An Interview with #SHRM18 Presenter and Blogger, Sabrina Baker


I had a chance to catch-up with Sabrina Baker and hear a bit about her session for HR Departments of One,  Getting Out of the Weeds: How HR Departments of One Can Move from Fire Fighter to HR Igniter at the upcoming #SHRM18 conference.

After spending 11 years in corporate HR leadership roles, Sabrina Baker experienced a layoff in 2010. She decided to focus her efforts on small businesses and started Acacia HR Solutions shortly after. Acacia HR Solutions aids small businesses in developing strategic initiatives that help them think and act like big businesses. She is a sought after speaker and writer contributing to several global human resource, recruiting and leadership forums. She is an avid volunteer with the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and is a regular member of the annual conference blog squad. She is the President of DisruptHR LA and the former chair of the annual ILSHRM conference.

Q. I love your analogy of Fire Fighter to "HR IGNITER"! One of the biggest challenges as a solo HR Department of One is achieving balance between the tactical and the strategic responsibilities of the role. What tips to you have for us to put down the fire extinguishers to become less reactionary and more strategic?

Empowerment. One of the biggest reasons I see that HRDO1 are stuck in fire fighter phase is because they are inundated with tasks or issues that managers or employees themselves could handle. Empowering employees to handle some things without the help of HR will limit the need for that fire extinguisher.

Q. Some fellow HR DOO's ask me - how do I get to be strategic when I'm always putting out fires? What's your advice to them? How can they move beyond and become HR Igniters?

When I’m asked this question, what I tell practitioners is you have to stop waiting for two things. First, stop waiting for permission. No one is going to walk in your office and tell you that you are now allowed to be more strategic. The second thing they are waiting for is time. There is never going to be more time. You have to just carve out the time and know that something else may have to wait. 

Q. One of the common issues in a Department of One is having the time to do it all. Do you have an time management tips or tricks for the Department of One practitioner to offer advice on "doing it all" and having time remaining for "thinking time" or strategic aspects of the role?

HRDO1’s have to be as non-negotiable with their time as other leaders get to be. Empower leaders to handle issues on their own and then set your schedule up in a way that incorporates time to work on projects beyond the day to day. Do not allow anything to infringe upon this time.  

Q. As a Department of One, there are many interruptions and unplanned moments throughout our day relating to Employee Relations issues. How can a Department of One balance the needs of the employees without solving their problem for them, but coaching them to find their own solution?

One of my favorite speakers, Cy Wakeman, gives amazing advice in this area. HRDO1’s have to ask the right questions to lead an employee to a solution without giving the solution themselves. Same with leaders. Instead of letting a leader dump an employee relation issue on your lap and walking away, ask the leader how they think the issue can be solved and how you can help, but never offer to take it off their plate. 

Q. Because a lot of our role is in the tactical, some of the perception is that we are clerical or administrative support helpers, how do we shift that perception among senior leadership and make the transition to be an HR Igniter (and alter that perception)?

What a great question and the reality is that this takes time especially if you have been operating at a fire fighter level for a while. The most important part is to contribute and the same level as your operational partners. Know your business and offer suggestions or ideas to improve operations, finance or any other area that you have ideas in. Volunteer to sit it on meetings that have nothing to do with HR, but where you might be able to offer ideas. Once people see that you are capable of contributing at more than just an administrative level, they will look at you differently. Again, you can’t wait for someone to give you permission, you just have to do it. 

The #SHRM18 session, Getting out of the weeds: How HR Departments of One Can Move from Fire Fighter to HR Igniter is Tuesday, June 19 at 3:00pm. Join us and see Sabrina's presentation to hear her share ideas to help you move beyond the day to day administration of HR to acting as a true partner to business leaders and making a greater impact on the business as a whole.



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