Interview with Sandra Porter, author of ‘How to be an HR Superstar’ and Managing Director at The HR Dept

Find out how Sandra Porter, Managing Director at The HR Dept, noticed a gap in the market for a practical HR book that talked about how to actually implement the processes and manage the situations that small business owners are faced with. So she wrote How to be an HR Superstar.

What’s your career background?

I started out in recruitment working for Daniel Craig’s (the dashing James Bond) Dad! I was working  at an Executive Search firm in Chester after I left university. I then was hired as an HR Officer for Capital Bank and have stayed in HR ever since.

During my career I became Head of HR for O2, looking after Retail, Technology, Engineering and Finance and then was headhunted to sit on the Board for Starbucks UK & Ireland, which I did for five years.

Why did you choose to work in HR?

I didn’t really choose, I just fell into it. When I was working in executive search a client asked me to go and work for them in their ‘manpower planning’ team. I had no idea what that was (!) but accepted the role. On my first day the HR Officer had been dismissed so I was given that job instead. Not exactly focused career planning, but it all worked out well!

When did you decide to start your own business?

I started my HR consultancy five years ago. I wanted to use the skills and experience that I had gained but was also a single mum with two children, so needed flexibility and control of my own workload and hours. 

What’s your business journey been like?

It’s been amazing and exhausting. Running my own business and helping owners of small businesses has meant that there was a lot to learn but I have really enjoyed the intellectual challenge. I knew HR but learning the finances, marketing, business development etc of my own business, has been hard at times but I am proud of what we have achieved.

Why is HR important for businesses? 

The last couple of years has demonstrated more than ever why good HR practices are fundamental to any business, big or small. The pandemic has highlighted the need for businesses to have tailored contracts and policies, workplace practices, great communication and support for the individual during what has been a relentless time of change.

I know I am biased but great HR practices are transformational for any business. The ability to be able to attract, recruit, onboard, develop and retain employees doesn’t happen by accident and can make or break a business.

Why did you decide to write a book?

I started writing the book years ago when I was far earlier in my career. I really felt that I needed a book that talked about how to actually implement the processes and manage the situations that I was faced with – but the book didn’t exist. All of the HR books were text heavy, legalistic and hypothetical.

I felt that there was a huge opportunity for a book that talked about how to challenge business owners, how to manage someone that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, how to investigate grievances – not from a policy perspective but the skills and actions to take so that they are as well managed as they possibly can be.

Who is ‘How to be an HR Superstar’ for?

‘How to be an HR Superstar’ is written for all HR professionals that want to up their game in HR and save themselves time and brain power. Interestingly many of the 5 star reviews on Amazon are from business owners who have recognised that they have a need to understand the issues and best approaches too.

And how will it help them?

‘How to be an HR Superstar’ is set out in a number of different sections:

  1. A diagnostic tool to help identify individual strengths and opportunities for development.
  2. Ten chapters covering core HR processes in any business and how to prepare, action, close and review each process so that it is completed successfully.
  3. Three chapters that cover how to deliver presentations, how to manage projects and how to write a strategy.
  4. How to develop on the five key HR Superstar Attributes for future career success.

It is a book that you can dip in and out of as you face situations to help you prepare effectively, ask excellent questions and earn respect as a leader, regardless of seniority. The book provides over twenty tools to help with the various situations, which can be downloaded from the website.

What’s your top HR tip for small business owners?

My top tip would be to get advice rather than Google!  I hear so often ‘Oh we just Googled and found a contract of employment’ or ‘Yes, we just Googled and found advice that said…’. Getting HR practices wrong can be very costly, so get the right advice from day one to protect you and your business.

Learn more about How to be an HR Superstar.