During the challenging year of 2020, it’s encouraging to meet islanders who are establishing new businesses to meet a need they have identified.
Today, we meet Anna Norton, who has set-up the human resources company, Virtual HR.
We started the conversation by asking Anna about her background and experience.
“My background is business and operations. It all began when I was just 14 helping my parents in running their businesses. It involved anything from serving customers and unpacking deliveries to completing the VAT books (and they were handwritten at the time!).
“Later in life, I co-owned and managed two busy restaurants in Jersey, hands-on in all aspects of the operation, from accounts and HR to customer service. At that point I realised that anything HR related was the most time consuming and, with the evolving employment legislation, most challenging part of the business.
“That said, I became fascinated with the world of HR, acquired a diploma in human resources management and began my career in consultancy, advising and supporting other business owners. During that time, I have worked with organisations of all shapes and sizes, across many sectors, and dealt with all aspects of the employee lifecycle, from those joining to those leaving – and everything in-between.”
How does your background fit with the new business?
My blend of operational experience and HR expertise means I still think like an employer and now clearly see the huge benefits of having really good HR processes in place. I’ve seen most case scenarios in both roles and believe that what is needed is reliable, quality support that makes affordable sense to any business.
Tell us about your virtual team
Although I am the ‘face’ of Virtual HR managing our client portfolio, I have the backup of a team of experts in the legal, health and safety and data protection field, available as and when required, to ensure our clients always receive the best support possible. Moving forward? Time will tell!
Why start a business now, right in the middle of Covid and between two lockdowns?
Although the timing may seem surprising to some, this year has been very busy for the HR knowledge industry, mainly due to the issues businesses have and are still facing, be it Covid-related requirements they have to adopt, changes to employment legislation, updating contracts of employment, varying terms and conditions, and in some cases lay-offs and redundancies.
Having Virtual HR to call on, to provide that expertise will almost certainly save time and money, so the business can get on with doing what it does best – focusing on their clients.
As Jersey moves to a position of recovery and businesses get back on track, which they will, getting affordable HR support will continue to be an essential component in the structure of any business. The change in how many of us will work has shown that a virtual solution can make getting the right advice a less onerous, more productive way to run your employment procedures.
Are there particular areas of HR services that businesses need?
Speaking from experience, very often employers take well-meaning actions without grasping the possible implications. Quite often the actions contradict their contracts of employment or a policy, or more often their contracts do not give them the legal right to take such actions.
Sometimes employers don’t realise that their actions can result in tribunal claims, successful or not. Therefore, contracts of employment and policies and procedures that are fit for purpose and workable are essential. On from that, having the sounding board at their fingertips who can advise and provide hands-on support is what businesses really need.
Why would companies use an outsourced provider over an in-house team?
As a HR consultant, I work with many in-house HR teams – they can often be invaluable and should not be fully replaced with an outsourced provider. However, depending on the type and size of the business, project work (such as employment handbooks) and the more unpleasant matters (such as investigations or disputes) are better placed with an external consultant.
This is for many reasons. Perhaps the day-to-day workload does not allow the in-house HR to carry out these projects, or due to the type of HR they are exposed to, there isn’t enough expertise or confidence in-house to deal with a particular issue at hand. In other cases, having an impartial outlook is very useful to provide an often vital perspective from an outsider.
For the many smaller businesses however, outsourcing their HR function is entirely sensible and offers excellent value for money, as they gain an expert HR team for the fraction of the price of employing an expert within their business.
What differentiates Virtual HR?
We all know that HR can be perceived as a cost to the business and not a revenue generating area – and I used to share that mindset! Unfortunately, we often forget that our time as business owners, directors, managers, has a value. Every hour spent on dealing with HR issues or administrative tasks prevents us from focusing on what we do best and often the very reason why we went into business, therefore slowing growth and limiting progress.
The price of getting things wrong in trying to DIY your way around what is required in employment is unnecessary, damaging, stressful and can be very costly. With that in mind, Virtual HR is able to offer affordable expert services that are designed around the business, whether it is a full complement of HR services or ensuring you’re fulfilling your basic legal obligations as an employer.