An HR expert who started out with offices in Abergavenny is marking three years in business with a move into new offices, several new staff and the latest in a series of acquisitions and mergers of neighbouring franchises.

In November 2018, Lee Monroe launched The HR Dept in Abergavenny, Brecon, Blaenau Gwent and Cwmbran, offering outsourced human resources advice and support for small and medium-sized businesses in the local area.

Since then, particularly during the pandemic, his business has continued to develop and grow, and he has expanded into other areas around Wales.

He has now acquired the licence to run The HR Dept’s independent franchises in Cardiff and Newport, Monmouth, Chepstow and the Forest of Dean, as well as in Aberdare, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Rhondda.

Lee has also joined forces with fellow franchisee Niamh Kelly, operating The HR Dept Mid Wales jointly with her. With Niamh also operating in Shropshire and also Wrexham and Chester, the two experts have a large swathe of Wales covered off by their combined businesses.

At the same time, Lee has been busy recruiting for The HR Dept South East Wales, having grown to a team of six including HR consultants, admin and marketing staff.

This has in turn necessitated larger offices and the company has moved from its old location in Tredegar to new premises in the Rassau Industrial Estate in Ebbw Vale.

“It’s been a very busy three years and it’s great to see it all coming together,” said Lee. “The Covid-19 pandemic has created some opportunities for growth which I’ve readily taken, as well as the opportunity to offer new services and to capitalise on a growing awareness of the importance of good HR practices for all businesses.

“We now service over 80 clients on a retained business across Wales, and with Niamh covering several other areas of the country, we have a broad and comprehensive combined territory.

“I’m delighted to be able to provide jobs for human resources professionals, for administrative and junior staff. And of course it’s a pleasure to move into more spacious surroundings, so we can optimise our productivity and help our customers to the best standard possible. One of the major effects of the pandemic has been the rise in remote working which has helped us to provide a flexible and on demand service. However we are only an hour away from the furthest corners of our expanded area of operation, meaning onsite visits are possible and a great way to connect with clients.”

Lee said he had noticed a significant shift in attitudes towards HR work during the past months and years, as both the legislative environment and workplace culture saw major changes.

“There’s no doubt that, particularly for smaller businesses, HR is becoming ever more needed,” he said. “For starters there are a wide variety of legislative changes which businesses owners have needed support with – not just relating to the pandemic and furlough, but also regarding tribunal proceedings, GDPR, parental leave, flexible working and sick pay rights.

“This is complicated stuff and particularly time-consuming for non-experts, so having an outsourced provider on hand to offer tailor-made advice is proving really helpful.”

He also said that good HR practices were providing a tangible return on investment for businesses looking to optimise productivity and efficiency.

“As a new generation of employees enters the workforce, business leaders must consider how to optimise their set-ups to help with recruitment and retention,” he said. “Is your workplace somewhere that the best talent wants to come and work at? And do you offer incentives for them to remain with you?

“Businesses should be looking to how they can streamline their systems and processes, to make efficiencies. Also culturally, in terms of recruitment and employment, leaders should be looking at benefits packages – pensions, health care, cash plans and the like – rather than simply salary. It’s better for retention and helps you go on a journey of career development with your staff.”