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Janine Milne

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In a Nutshell: Five considerations when setting up an HR department from scratch


When Jennifer Longden joined Cititec, the technology recruitment firm did not have an HR department and she had no experience of HR.

Nearly four years later, the HR department that she subsequently set up has become integral to the firm’s business strategy.

Longden shares the personal lessons that she’s learned from having to establish an HR department from scratch, without an HR background:

1. Develop a thick skin

Not taking things too personally is one of the things that I’ve had to learn. To progress in HR, I realised that I would have to change, but I’ve had a lot of support from the company to help me do that.

2. Work with and support line managers

You can’t do anything without supportive line managers – engagement is only possible if you have them on side and so you have to find ways to bring them along with you. This situation will only become more important because, as time goes on, I’m keen for line managers to take on more responsibility for some of the things that we in HR currently do for them.

3. Adopt a financial focus

Without becoming more financially focused, the business will not look at your ideas. If you can demonstrate where financial gain will be possible, you’re on to a winner. So, it’s important to understand finance and, luckily, I work next door to the financial director who is one of the most approachable people in the business.

4. Give yourself time to think

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in projects and procedures, but what HR will be recognised for and what will make the biggest impact on the business is all of the extra strategic stuff.

5. Develop your knowledge of the organisation

It’s important to have business knowledge as well as HR acumen and to know what policies and procedures are in other parts of the company. I’m the ISO quality manager too so I work closely with the business and need to understand it. It’s vital to know about more than just HR.

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