Back To Top


About Us

Welcome to Essential HR! Our female-led team of HR rockstars supports the growth of small businesses, just like yours!

We don’t see ourselves as just another consulting company that comes in like a whirlwind, throwing the book at you and heading out the door. We are a high-touch partnership for your business - a group of passionate professionals that you actually want to talk to! (Amazing concept, right?). We take the best parts of our decades of (big-budget) corporate experience and customize it to be even more effective in your unique small business environments. 

Essential HR was born from the idea of having flexible options. We wanted to provide support to small businesses that didn't necessarily need a full-time HR person on payroll but still needed an experienced person to help navigate those situations that could cause risk and stress within their operations. 

Our hometown feel and friendly vibes make it easy to feel comfortable asking questions and getting the answers you need to manage sticky situations and reduce your monthly Tylenol expenses. 

As our business has grown, we have realized that we are on to something good...

We’ve met some incredible entrepreneurs and business directors. We’ve partnered with amazing clients and developed creative HR programs alongside passionate leadership teams. And, we’ve fallen more in love with small business and the tenacity of their owners and managers. 

Wondering who these people are who love HR so much? Meet the Essential HR team that makes the business come to life.



Profile Image

Laura Tolhoek, CHRL

Founder & Principal Consultant


Laura Tolhoek knows that when a business faces HR problems, there is no room for ambiguity, only positive results. She has crafted a team of HR professionals who are driven to work with clients by helping sort through the details and providing solutions.

For over 15 years, Laura has used sound HR practices with a pragmatic approach to improve business performance. She has worked with some of the biggest players in the restaurant, foodservice and retail world as an integral member of the HR team. She is not only comfortable but excels in high-volume, smart decision environments.

Laura is also a Certified Human Resource Leader (CHRL) through the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA). Her passion is navigating through situations with Managers, helping guide decisions, and instilling confidence with actionable steps. She is comfortable dealing with complex issues that arise in fast-paced industries and recognizes the tenacity required for a company, large or small, to be successful. 

In her spare time, Laura enjoys the company of her husband and two children. The kids continue to help her hone her leadership skills of negotiation and compromise, and almost a decade in, her husband is starting to warm up to the performance reviews. On a summer day, you will find her on a softball diamond, gardening, or cheering on the Blue Jays. She is also a big fan of HGTV. She appreciates all sorts of travel, provided it in no way resembles camping.

Lynette Profile Image

Lynette Zehr

SR. Human Resources Business Partner &
Managing Director


Lynette Zehr masterfully helps businesses curate their HR systems so that employers and employees can thrive in their workplaces. Her experience managing all aspects of the employment relationship across multiple industries gives her a common sense approach in partnering with managers at all levels. Lynette’s 10+ years of experience is anchored by her Master’s Degree in Industrial Relations and Human Resources.  And, her intense curiosity of business environments and details makes her the perfect addition to the Essential HR team.

Lynette’s passion for HR is equally matched by her love of current affairs. She can insert a reference to a CBC article or radio interview into any conversation. It is with this same enthusiasm and intense curiosity that she works with clients to understand the challenges that they face and provides practical recommendations on how to resolve them.

Profile Image

Erin Poredos

Business Development & Marketing


Erin Poredos is an eternal optimist who thrives on personal connection, collaboration, and a common goal of helping others. She believes the unique strength of her relationships are cultivated by compassion, constant curiosity, and the drive to see clients succeed. With 14 years of multifaceted experience in sales, marketing, content creation, brand development, and client relations, Erin provides an innovative and creative approach to developing and building opportunities for Essential HR.
In addition to her passion for connection, Erin is a dedicated advocate for health and wellness - particularly mental health and the well-being of others. She’s currently enrolled in the Health & Life Coach Certificate program at The Health Coach Institute and recently launched a mental wellness coaching & events community for women called, "The Joy Tribe Co."
Reach out to Erin to learn more about Essential HR’s service offerings, referral programs, and signature masterclasses … or if you just want someone to chat with to brighten your day!
Lynette Profile Image

Jessica  Arnett

Human Resources Business Partner


With over 14 years of knowledgeable experience in human resources management, Jessica Arnett spends much of her time in consultations with managers for all areas of human resources, including recruitment, performance management, compensation, labour relations and policy development. Her broad experience varies from working with large corporations and small business. Jessica holds a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. Jessica enjoys creating innovative recruitment programs, developing valued relationships, and finding customized HR solutions to fit the business culture. Her extensive recruitment experience is where she has found her passion. Jessica loves working with organizations in developing and implementing strategic initiatives for improved recruitment and onboarding experiences.

