“Our experience over the last eight years has proved the exact opposite. By outsourcing to Reality HR when we employed around 60 staff, our business has actively improved. We have grown to nearly 100 staff and are still progressing. We have retained a flat structure by training and developing our own talent, and this has created a strong culture of loyalty and smart working.
The last thing we wanted was someone who said ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’, which is what we had been accustomed to hearing from employment solicitors. We were delighted to find in Reality a whole team of HR professionals who always respond with, ‘we can find a way of doing that’, and whose people are focused on commercially sound outcomes.”
Up until they reached 60 staff, HR had been a part of one of the director’s jobs at BV Dairy and it became obvious that the forward-thinking manufacturer needed a greater level of HR support.
The board discussed appointing an internal resource, but decided it would be too costly to employ the level of expertise needed. An HR administrator could do the routine work, but would not be able to advise the board, nor provide the training, guidance and troubleshooting that was badly needed at team leader level at that time.
The board realised that they would need different skills at different times, and didn’t think they could get all that from one person.
When they began to research the HR consultancy market, they soon identified that they wanted someone independent, who would see BV Dairy as a significant customer rather than becoming just a number within a faceless, systemised giant. It had to be someone with a commercial attitude towards HR, too.
Reality HR fitted the bill very well.
The first step when they were engaged was for one of the Reality HR directors to carry out an initial audit of BV Dairy’s HR. She immediately brought the firm up to date with routine HR administration, such as contracts, job specifications, terms and conditions of employment, and the employee handbook.
At this point, the next most pressing need was a lack of confidence in the team leader structure, and a concern as to how the team leaders were going to adapt to the higher throughput needed for business growth.
Reality HR helped to restructure the function and to train the staff in management and supervisory leadership including motivation, recruitment, disciplinary action and appraisals.
Today, two-thirds of the staff are involved in 24/7 manufacturing and are run by eight team leaders, each responsible for 3-5 people depending on which area, shift and day of the week.
Most of the team leaders have been homegrown, which has produced a clear return on investment, thanks to the relatively low need to recruit and train new people into the BV Dairy ways of working.
Another return on investment is the retention of a flat structure, as Jim Highnam explains: “The team leaders report in most cases to the production manager, so we have a fairly flat structure, consisting of production operators with a wide variety of skills, then team leaders, then managers, then directors. Thanks to consistent skills training, we have mainly stuck to that structure on the production side of the business, despite many calls over the years for us to introduce a supervisory level which we know would lead to more cost and in some ways, greater risks.”
Reality HR has become an integral part of the BV Dairy team, with a director advising the board and communicating with some of the managers on specific activities, and an HR Manager who is always accessible to the team leaders and the managers, visiting the site monthly for face-to-face meetings and available over the phone at other times.
During the eight-year partnership, there have been inevitable issues needing careful handling, which Jim Highnam believes have been dealt with more objectively and with more accurate legal compliance than the directors could have managed by themselves.
Jim gives the following example: “At one time we outsourced part of our warehousing, which resulted in redundancy and re-employment, as well as needing about six of our drivers to work at the warehousing depot which was about 20 miles away. Reality HR advised us throughout, including a situation that may have involved TUPE, and we successfully re-employed around four workers, which was very important to us.”
In the last year, Reality HR has delivered management training for the company’s six-strong management team, as well as provided individual coaching for a manager who has now become a director, and for managers who face specific challenges from time-to-time.
Jim Highnam has more recently become involved in another food manufacturing business which has reached 90-100 employees. It faced similar HR challenges to those of BV Dairy eight years ago, and Jim gave Reality HR the ultimate endorsement of recommending them to this team, and the two firms have since started working together.
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