full-time HR director. Since then, Alternative HR has continued to provide support when needed, including recruiting, pre-employment assessments, compensation analysis and training.

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“The Alternative HR team has been a trusted partner of Howe for decades, providing expertise and support across many areas of our HR and team-building needs,” president and fourth-generation family leader Justin Howe said.

“That ranges from on-site support in our earlier years, before we had an in-house HR team, to leadership training, strategy consulting and recruiting assistance as we’ve grown. Their experience, professionalism and timely response has always been a hallmark of their business.”

Oakland started adding to his team in 2011. Karen DeLange previously was a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company and then HR director for a Sioux Falls nonprofit organization. Now, she’s an HR senior consultant with Alternative HR and also serves as director of operations. She recently was awarded the 2023 HR Distinguished Professional of the Year by the Sioux Empire Society for Human Resource Management.

Dan KarenDan Karen

DeLange mentors and guides the team of consultants who typically work with dozens of businesses, nonprofits and public entities every month.

“Every one of our clients is an expert at something that they produce or provide, but they look to us to help them excel at the ‘people side’ of their business,” she said. “We frequently get involved when they hit a dead end or need advice on tackling a problem or project. Where we make the greatest impact, though, is when we can provide support and guidance to leadership and help eliminate some of the headaches they’ve been facing.”

DeLange explains it this way: “Whether an employer needs help with a single issue such as compensation or performance management or supervisory training, or whether they need help managing all of their HR functions on a regular and on-going basis, we support what they need, when they need it.”

Another long-term client is the city of Brandon, which has contracted with Alternative HR for nearly 20 years to provide HR expertise and support. Bryan Read became Brandon’s city administrator in 2009.

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“The city was already working with Alternative HR when I came, and it’s been a great partnership over the years,” he said. “We need HR help; we just aren’t big enough to justify full-time HR.”

Read credits Alternative HR’s assistance in a number of areas.

“Recruiting assistance has been great, but even more beneficial has been their help in selecting the right people. Professionalizing our selection process has greatly improved our retention,” he said.

He also cited the support Alternative HR provides in maintaining competitive wages, keeping safety and safety training top of mind and providing coaching and growth opportunities for department heads.

“Their services are great. They help me do a better job of leading,” said Read, who had 20 years of experience in city administration before coming to Brandon.

“And, they stop us from doing stupid stuff!” he joked.

Another one of the HR senior consultants on the team is Julie Nelson, who joined the firm in 2013. She previously spent time managing HR in the health care and credit card industries.

In talking about the company’s mission to help small and medium-sized employers with their HR needs, Nelson said: “We work hard to provide practical, common-sense solutions and advice to our clients — on a scale they can afford. Our team members average 15 to 20 years of HR experience, so there’s not much we haven’t encountered.”

Nelson also points to industry experts who predict that the market for outsourced HR services may double in the next 10 years.

“Government regulations keep increasing, competition for people keeps intensifying, and worker expectations keep rising,” she said. “Those are key reasons why our business is in demand.”

Leadership TeamLeadership Team

The Alternative HR leadership team

Lea Wroblewski is another fan of Alternative HR. She became executive director of East River Legal Services in mid-2022.

“I credit my HR consultant with helping us through the transition. We were able to talk through different issues and approaches – it was such a big help,” she said.

Since then, Wroblewski has  used Alternative HR to review and update the agency’s compensation and wage scale.

“In fact, because of information they provided, we applied for and received a grant that helped fund the increased expenses,” Wroblewski said.

She is also a fan of Alternative HR’s subscription service, HR On-Demand.

“For a small nonprofit, it is so helpful to have the resources they provide, and we have an HR expert on call when an issue comes up.”

Today, Alternative HR has a team of 14 consultants and support staff who serve clients throughout South Dakota and surrounding states.

When asked about the difference she sees in clients before and after Alternative HR partners with them, DeLange quipped: “First, they sleep better at night! Second, they see improvement in things like turnover, engagement and productivity – all of which adds to the bottom line. And that is where we demonstrate our value.”

To find out more about Alternative HR, go to, or call 605-335-8198.

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