Meet Me in New Orleans! SHRM 2017 Preview

Meet Me in New Orleans! SHRM 2017 PreviewOnce again this year I have the privilege of attending the national SHRM conference as a member of the blog team (squad, krewe, rift raft, whatever you want to call us). My responsibility as a member of this team is to write posts, share updates across social channels and make those not in attendance feel as though they are. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of this team and take the opportunity to share as much as I can while there very seriously.

Considering the niche I am in, I focus my conference experience on content that I find most valuable to small businesses. I try to attend sessions that I feel can apply to any size business or ones that are designed specifically for HR Departments of One. So outside of the general sessions, you can look for updates from me from sessions focused in this area.

Here on the blog we have some pretty cool updates planned leading up to the conference. We published one of two speaker interviews this past Tuesday and will be publishing another in a few weeks. We are also very excited to publish our first ever SHRM Small Business Session Guide. This guide will have our top picks for sessions designed specifically for small businesses.

The guide will be released to our blog subscribers on June 1st and to the public on June 8th.

Also this year I have the honor of joining the amazing speaker lineup on the Smart Stage. Smart Stage talks are 18 minutes in length and are Ted-esque in nature. My topic is Big HR for Small Business. Following my mantra that small businesses can do anything big businesses can do, I will be sharing ideas for accomplishing big business ideas in a small business environment. We will be talking about getting it all done, being everything to everyone and scaling projects to wow your executive team.

If you are attending the conference this year, I would love to meet you. Send me an email, a comment below, a tweet or however you prefer to reach out to let me know you are attending. Part of the fun of the conference is meeting online connections in person….even for this introvert.

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How Small Businesses Can Market Themselves for the Best Talent

Ask any small business leader what their biggest challenge is when it comes to the people side of their business and they will tell you that it is recruiting. They face immense competition from their larger rivals, minimal budget to actually get the word out about their openings or work with recruiters and limited resources to administer the recruiting process. It is a constant headache.

Small business leaders looking for solutions read about employer branding and recruitment marketing and think all of that sounds nice, but wonder if they can really put a campaign in place for their business with little to no budget or resources. They can if they remember one thing.

It takes time.

Employer branding, recruitment marketing, posting on job boards, direct sourcing or any other recruiting approaches do not work overnight. There are no silver bullets in recruiting. Historically, recruiting has been very reactive. The only way to get ahead and lesson the headache that recruiting brings is to be proactive. This means, implementing a proactive marketing approach long before you ever have an opening.

The great news is that in today’s world of social media and inbound marketing, even the lowest of budgets can market their opportunities rather well. I know this, because it’s how I’ve built this business and how most of my clients grew to the size they are today.

There are several ways small businesses can market themselves to attract top talent. The rest of this post will not only share the medium but ideas for content as well.

Social Media
No two ways around it, social media should not be ignored. I’m still floored at the number of people who reach out for social media help and who are really just getting started, but I guess that is the cool thing about it – it’s always evolving and there is always space for newcomers.

Small businesses should have a presence on social media. My advice to all of my clients is to always pick the platform where your talent is hanging out and do that one well. You don’t have to be on every social site. Pick one, do that one really well and then move on to others as time and budgets allow.

Social media company pages, like on LinkedIn or Facebook, are often free and contain great about sections and opportunities to post updates sharing company highlights or job openings. While you do have to pay to share information in ads or sponsored posts, you can set a very minimal budget for this or just grow your audience organically using your current employees as ambassadors. Asking employees to share content from your pages expands your reach with little time and effort on your part.

Company Blog
A company blog can be a very powerful tool in sharing culture, leadership vision and company growth information. I enjoy blog’s written from the different viewpoints of the leaders, but company blogs that share content from just one person, say the marketing lead, works well too. The key with the blog is that it shouldn’t be all customer focused. The best company blogs are ones that talk about the company as it relates to it’s employees. And if your goal is attracting talent, this is what you want to focus on.

Whenever you write a new blog post, you’ll want to share it to your social network and ask employees to do the same. The more eyeballs on every post, the better.

