Interview with Sarah Dowzell, COO and Co-Founder at Natural HR

Natural HR provides all-in-one HR and payroll software for mid-sized and enterprise organisations, making it easy to manage the HR department and enables professionals at the frontline of the rapidly evolving modern workplace to engage, manage and pay their people.

Natural HR delivers everything a HR department needs to support and manage their people, freeing up valuable time to focus on their organisation’s strategic HR objectives.
 
 
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How did you come up with the idea for the company?

 
Back in 2010, I was running a small but successful cleaning business in the Midlands that employed a handful of staff. With the team all working different days, hours and to varying shift patterns; the paper timesheets and HR admin soon started piling up. So, I did what most of us do when we’re faced with a manual task like this: I looked to technology.

And yet, my search for simple, reliable, low-cost HR software that would help me to manage the team’s timesheets, holiday requests and working patterns was fruitless.

Enter my husband and avid programmer, Jason who took it upon himself to develop a custom application for me that would help me to do just that.

When I’d talk to fellow business owners and my peers in the local business community, it was clear that they were all crying out for a simple HR solution like the one Jason had built for me. And so, Natural HR was born.

Natural HR was never meant to be a business – simply a solution to the problems I was having when running my cleaning business. Now headquartered in Birmingham’s vibrant Jewellery Quarter with 29 full-time staff, what started as a hobby for my husband and I soon turned into an HR platform being used by over 13,000 users globally.
 

 

How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

 
As our customers navigated the impact of the pandemic, they looked to us to help them to support their employees during these prolonged periods of isolation and remote work. They sought more innovative, tech-driven ways to communicate with and engage their employees; Natural HR evolved with these changing demands, too.

During the pandemic, we had to ensure that the system provided everything our customers needed to manage their people through the pandemic and beyond. Ensuring business continuity for our users was a top priority and something that directly influenced the development of new functionality for Natural HR.

As standard, our system offers comprehensive employee self-service that allows employees to manage their personal information, request annual leave, raise HR tickets and view all relevant company policies and documentation from anywhere, at any time. This has proved particularly useful for employers to share COVID-safe guidelines, updated sickness policies or working from home procedures with all employees while they are remote.

Amongst a plethora of new functionality, a brand-new social stream allowed employees to maintain informal contact with their colleagues, recognise success, celebrate anniversaries, and welcome new team members within Natural HR. With so many businesses virtually hiring new employees (ourselves included), it was important that we created somewhere within the system for our customers to celebrate their new colleagues, birthdays, milestones and achievements together – even when they were apart.

Internally, we have ensured our processes have evolved to meet the changing needs of our colleagues. We are a predominantly office-based team in times pre-COVID so we have introduced virtual get togethers, quizzes and online tea breaks to maintain the strong bonds between colleagues that come with working in the office. We introduced Slack as a communication tool for the team, too – something I wish we had done sooner to help everyone feel more connected as we do have some colleagues who were remote even before the pandemic.
 

What can we hope to see from Natural HR in the future?

 
The HR software market is historically stagnant and full of faceless corporate software giants with little consideration or support for their customers. As a business, our goal has always been to shake up the market with a fresh new perspective, personal service and sense of community. We proudly get to know our customers by name and we aim to become an extension of their HR team, not just their supplier.

As we look ahead to the future of Natural HR, we want to continue to empower our customers to actively shape our HR and payroll software for the future to ensure we are always delivering everything an HR professional needs to do their job, and do it well.