Interview: Stephanie Hammerwold Talks About HR for SMBs, Strictly Ballroom and Wonder Woman
The HR Gazette is lucky to have lots of high profile columnists from across the HR world. One of new guest experts is the amazing Stephanie Hammerwold, Owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting, avid reader, writer, road tripper and fan of Wonder Woman. Let’s learn more about Stephanie.
Editor: Tell us about your personal career history and what brought you to your current company.
SH: After I got my MA in Women’s Studies, I moved to Santa Cruz, California. I connected with a temp agency there, and they sent me out on an HR Assistant temp assignment. I had never aimed to have a career in HR, but the job grew on me, and I ended up staying at that company for seven years and became HR Manager of their distribution center before moving on to an HR job at a Santa Cruz based grocery chain. I was getting burnt out on corporate HR and was ready to take my HR experience in a different direction, so a friend and I decided to relocate to Southern California (where I’m originally from) and start our own HR consulting business. My partner and I have been friends since college. We worked on our college newspaper staff together, so we knew we could work well together.
Editor: Can you tell us a bit about what your company does for HR professionals and Managers?
SH: We help small businesses with their HR needs. Generally we work with companies where HR is handled by an office manager or business owner and not by a full time HR professional. We update handbooks, writing policies, provide training on HR topics and answer HR questions that come up in the course of doing business. We want to educate our clients so that they have the tools to navigate the HR part of their business. That’s why I have been doing a lot of writing on HR topics. It’s a good way to reach people who want to learn more about HR.
Editor: What is your target market? Please tell us a bit about typical companies which use your services?
SH: We mostly work with small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. We work with businesses who hire us to be on call to answer HR questions throughout the year and businesses who hire us to update policy or provide training.
Editor: How does The HR Gazette fit with your brand’s objectives?
SH: It has allowed me to get HR tips out to a wider audience. Sites like this are a valuable resource for those who don’t have the benefit of a full HR department. It’s a good way to educate people on HR, and that is in line with my approach to working with clients. I want to make all the complexities of managing employees easier to understand. HR blogging in general has given me the opportunity to connect with a lot of HR people, share ideas and learn more.
Editor: What’s your role at your company?
There are only two of us, so I do a little bit of everything from filing to accounting to working directly with clients. In general, my partner does a lot of the behind the scenes work, and I do more of the direct work with clients.
Editor: Do you prefer team work or going solo?
SH: I prefer working on my own, and I tend to grow impatient when a project involves a lot of collaboration. I’m much more content to meet with a team and then go off and work on my piece of the project on my own. I think this is why I love writing so much. Writing is usually a solitary endeavor, and I relish the time I spend alone researching and writing, whether it’s HR articles or my creative writing.
Editor: What are the top three things you think make for a happy and productive work environment?
SH: Having variety, having a comfortable workspace and (most importantly) working with people I enjoy spending time around
Editor: What are the top 3 things you’re working on/developing in 2015?
SH: Getting my own site launched (happening very soon), getting more involved in online training and continuing to grow our relationships with existing and new clients
Other than The HR Gazette.. what other trade magazines do you read on a regular basis and why?
SH: There are a lot of really good HR sites out there. I like Blogging4Jobs (http://www.blogging4jobs.com), which is where I got my start with HR blogging. I’m also a fan of some of the blogs written by individuals like the Girl in HR (https://thegirlinhr.wordpress.com) and the Evil HR Lady (http://evilhrlady.org). SHRM’s (http://www.shrm.org/pages/default.aspx) website has a lot of good articles, and I also read their HR magazine sent out to members. It’s a good mix of employment law updates and ideas for changing and improving work culture.
Editor: How can people learn more about your services?
Our website is http://hammerwoldpershing.com. I’m also on Twitter as @HRHammer and on LinkedIn.
Editor: Will your company be attending any events/conferences this year? If so, which ones and why?
SH: We have nothing scheduled yet, but we are looking into some possibilities later in the year. We’re putting a lot more energy into attending local events in our area, so we can connect with small businesses in person.
Editor: What’s your favorite book?
SH: I read a lot (especially fiction), so this is a very hard question to answer. I have a lot of favorites. My favorites include Kurt Vonnegut (especially Cat’s Cradle), Jasper Fforde (his Thursday Next series is my favorite of his), The Temple of my Familiar by Alice Walker, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, anything by Sarah Waters, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros…I could keep going.
Editor: What’s your favorite movie?
SH: Strictly Ballroom–it has drama, suspense, humor, romance, dancing and a good story without resorting to unnecessary special effects or excessive violence. I think it’s an underrated movie.
Editor: If you could be a super hero who would you be and why?
SH: I’d like to combine the qualities of Leslie Knope from the show Parks & Rec, Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Wonder Woman into a powerful HR superhero that fights workplace discrimination and evil employers.
Editor: Finally, got anything else to say to our readers?
I think it is very easy to get bogged down in staying current with ever-changing employment laws, sorting out employee drama and balancing the needs of the company with the needs of employees. HR gets involved in some heavy stuff like terminations, disciplinary action, layoffs and messy investigations.
It’s important for HR people to remember to have fun and to not take our jobs so seriously that we forget what we love about this field. This means finding ways to laugh, recognizing that we are human and may sometimes make mistakes and working silly references into trainings in order to keep people engaged (I’m the HR trainer who managed to work a Doctor Who reference into reviewing the company’s shoplifting policy at new employee orientation). There are times to be serious in HR, but there are also times to have fun, and it’s important to remember that.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.