It’s important, while we are talking about blogging, to look beyond company blogs as well. LinkedIn allows for anyone to publish content and many top CEO’s do so on a regular basis. I think the more opportunity the public has to hear from top leadership, the more the public takes interest.

Email Marketing
I have actually been developing this more and more with a few of my clients and we are really enjoying the results so far. Even the smallest of businesses usually have an email marketing platform. They use it to build email list of prospective clients. That same email marketing platform however, can be used for recruiting. It can be used to keep in touch with applicants you may not have an opening for right now, or just share updates about company vision and growth. Email marketing campaigns are easy to put together and can often run on a “set it and forget it” approach. Keeping in contact with applicants means you may not be starting from scratch every time you have an opening because you have a list of people who you know are interested in your company.

While there is certainly more that can be done from an inbound basis, the three areas above can make a huge difference in how a small business is seen out in the market. It can make the difference between applicants having never heard of the company to having a level of awareness that piques their interest.

One final thing. Before launching any type of social media campaign or blog, please make sure your careers page on your website is worth sending people too. You are going to need to link back to something in your status updates and if your careers page is not worth sharing then you could be losing a lot of leads.

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Dear HR Leader: Outsourcing Part of HR Does Not Undermine You

Dear HR Leader: Outsourcing Part of HR Does Not Undermine YouI’m a consultant. There is really no way to get around the title. Christine and I, we consult. I could fancy it up and say that we actually serve as HR Directors for many companies, and that would be true. I could call myself a Chief Human Resource Officer to make it sound more corporate. I could do those things and more but the reality is, I’m a consultant.

I work for myself, own a firm, have clients across all industries none of which have me on their dedicated payroll. I believe that’s the very definition of consultant.

For our direct outsourcing clients, small businesses who have no HR staff of their own, we are hired by the CEO, CFO or in-house council and they have no problem with us being consultants. We also have a great group of HR Managers/Directors who call on us to provide project work, typically around a strategic HR initiative (formal on-boarding programs, rewards and recognition programs, recruiting etc) and they know that we are coming in for a time to help them through this project and they enjoy working with us on it.

But then there’s another group. I don’t often get calls from this group, but when I do I’m often baffled. This group is the HR Leader whose CEO or CFO suggested they call in a consultant to help them through a project or who suggested they outsource part of their HR to a consultant to alleviate their daily workload. This group begrudgingly calls us but makes sure that we know that they don’t think they need our help and are only calling because their boss is making them.

Well that makes me excited to work with you.

Let me be clear. Outsourcing part of human resources or bringing us in to work with you on a project does not undermine your ability. We are not trying to get you fired so we can take over your HR Department. The truth is, if your business is big enough to have an HR leader, it is probably too big for us to handle on a full time basis anyway.

What baffles me most is that a operations leader will give the HR leader the go ahead to outsource part of the HR function, say benefit administration, so that their time is freed up to handle other projects, more high level projects, and the HR leader fights it. Who on earth wants to hold on to benefits administration when they could be working on things that are going to make a real business impact?

I understand there are firms out there who may come in and try to take more and more work just to grow their business and who do try to push the HR leader out and that is a shame. It has certainly taught me how to ensure my marketing, proposals and sales pitches highlight that we are different.

We aren’t a firm who hires people with no HR experiences, gives them a couple of weeks of training, shows them where to look up HR answers and then has them handling clients. We aren’t a PEO looking to take over the entire HR function. Clients can outsource as much or as little of their HR function to us or they can call us in for a one time project and once that is complete we will be on our way.

And we never, ever undermine the HR Leader. Never on purpose anyway and if we do by accident we will own it.

I realize this sounds like a bit of a rant and maybe it is. It just pains me to have someone call and tell me they really don’t want to work with us but are being forced to. I will always refer them elsewhere because that isn’t the business relationship I want. As trite as it may sound, we want to partner with HR leaders and help them as best we can, never undermine or make them feel like their job is being threatened.

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Interview with SHRM 2017 Speaker Dr. Tony Alessandra

Interview with SHRM17 SpeakerIf you have followed this blog for any amount of time you know that one topic I am passionate about is communication. I’ve written about it on numerous occasions, my most popular post being this one all about communication. I speak on it and even did my first DisruptHR talk about it. I firmly believe that many issues in the workplace could be avoided with better and more thorough communication.

