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  • OakBloom Marketing

Her Story: Meet Leslie Hensley of Henslee HR

Updated: Apr 30

Leslie shares her approach to People Operations and her experience founding Henslee HR.


At OakBloom Marketing, one of our cultural priorities is to uplift diverse leaders and communities.  As March kicks off Women’s History Month, we’re featuring a few female founders who inspire us. We’re delighted to share an interview with Leslie Hensley, co-founder of Henslee HR, which is making waves in helping startups scale their human resources (HR) people strategy, technology, and operations.


Tell us about yourself and Henslee HR.

My co-founder Lee Turner and I started Henslee HR with the passion of helping businesses scale and grow. We aim to support early-stage companies with all things People Ops. We focus on building systems and processes rooted in our clients’ values that are aimed at growing their employees and developing them.


My corporate career spanned from Starbucks to IGN Entertainment to Fandom (formerly Wikia) and gave me deep expertise in all facets of people operations including learning and development, mergers and acquisitions, and business operations. My experience scaling teams  — from single digits to hundreds — allows me to meet clients where they are at in their People Operations journey. We provide the right support at the right time. 


Who inspired you to build your own business?

Absolutely. I learned so much from Mary Kay Gannon, who helped drive the compensation strategy for Starbucks. She was a very decisive leader: unafraid to have those tough, tough conversations. But she also provided feedback, direction, and coaching, with such ease and connection. She understood the impact of the policies and processes she was building and how those would affect not just her team, but the broader company.


Your website talks about inclusivity. Why is that value essential to Henslee?

We have four values at Henslee. I'll focus on our core value - make space and elevate - which emphasizes the importance of holding space for others. At Henslee, we advocate for equality, regardless of your gender or national origin, religion, sex — any self-defined characteristic. We want to celebrate diversity at our client’s companies and ours. We’re also excited to see growing acceptance for inclusivity at the companies we work with.


It’s a value that is deeply ingrained in everything we do. We reference it in the conversations that we have, we talk about it with our clients, and we use not just this value, but all of our values as guiding principles for decision-making. 


That's so important for any organization, right? Know your values, know what is driving the decisions that you're making, and also how to help inform your employees and how they can make decisions. And so at Henslee, knowing that our role is really to help support, coach, and guide leaders and empower teams, as they're starting to build out their people strategy, we want to ensure that we're looking through that lens of making space and elevating to ensure that we're making space for everyone.


You had a successful corporate career. What drove you to pivot to entrepreneurship?

People operations folks have a unique perspective on an organization. We get to talk to everyone who is joining and everyone who's leaving; we get to have a window into understanding the dynamics of what each department is responsible for. We see how different departments interact with the rest of the team and also externally. That's a unique perspective from any other role within an organization. 


For me, as I progressed through my career and had an opportunity to work with a lot of different types of folks, I realized that there's so much value in that alignment and agreement across the organization. Because I was able to be exposed to all of those different types of people and also different types of experiences, I love this People Ops space and also love having the space to be able to build a team and have more autonomy around moving conversations and decisions forward.


Have you experienced imposter syndrome while building your business?

Every day. I'm continually reminding myself that I am capable, I am knowledgeable and I can handle this. Having a supportive team around me where I can be authentic and be seen helps a lot. During our weekly meetings, we have a few different questions that we ask but one is, “What are you proud of?” We were intentional with putting this question into the list because it gives us each a chance to openly acknowledge our accomplishments: recognizing them ourselves and with others.


When should a startup start thinking about People Operations? 

Something we often ask folks when we first start talking with them is, “What's keeping you awake at night?” If you have employees or are thinking about hiring employees, you likely have some people challenges going on. 


We're here to meet you where you're at. I often see folks come to find us when there's a challenge or something that's top of mind for them. One of our services is called HR urgent care — this is a great entry point to talk to us to just see if Henslee is someone who can help you build your people strategy. 


The issues that people come to us with all look very different. They can be anything from, “I'm hiring my first employee and I have no idea where to even start.” Or you may have someone on your team who you think is no longer a good fit and you want to consider transitioning them out of the organization. What does that look like? How do you do that? Maybe you're a 30-person organization and you've never had a development program set up for your people. What does that look like for you and what are your options? 


We're in a very cool time right now for this People Ops space where there are so many HR tools on the market, and Henslee is a great place to start when you want to implement a new HR tool. When you want to implement a new HR Information System or something for payroll and benefits, we can be a great partner to help you look at your options on the market, and help implement that tool so you're setting it up in a thoughtful and intentional way. 


We can also help ensure that employees understand how to use the tool and ensure it’s useful and relevant as the business grows. We’re a great thought partner and the first call to understand whatever question is keeping you awake at night.


If startups are interested in your help, where should they reach out? 

 

You can connect with us on LinkedIn or find us at HensleeHR.com and set up an intro call. My co-founder and I would love to chat. It's a great place to get started and let us know what's keeping you up at night!

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