Debby Olken, SPHR, is an experienced human resources professional. For nearly 20 years, she worked as HR director for two complex organizations (the Maine Judicial Branch and the Maine State Legislature), and as a consultant, she has worked with a variety of small and medium sized businesses.
Debby excels as a collaborative organizational planner and is proficient in a variety of HR areas, including job audits and descriptions, employee handbooks and policies, collective bargaining negotiations and contracts, management and employee coaching, performance management, and conflict resolution.
“I am so pleased to be part of KMA’s collaborative and energetic team of HR professionals,” she explains. “It’s exciting to parlay my experience as an HR director in single organizations into my KMA consultant role where I get to provide a variety of HR services and develop great working relationships with a wide range of clients throughout northern New England.”
Debby has worked extensively in the governmental union environment, representing management in collective bargaining negotiations, employee grievances, hearings, and labor management committees. She recently was appointed by the Maine Labor Relations Board to serve as an employer representative on fact-finding panels.
Debby earned her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation from the Society for Human Resources Management and served on the Board of the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine. She holds a BA in History and Political Science from Indiana University, a Masters an MS in Judicial Administration from the University of Denver, and a Certification in Mediation from the University of Southern Maine.
She resides in Portland.
Why did you choose to work in HR?
Human Resources had always been an interest of mine, so when an opportunity presented itself years ago, I decided to go for it. I like working with people, so a “people-intensive” career made sense, and now it’s a passion. I also like the challenges working in HR presents. These challenges change every day, and I find that invigorating.
What do you like best about your work as an HR Consultant?
When I left the HR director position with the legislature, I began to provide HR consulting services in the hospitality industry. Right away, I knew that working directly with clients, where I could share my expertise and experience—something that busy clients don’t have the time to develop—was for me. I love being able to help small business owners and executives assess their needs and organize their HR worlds.
What is one takeaway from your HR work experience you’d like to share with others?
In a variety of my HR roles over the years, I had to make do with limited staffing resources and time. On any given day, then, my responsibilities might run the spectrum from performing basic HR tasks, such as drafting job descriptions, to meeting with judges and legislators to discuss complex HR issues and strategy. I think this breadth of experience makes it possible for me to see the ramifications of HR decisions and policies from all angles and perspectives, which can be extremely valuable to clients and their decision-making.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Although I’m now living in Portland, I was a Freeport resident for 30 years, where I raised three fabulous kids, served on the board of several community organizations, and was elected to two terms on the Freeport School Board.
I love to travel, particularly in Europe, and in the summer you can find me boating or sailing along Maine’s coast.