We’re marking two years since Ashfield HR started back in January 2020 by catching up with Faye Briffa, Ashfield HR’s Managing Director. We asked her about running her own business, and her HR advice for small businesses as we enter 2022. Read our interview with Faye below. 
How have you found the last two years running Ashfield HR? 
F: I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve loved being the one in charge of the business and determining how we move forward. I came out of a large corporate environment so it’s been very different for me. There have been real positives and some challenges, which have been very different to what I was expecting. No one saw Covid coming and it has had a huge impact on every business - it was certainly not an ideal time to set up a business. That said, I’m really proud that I’ve been able to build the business over these two years and been able to support small businesses as they’ve gone through the challenges of Covid. 
What have been the biggest challenges for the businesses you’ve worked with over the last two years? 
F: For many businesses, the biggest challenge has been simply to keep going and survive in the current climate. There’s been quite a bit of downsizing and associated redundancies, but there has also been a boom on recruitment in some sectors, so the war for talent has never been greater. I think it’s been really challenging for businesses with employees working from home. Many have continued to deliver but it’s been more challenging with everything taking longer when working remotely. There’s also been the increase in mental health issues due to lockdown, homeschooling, and other Covid related issues, which I think will be an ongoing issue for businesses going into 2022. We’re also starting to see a rise in employer-employee issues and I wonder whether that’s as a result of the awful past two years we’ve all had. 
Do you think there’s any surprising results of Covid that businesses have benefitted from, or could help businesses develop? 
F: I think it’s forced the flexible working question a bit more. Two years ago, there was a real split between very progressive businesses who were up for considering home working and were generally more flexible in their outlook, and then businesses at the opposite end of that spectrum who really wanted people in the office every day and were very resistant to any flexibility. Covid has forced that conversation and opened up more possibilities for how people work. So, when employees are going to work for a company, they’ll be looking at not only pay, but also those peripheral benefits, like flexible working, working from home, work-life balance – I think these have come much more to the forefront for some people. 
What has been the thing you’ve most enjoyed, and least enjoyed, about running Ashfield HR? 
F: What I’ve most enjoyed is my own autonomy and ultimately being in control of my own work life. There’s obviously inherent risk and personal uncertainty involved in that, but I don’t think I will ever go back to working for somebody else now, because I’ve really enjoyed that autonomy. 
What I have least enjoyed is the responsibility of everything on you - there’s a lot riding on the success of your business for you personally and that responsibility can feel hard at times. It’s interesting, because that’s the opposite side of the coin to the autonomy and control that I enjoy having and you can’t have one without the other. From a business planning and growth perspective, I would like to grow the Ashfield HR team more in 2022, bringing in more HR professionals. I think having more people giving input into trickier HR situations can really help sharpen your own perspective on particular issues. 
What would be your top tips for anyone starting their own business? 
F: Don’t do it just before a pandemic! 
Don’t go into it with a very rigid, defined plan; I mean… have a plan but have a flexible plan because things will evolve and change as the business develops, and your position on some things will change. 
Your own personal resilience is key. Things don’t always go your way – you invest time into a prospective client and it’s frustrating when they go and work with someone else, or you lose a client because they decide to source their HR in a different way. It’s important to have the resilience to be able to not let it bother you too much and move on. 
Finally, try to have some boundaries – setting up your own business is hard and it encroaches on your life, your family, your holidays, everything, but you do have to have some boundaries otherwise it will take over your whole life. 
Finally, what would you say are the biggest HR trends for businesses to be aware of going into 2022? 
F: As we touched on when speaking about Covid, I suspect employees are going to become much more demanding in terms of what they expect from employers. I don’t know if it’s because of Covid, or possibly a trend in the younger generations that have a different perspective on work. I think the full employee value proposition, including peripheral benefits such as maternity pay policy; flexible working; the ability to work part-time; personal and career development will become increasingly important. 
I think there’s also much more of an expectation that employers will manage employees well. Good line management is going to become key in 2022 and beyond. 
Faye Briffa is the Managing Director of Ashfield HR. To find out more about how we can support your business, click below to get in touch with us today 
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