SHRM 2017 speaker Dr. Tony Alessandra agrees.

Dr. Alessandra is facilitating a workshop on June 18th, titled: Adaptability: How to Talk so that People Will Listen. I spoke with Dr. Alessandra about this session and wanted to share a few takeaways.

Dr. Alessandra says that the most important thing people will take away from this workshop is how to practice communication. This is a “you had me at hello” moment for me. We are very reactive. We speak before we think. More than that, we speak the way we think without forethought or strategy. Dr. Alessandra is going to teach attendees how to adapt (change) their communication style depending upon the person or situation you are facing.

So important and yet rarely done.

Dr. Alessandra will provide a model that describes the 4 basic communication styles and how to identify each. He takes a “when in Rome” approach to communication which I really like. We should not be communicating based on our preferences but based on the preferences of those we are communicating with.

If I say it once I say it 20 times a week to leaders – let’s figure out how to frame this information in a way that the receiver can hear it. So many misunderstandings could be avoided if the person communicating would have taken a bit of time to think about how they wanted to say what they needed to based on how the receiving individual communicated.

This topic hit home for Dr. Alessandra when he moved from New York to San Diego years ago. He quickly realized that the New York style of communicating did not work well in Southern California. My own experience moving from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2014 reiterates that story well. Whether it be with people from different parts of the country, experiences or personality preferences, everyone communicates differently and using a one size fits all approach will not fly in the long run.

Dr. Alessandra says that his workshop is best for anyone who has to deal with people, so I’m certain any SHRM attendee will get something out of this session. He promises actionable content, stories and group activities that make 4 hours fly by.

Although this is the first time presenting this topic for SHRM, Dr. Alessandra is a noted keynote speaker and member of the National Speakers Association where he is in the Hall of Fame.

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Facebook’s Bereavement Policy and Why Small Businesses Should Follow Suit

FB Bereavement Policy and Small BusinessThere is a certain clarity that comes from life experiences that change who you are. Experiences you know will leave you different and creating a new normal for yourself and your family. Time often muddies that clarity and if we don’t act quickly to apply the lessons learned to every area of our life we forget it’s impact. I applaud Sheryl Sandberg and the entire Facebook team for not only applying lessons learned from major life experiences to their personal lives, but for applying them to policies at Facebook as well. One such policy is their a new bereavement policy. One I’m sure was influenced, at least on some part, after the sudden death of Sandberg’s husband.

I believe these types of policies are where companies put their money where their mouth is. These are the policies that allow us to see if all that culture and engagement talk are just words. Leaders know what to say these days. They know what employees are looking for and often say the right things. Policies like these are where you really see if they mean it or not.

The standard bereavement leave policy is three days. Three days to mourn the loss of someone immensely close to you. Three days to mourn the person who raised you, shared your life with you or who used to call you mom. Three days to say goodbye to the people who you are closer to than anyone else in the world. I realize many businesses allow employees to take more time off but they either use vacation/sick time or go unpaid for those extra days.

And that is where the message gets confusing.

“Your loved one is important to us, but only for three days. After that, you have to figure it out.” Or “We only think you need three days to get over this.” Regardless of whether the company allows the employee to take more than the three days, three days is what the employee will feel the company thinks is appropriate.

And if you have lost a parent, or a child, or a spouse, you know, three days is not enough.

I will admit I am a little raw regarding this topic. I just lost my mother and can’t imagine feeling the pressure to return to work after three days. I live far from my parents and need a full day just to get to them. I would have never been able to handle the stress of going through this trauma with the added pressure of getting back to work.

Further, I know there are going to be times in the coming weeks when I, for lack of better words, have a day. Where what has happened hits me like a ton of bricks and I am unable to put any work in. It’s going to hit my son, father and sister too and they may need me to step away from work and help them through. I know that I will be able to take that time without fear of repercussion.

