Going solo – a year in the life of dotcom HR

E –biz: 5-minute Q&A


Elly Waldron, 30, is HR manager at eDirectory.co.uk, an
e-commerce solutions provider for businesses. Since she joined the
Barrow-in-Furness dotcom 12 months ago it has grown from six to 40 employees.
She was previously an HR manager with IBM and personnel officer with Group 4
Security. Here she recounts her first year as a solo HR professional and the
lessons she’s learned


PT What was the situation facing you when you

EW Having previously only worked in HR in blue-chip
companies, this was an exceptional challenge.

Few HR professionals get the opportunity to set up an HR
department from scratch with freedom to implement processes and policies and
have a key role in creating the company culture – it has been a rewarding

I have learned more in the past year than in six previous
years. For all those HR professionals considering a move to a similar
organisation, I would strongly recommend it.


PT What was your strategy?

EW I was thrown into the thick of a fast-paced
recruitment drive and had to prioritise, drawing up my short- and long-term
goals. Foremost was that I had to ensure we were complying with all employment
legislation, including drafting terms and conditions for existing as well as
new staff before concentrating on areas such as staff development.


PT What are the difficulties in setting up
in a remote area?

EW Having always worked and recruited in cities, I
anticipated potential issues in finding skilled IT staff, but there have been
some real advantages.

In this industry, it doesn’t matter where you are based.
Overheads and labour costs are lower and there is not the same threat of
competing employers. Plus living and working in such a beautiful area (the view
of the Lakeland fells from our high-tech offices would be difficult to beat!)
means that staff are less stressed, have shorter journeys to work and healthier


PT What lessons have you learned?

EW It is crucial to have your own personal strategy
and stay focused on it as much as you can. Having so much to do, I often had to
go back and remind myself of my goals and strategies, or I’d end up getting
bogged down in admin and not achieving anything.

I would also say, don’t over recruit or you’ll be making
redundancies in six months. As the business develops, systems and procedures
will become more sophisticated and you may find you need fewer staff.

You need to think exactly what you are recruiting that
person to do, and how those tasks might change over the following six months.

Be prepared to work and support in all areas of the
business, not just HR. I have been involved in PR, marketing, operations, and

Understanding your business is rule number one in becoming
an effective HR professional.


PT How do you recruit and train?

EW Having a zero budget, I have had to come up with
inventive ways to recruit and train.

I have not incurred any direct costs in recruiting and
training more than 30 employees by exhausting all free methods – don’t
underestimate the effectiveness of your local JobCentre in providing quality
applicants. Being a small town, word-of-mouth has also proved invaluable in
finding staff.

I also received financial assistance from our local Tec.
Over 80 per cent of staff have been recruited locally.

As for training I have no funds to send staff on external
training courses. So t I have devised a simple in-house development programme,
which has proved effective: every Wednesday, after work, employees share
knowledge in training workshops. And technical staff give tutorials on
different areas of IT based on a combination of staff requests and business
needs such as HTML, database skills and Javascript. Staff are so keen to
develop their IT skills they have been willing to do this unpaid.

As the company grows and continues to change, it is
essential when recruiting to quiz interviewees on attitudes to change and
emphasise the need for flexibility as their roles may change and develop.


PT What have you gained personally and professionally?

EW Confidence in providing HR advice and solutions.
Previously, I have always had an HR manager with whom to double check things
and ask advice. When that is removed, you have to get things right, or take
final responsibility for your decisions. And from a self-development
perspective, it has inspired me to successfully upgrade my CIPD membership.



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