In addition to her excitement for Human Resources, Jessica is an outdoor enthusiast who loves spending time exploring. She is an experienced backcountry camper and spends most weekends in the mountains, hiking, swimming, kayaking, or just enjoying the fresh air with a good book. Jessica’s commitment to work is closely matched with her passion for exploration. After spending months travelling North America, Jessica and her family have settled in British Columbia, where they’ve found the ideal balance for their adventurous lifestyle.

Profile Image

Juliet Lea

Human resource Business Partner

With over a decade of experience in Manufacturing, Hospitality and Education sectors, Juliet loves to jump right into payroll, benefits, recruitment, training, employee relations and health and safety scenarios. She is a systems enthusiast and has championed a variety of HRIS implementations. Juliet thrives on establishing efficient processes for clients with her impactful and hands-on approach.
Her passion for supporting others in their career journey led her to set up classes for new immigrants, youth, second-career seekers, and anyone in the community who wanted assistance with resume writing and interview coaching.
Juliet is socially dynamic and a skilled extrovert finding joy in creating ‘an experience’ whenever hosting events for family and friends. She is a self-proclaimed makeup junkie and loves travelling with her family. When she’s not wearing her HR heels (yes, heels, not hat!), you will find Juliet chasing her three little ones, enjoying an Italian dinner date with her husband, or watching ANY reality TV show.
Profile Image

Allison McGarry

Human Resource Business Partner


With over 15 years of experience, Allison is an accomplished HR Business Partner with a robust background in strategic HR support, specializing in Employee and Labour Relations, disability management, and complex HR problem-solving. Allison's credentials, including the CHRL designation, a Master's in Industrial Relations from Queen's University and a Diploma in HR Management from Seneca College, underpin her practical expertise. Her skill set spans disability management, recruitment, HRIS software, and performance management. Allison has experience in property management, mental healthcare and oil and gas industries.

Allison's journey led her to the charming city of St. Catharine's in the summer of 2020, where she quickly fell in love with the vibrant culture and scenic beauty of the Niagara region. She navigates the joyful chaos of raising three spirited little girls alongside her supportive husband. When not immersed in the world of HR, Allison can be found riding her Peloton, exploring new destinations, or unwinding with a yoga session. Her love for tacos is only matched by her passion for a good book, often enjoyed in the serene backdrop of her favourite getaway – her cottage nestled in the picturesque 1000 Islands.

Michelle MacDonald

Human resource Business Partner

With over 15 years of diverse experience, Michelle MacDonald is a seasoned Human Resources professional specializing in compensation programs, talent acquisition, employee relations, and HR project management. As a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL), Michelle thrives on designing and implementing solutions that enhance the employee experience and drive organizational success.

Michelle's passion for HR planning and strategy is matched only by her enthusiasm for jumping into projects and witnessing the tangible results of her efforts. Her expertise spans multiple industries, including manufacturing, high tech, marketing, and not-for-profit childcare.

Outside of her professional endeavors, Michelle enjoys spending time with her two young children and husband, indulging in her love for baking in the kitchen, and exploring her creative side through following along with online painting tutorials. While she calls the forest city of London, ON her home, Michelle’s childhood was spent on Manitoulin Island, a place she still regularly visits.

Work With Us


    HR Relief™

    You are not too small for HR Relief™!

    Learn More


    HR Crisis Support

    Get Expert HR Crisis Support to Navigate Tough Situations with Essential HR.

    Learn More


    A la Carte

    Let’s check those projects off your to-do list.

    Learn More

Need HR help, like, yesterday? Download one of our FREE templates so you can start building your HR systems the right way!

These are the exact templates we’ve used to help businesses, just like yours, build and run their own HR systems ...and we want you to have them.

No more staring at a blank page. No more Googling “best questions to ask in an exit interview.” No more holding your breath while typing up a policy list.


Attendance Letter

I'm in!


Exit Interview

Give it to me!


Our Favourite Interview Questions

Yes, please!


Development Conversation Questions

I need this!


Small Business Policy List

Sign me up!

Let Us Provide HR Relief
Contact Us Today