This should be a simple one folks. This is one of those no-brainer policies that I think we have all just accepted for so long the way it is. Why can’t businesses offer more than 3 days? I don’t know that 20 is the right number for everyone, it certainly was for Facebook, but 3 seems perfunctory.

Of course it isn’t as simple as just changing the policy. This article highlights some important components of the Facebook policy and the culture they have created which support a policy like this.

While I’m not encouraging businesses to implement policies like this without thought and measure, I do think it’s necessary that businesses of all sizes begin to look at policies like this and see if the words they tell their employees align with the policies they hold them accountable to. We proclaim more human workplaces, but often work against ourselves in actually providing them. This policy, often forgotten until needed, is a great place to be a little more human and show employees how much we care about their personal lives and their ability to navigate the balance properly.

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Top 5 Ways HCM Software Supports Your Small Business

Today we have a sponsored post from my friends at Ultimate Software. I mentioned that I joined Ultimate Software at their annual user conference in March. I had the privilege of hearing Adam Rogers, their CTO, introduce new updates, interview Will Smith and share Ultimate’s vision for the future. To say I was impressed with both him and the company would be an understatement. I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say as well.

Guest Post: Adam Rogers, CTO, Ultimate Software

For many small businesses that begin with a small team and a dream, HR responsibilities are managed by a cross-functional manager or sole in-house administrator. This approach suffices for a time, but as your company grows, a more comprehensive and effective strategy is needed. Efficiency is critical for small businesses with limited resources, and the right software streamlines time-intensive tasks while alleviating HR challenges. The result? Your efforts are spent strategically growing your business – not updating spreadsheets.

Affordable solutions are available for companies of every size, and they can make a meaningful difference for you and your employees. How? Here are 5 ways your small business can benefit from HCM technology.

1. Consolidate tactical activities
Time is money, and having key employees completing basic administrative tasks consumes both. Today’s solutions streamline otherwise time-intensive tasks, improving productivity, organizations, and effectiveness. Time and attendance management, payroll, and benefits administration are all easily managed by HCM solutions. Most also utilize direct access for both employees and managers, allowing your people to update their personal data and handle leave balance, leave requests, and approvals without any help or interventions while ensuring your business has accurate real-time information for reporting and compliance.

2. Keep tabs on regulatory compliance
Staying on top of compliance is practically a full-time job. Regulatory requirements vary from county to county, but even small businesses are expected to comply with the unique labor, taxation, insurance and healthcare laws of each. With the rise of “gig economy” and increased popularity of remote workers, it’s never been more critical to have a partner ensuring your legal adherence.

3. Progressive talent management
Acquiring and retaining employees is a crucial aspect of every organization. For many small businesses, this is an unrealized opportunity for improvement with technology. Look for a provider that can manage the complete recruiting experience, onboarding, open enrollment, compensation, performance and succession management, and uses social collaboration tools. Some HCM software even allows you to set specific, measureable goals with your employees, monitoring and reporting progress on an ongoing basis. By capturing various data points and journaling throughout the year, performance reviews become more of an ongoing collaborative process benefiting the employee, manager, and the business.

4. Advanced analytics for strategic development
Data is at the heart of every solid strategy, and compiling, accessing, and understanding actions as a result of that data has never been easier. Advanced reporting and analytics provide rich insight into key workforce metrics such as turnover trends and overtime hours, and predictive analytics can help predict future high performers and flight risks. Some solutions even offer prescriptive analytics, guiding leaders through crucial leadership actions with a variety of fact-based, real-time suggestions. Businesses can also gain invaluable data-based insight into their culture and overall employee experience by employing sophisticated pulse surveys. Using natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment-analysis technology, these innovative additions can decode text-based, open-ended questions and uncover the true voice of employees in real time.

5. Career and personal development
Numerous studies show that people value learning and career development opportunities, and offering ongoing learning stands to benefit employees and businesses alike. In addition to increased satisfaction, performance is likely to improve, as well as the value your employee brings to the role. Look for HCM software with a learning management platform that mirrors how today’s employees prefer to learn – collaboratively and on demand.

