Directors spot a gap in the market and take the plunge

Former HR directors Jane Bilcock and Denise Lincoln are co-founders of Hrworldclass, a web site which offers instant access to policies, practices and advice for people management. An annual joining fee, which starts at £200 (depending on the size of the company) secures access to the site.

PT How did you come up with the idea?

B&L We saw a gap in the market for instantly useable, quality employment policies and guides. It seemed to us that you could find everything you might need around a subject – theory, articles, and employment law – but you couldn’t find ready-to-use, jargon-free policies built on experience and the up-to-date employment law position.

PT What gave you the impetus to build the web site?

B&L Once we came up with the idea, we realised that the gap we had identified was there whether you were on the Internet or not. However, the power of having instant access to the information and being able to download it immediately was very attractive. We could see a scenario where a personnel manager was asked for a staff handbook or equal opportunities policy by their boss in the morning and it could be presented for use with the company’s logo, by the afternoon. Going for a web business was the obvious way forward.

PT Where does funding come from?

B&L We decided to fund the venture ourselves. We balanced the risk with being able to control our own agenda. As our plans develop we may need to explore our options further, but so far we are pleased with our initial decision.

PT What percentage of the site is free?

B&L The free items constitute about 10 per cent of the site. They include a free policy, templates and letters, an outline contract of employment, international reports, articles on employment matters and a regularly updated risk watch from corporate intelligence experts Merchant International.

Members also have instant access to key aspects of employment law at a fraction of the price of using a lawyer. For example, a business employing fewer than 100 people will have access to this information for a year at a cost equal to one hour of a lawyer’s time. For a business employing up to 500 it equals two hours.

Another key benefit is the downloadable policies, guides and handbook. The cost is a fraction of what it would be to employ consultants or lawyers. Members have the added assurance that any policies they buy that are affected by changes to the law will be provided at no extra cost.

PT How are you promoting the site?

B&L We are using a mixture of public relations, direct mail and recommendation by our contacts with advertising planned for later in the year.

PT How do you secure content?

B&L We have formed alliances with individuals and organisations that epitomise best practice in their fields, such as employment law firm Rowe & Maw, and corporate intelligence experts Merchant International. Our own track records in international director-level roles in major blue-chip organisations and knowledge of who does what best has been invaluable in giving us access to partners.

We are also supported by an advisory board, which is an enormous help in developing the business. It comprises Rob Collinge, vice-president HR, Glaxo SmithKline; David Latin, HR e-commerce director, BP; Richard Jewson, chairman of Savills and Eastern Counties Newspapers; Paul Hick, chief executive, Lee Cooper Jeans; and Julian Roskill, senior partner, employment law, Rowe and Maw.

PT What links do you have to other sites?

B&L We are interested in forging other strategic links in future as long as they meet the standards we intend for our customers.

PT What is planned next for the site?

B&L We do have a range of products in the pipeline including a self-development handbook, a guide on how to manage consultants and a self-survival manual for international travellers. We will review the feedback we get from customers via the facility on the site to ensure we are completely customer-focused.

PT Do you think HR managers are reticent about using technology at work?

B&L We have not encountered anything to suggest that this is the case and, in fact, have research that proves otherwise. Use of the Internet in HR departments is increasing rapidly.

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