For our latest It’s My Business feature, we chat to regional HR expert Alison Schreiber, who runs the HR Dept, Durham, to find out more about her business and how the current economic climate is affecting the way firms operate.
Tell us more about the business?
We support small and medium businesses with HR and H&S. It’s often not viable for SMEs to employ a whole person to do their HR or their H&S and it is difficult for them to keep on top of this without expertise knowledge, especially considering ever-changing legislation and case law. That’s where we come in – we’re local and personal so get to know their business and its needs so we can provide a tailored service but we’re also part of a UK-wide network so we have the advantage of being able to provide year-round cover, the knowledge and experience of the wider network, client insurance against tribunal claims and costs and also lots of complementary services (clocking-in system, online HR admin system, training, etc).
How does running your own business compare to being employed by a large corporation?
I worked for a large multinational for 26 years and I’ve got to say there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I am incredibly grateful for the experience and opportunities I got in working for a large corporation internationally, including living in other countries, learning other languages and also meeting my husband! However, I love the flexibility of working with smaller businesses, the pragmatism in being able to make decisions quickly and being able to work with business in the local North East area that I love and where I’ve lived most of my life. In the type of work I do now, I also get a lot of variety – not only in the wide range of HR and H&S topics from strategic to operational, but also in the types of sectors I work with. One day it can be a manufacturing environment, the next hospitality and then it could be retail. I’m genuinely interested in what each business does and how I can help to support them in doing that.
HR is something that effects all businesses isn’t it. Do you find smaller companies need our advice just as much as larger employers?
More, I would say. Larger companies tend to have a dedicated (and hopefully qualified) person internally for HR but most smaller companies can’t do this. They may have an administrator doing payroll or keeping track of holidays/absences but, when it comes to HR-specific knowledge, it can be difficult for them to know what to do. Having someone on hand who they can call, email or ask to come in whenever they want is often a godsend. It may be a big organisational change or a small day-to-day issue but having that knowledge and experience to draw on gives them peace of mind.
Are you noticing any changes with all the uncertainty around Brexit at the forefronts of everyone’s minds?
Uncertainty is the right word! I am finding that people are holding off somewhat on making significant business changes until things are clearer. From an HR point of view, the fundamentals of employment law were in place before we were part of the EU and I don’t believe there will be any earth-shattering changes following Brexit, assuming it happens. Employers will obviously be concerned about imports/exports but they also need to remember the smaller things. Have they got any EU employees? Are these employees eligible for Settled Status and have they applied? Do any employees drive in the EU as part of their job – in that case, they’ll need International Driving Permits and Green Card insurance for their vehicles.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve always decided what to do with my life based on whether I am enjoying it or not (maybe not the career-planning attitude expected of an HR professional…). I love working with SMEs on both HR and H&S so The HR Dept, Durham will definitely be around for the foreseeable future! I’ve always wanted to write a book too so that may be on the horizon, assuming I find some time from somewhere!