HCM technology is an investment, but there are affordable solutions for businesses of all sizes and the result can be truly game-changing. Reduced labor costs, increased efficiencies, and strategic opportunities are perhaps even more important for small businesses than they are for larger ones. I suggest looking for a solution that can grow with you- even if you’re only interested in time and labor management and payroll right now, a centralized HR solution can evolve and adapt as your business, budget, and needs grow.





Acacia HR Celebrates Six Years…

Six year anniversary

Had you told me in the beginning that in six years I would be working from my office overlooking the ocean (because in that time we also moved to LA) or that one of my dearest friends and favorite co-workers would be working with me, I wouldn’t have believed you. In the beginning, I’m not sure how I thought things would shake out, or even that they would. I was just taking it one day at a time, trying to do something that allowed me to balance working and being a mom and a wife.

And now here we are.

I mentioned when I announced that Christine joined the team that I don’t really consider the first few years of the business as legit. I worked so part time and had no real clarity around what I was doing that it’s amazing I made any money at all…much less built a business.

By pure luck and stumbling and fumbling through every day and somehow ending up right side up, we are celebrating six years.

Six years of helping small businesses think like big businesses.

Six years of conferences, speaking engagements and blogging.

Six years of the roller coaster emotions that go along with being an entrepreneur.

Six years that I wouldn’t trade for an office job.

Six years that I’m proud of, even if some of them have been ugly.

I’m excited for the next six years. I expect more roller coaster emotions and wonder if I will ever have a year where I don’t doubt that I can actually do this…even while doing it. Regardless, it’s exciting.

I love what Christine and I have planned. I am so encouraged by all the work that is being done and the goals we have set for this business. I am thankful for clients who let me in to their world and trust me to handle programs and policies that focus on their most precious asset. I am forever grateful for their patience when I don’t always get it right.

More than anything though I love what I’m doing.

I’m proud of this niche we serve. The niche that is often forgotten in a race to serve big business.

So much more to come on this, but for now I’m just going to say Happy Anniversary to us. Here’s to another six years…

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#WorkHuman Regional Event and Annual Conference – So Much to Look Forward To


Continuing down my year of “whose life am I living?”, I’ll be attending my first WorkHuman Regional Forum next week in Los Angeles (Orange County to be exact) at the amazing Pelican Hill Resort. Not only am I attending, but they trusted me enough to speak. I’m super excited.

I will be speaking about people-centric workplaces. Ones who put employees right up there in importance with their customers – if not above. Ones who do more than say they are a great place to work, but who actually are. Ones who build programs that motivate and inspire rather than denigrate. Ones who know that their only chance of long term success lies within every person they employ and act accordingly.

Unfortunately they are few and far between. I believe Globoforce is one of those companies and I’m excited to spend the day with them to get that message out. I will upload my slides to slideshare/LinkedIn after the event.

In May I will be attending their annual WorkHuman conference. I mentioned before how honored I am to be attending this event. Everyone who has attended this conference tells me it’s one of the best so I can not wait to see it for myself. They just added former First Lady Michelle Obama to the speaker lineup.

There is still time to attend both of these events. To attend the WorkHuman conference in Phoenix, you can register here. Use my code: WH17INF-SBA to save off the registration rate.

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Acacia HR is Growing – Please Welcome Christine Kopp!

Christine Kopp and Sabrina Baker

When I started this business I did so not because I really wanted to be a consultant or an entrepreneur, but because I wanted to be a mom. If you have read this blog for a while or heard me speak, you know my story. Cliff notes version: I went on maternity leave with my now 7 year old, was told three weeks before I was to return that I would be laid off. New baby, personality not conducive to being a stay at home mom and living in a city where having only an hour commute was a luxury. So I branched out on my own and 6 years later, here we are.

In those early days I worked very part time. I almost don’t consider the first two years of the business as real because I worked maybe two days a week (not 8 hour days) and dedicated most of that time to my son. I did do a lot of dreaming during those days though and over and over there were two things I would tell my husband about my business.

