HR expert returns home to Gloucester to support SMEs

Jenny Willis

A born-and-bred Gloucester human resources specialist is returning home to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the area.

Jenny Willis has experienced a career which has taken her around the world, working for major organisations including the NHS and Dow Jones International.

Now, after a taste of working with smaller organisations within the NHS following a restructure in 2013, she has set up her own business working with local SMEs.

The HR Dept Gloucester will provide outsourced HR advice and support to SMEs in a territory including the city centre and ranging from Newent to Stonehouse.

Mrs Willis, who has two sons aged five and three with her husband Mark, was born in Abbeydale and went to local schools including Ribston Hall and Sir Thomas Rich’s High Schools.

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Currently living in Minety near Cirencester, she said the new business was likely to herald a family move back towards the city of her birth, so her sons could be schooled locally, too.

“This move has been a long time in the planning, so I feel ready to get started. I’m really excited to get back into the Gloucester community and resurrect some of my old connections,” she said.

“Working with smaller organisations is something I’ve really enjoyed since I started doing it with the NHS. There’s more breadth of work, the teams are smaller and you can really see the impact of the work you’re doing, rather than being stuck in board meetings.

“There’s a real opportunity to put plans into action so I’m excited to bring all my years of expertise for the benefit of local businesses.”

Mrs Willis left home after university and spent time in London on the NHS graduate training scheme, including a training placement in Tasmania, Australia. Following roles with Dow Jones International and as a freelance consultant, she continued working for the NHS for several years, based in London, before public sector reforms saw her supporting organisations with between 50 and 100 staff.

Now she is eager to work with any organisations which are facing the challenges of adapting to a rapidly-changing employment law landscape.

“Things are changing quickly,” she said. “Over the next 18 months the Government will deliver an ambitious package of workplace reforms improving workers’ rights and, of course, we’ve got Brexit to navigate. Many organisations are already considering impacts this might have on their recruitment and retention practices.

“My advice would be to get ahead of the curve. Especially for employers who have EU staff, it’s vital to talk to your workforce and to try and plan for the implications of Brexit, particularly with no deal.”

Mrs Willis also said it was time for businesses across the spectrum to consider introducing new working practices: “I’ve experienced first-hand the difficulty of balancing work and family life. Increasingly, organisations that adopt truly flexible working practices are getting a competitive edge.

“There are great opportunities to think differently about how people work and the implications that might have for recruitment and retention of top talent.

“Small companies are more agile and able to adopt new practices but they’re more apprehensive about people working flexibly. It’s not for everyone but it will be interesting to have conversations.

“Of course I’m a bit nervous about setting up my own business – I’d be worried if I wasn’t! But it’s a great opportunity for me and an exciting one. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

The HR Dept Gloucester is part of an international company with a network of 75 franchisees providing services in 112 territories in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

Licensees provide experience for growing businesses, who need the expertise on hand but have neither the need nor the budget for an in-house HR team.

The company also provides an option for HR practitioners looking for better work-life balance and a new challenge after working in corporate life.

Gemma Tumelty, managing director of The HR Dept, said: “It’s great to see someone of Jenny’s calibre and experience offering HR services to SMEs in Gloucester and the surrounding area. We wish her all the best operating the licence and are sure he will make it a great success.”