5-minute Q&A

Head of HR and recruitment at Lastminute.com, an Internet-based company which specialises in offering last-minute travel deals and other services

• Nicola Alchorn graduated from Liverpool University in 1995 with a BA Hons in Geography. Her first job was a trainee auditor at Coopers & Lybrand in 1995. The following year she moved into HR as a recruiter at consultancy Robert Walters, and later became an on-site consultant for its subsidiary Resource Solutions. She joined Lastminute in February this year. Her team consists of Aliya Drabu and Dean Murfitt, who handle recruitment and generalist HR issues, respectively.

PT The workforce at Lastminute (currently 300, plus some staff located at international offices) grew very quickly; did this pose any problems and if so what were the main ones?

NA Growing the workforce quickly [actually] solved lots of problems and is helping us achieve our ambitious plans! The challenges it created were a combination of the admin and facilitating that growth, coupled with the integration of those people into our teams and structures.

PT The initial good publicity must have been a great staff motivator, but how has the recent drop in share price and adverse publicity affected staff morale?

NA The staff are pretty clued up and know much more than journalists think they do, so they don’t take everything they read too seriously. We have very open channels of communication and the company founders Martha [Lane Fox] and Brent [Hoberman] make sure that people in the company always know what we are doing. We are all committed to the business plan and believe in the company, or we wouldn’t be here.

PT What are the main differences between running human resources in an on-line firm to a traditional bricks and mortar one?

NA Don’t know – I’ve never done it in a bricks and mortar environment. My feeling is that the speed at which the business moves dictate that we do things a bit differently – our HR team is aiming to mirror the nature of the business.

PT How do you use the Internet to help you in your job?

NA We generate a massive number of direct applications through our own jobs page and we have ambitious plans to have a completely Web-enabled recruitment process.

PT When it comes to building an on-line workforce, what advice would you give an HR manager?

NA Have a plan – and don’t get sidelined by the fact every line manager will “need people” as the growth accelerates. Have an easy process and don’t get bogged down in third and fourth interviews and too much administration. Find a balance in resourcing for specific roles and hire a superstar when you find one.

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