First, when I hired I wanted to make sure that I gave people the same opportunity I had. The opportunity to build their work around their life and not the other way around. The typical 8-5, M-F, take time off if you need to take your kid to the doctor doesn’t have to, and won’t, apply to this business. Anyone I hire can work when they want, how they want as long as the work gets done. They don’t ever have to worry about taking time off to be with a sick kid or taking a Tuesday off just because they want. On Friday, if their work for the week is done, I genuinely don’t care how they made it happen.

Second, when I hired, I had a list of people I wanted to bring on board. At the top of the list was Christine Kopp. Christine and I worked together at ACCENT Marketing – a call center company. We all have those co-workers who become friends and Christine is one of those people. Before either of us had kids, we vacationed together, traveled for work together and always worked really well together both at work and outside of work.

I’m so happy to announce that with my first hire, I’ve done both of the above. Hired Christine and given her the opportunity to work around her life. She’s busy. She has three girls.

Three girls. Seriously.

I had been thinking of hiring help for a while. The business doubled in revenue last year and quite frankly, this is long overdue. Christine reached out earlier this year asking about something she saw that would allow her to work from home, still be flexible with her girls, but keep her relevant in HR for when she was ready to go back to work. I took it as a sign and pitched the idea of her joining me.

She took the bait.

I was a little worried that she might not. If you’ve ever worked in a small business before, you know that roles are hard to define initially and everyone has to do a little bit of everything. Christine will be an HR Consultant but will be helping me in other areas of the business as well. She is a benefit expert and has worked as a generalist so her experience is very well rounded.

Plus, she is the extrovert that every introvert needs. The one who appreciates the introverts need for alone time, but also encourages them to get out of their minds every once in a while. We balance each other out and that makes for a great team.

Christine joined me last week in sunny CA (she lives in Kansas City) to do a little on-boarding and brainstorming and I’m excited about where this is going. There will be lots more to come from her and about her in the coming weeks.

The business turns 6 on April 19th so look for a formal press release on Christine and more info on the blog, but I didn’t want to wait until then to announce her hire.

You can read her more formal work information on LinkedIn and connect with her on Twitter.

Please send her well wishes and a few prayers – working with me ain’t easy!

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#DisruptHR Los Angeles – Coming Back for Round Two!


I think it’s funny when HR people are irreverent. Mostly because we have to be so buttoned up all the time, but also because it proves we are humans….who cuss….and get angry….and hate our jobs. Well, some of you may hate your job, I love mine.

DisruptHR offers HR and recruiting professionals a chance to be irreverent. Or reverent but in a out of the box thinking kind of way. I, and my cohort James Kinney, run the Los Angeles chapter of DisruptHR and will be hosting our second event on Wednesday, April 12th.

#DisruptHR Los Angeles is happening 4/12. Find out more at Click To Tweet

The event will happen at the beautiful Haworth showroom in Downtown Los Angeles. Globally, Haworth improves workplaces with award-winning furniture, interior architecture and technology solutions to help customers achieve business goals and transform culture, as well as support collaboration and innovation. Research and design drive a deep understanding of agile workplace needs and are at the center of the company’s strategy. Haworth is committed to protecting and restoring the environment, creating economic value as well as supporting and strengthening its communities. Founded in 1948, Haworth remains family-owned and privately-held, serving markets in more than 120 countries through a global network of 650 dealers and over 6,000 employees.

Haworth is our main sponsor and we are excited to partner with them for this event.

Other companies partnering with us to make this happen include ADP, Miller Farm Media, United Agencies Insurance and Ceridian.

We couldn’t make it happen without our partners and we appreciate their support.

Speaker lineupDisruptHR wouldn’t be what it is without an amazing speaker lineup. We have a few repeat offenders in our lineup this time round, Alan Fluhrer, Scott Hamilton and Candice Gottlieb-Clark have all presented before. We also have a few first timers who I’m really excited to hear.

DisruptHR has really taken off over the last couple of years and is now in 75 cities around the globe. Attendees really love the format, 5 minutes, 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds and a topic that makes people think. Bite sized pieces of information that are packed with a punch.

If you haven’t attended a Disrupt event, you should add it to your to do list. If you are in the Los Angeles area, we would love to have your join ours. You can get your tickets here!

I would love to see you on the 12th. If you make it, be sure to come up and introduce yourself.