Alastair Scott thought that, after 30 years as sales director and co-owner of Oldham-based janitorial manufacturer Robert Scott, he understood how to get the most out of his staff.
It’s easy to see why he would make that assumption. Business was going well at the fourth generation, family owned firm, which has the distinction of being the UK’s largest manufacturer of mops - making half a million a week and accounting for 60 per cent of the UK janitorial market. The workforce was generally happy and loyal, with most employees having been at the firm for many years.
But following the acquisition of a competitor five years ago, Scott says he soon realised that the company needed to clean up its approach to employee engagement.
"I’d always appreciated and valued my employees, but never really understood the importance of actually letting them know that I value them. When you're brought up in a business for 35 years, you think everybody just knows you and they'd just be happy to approach you if they needed to talk. Of course they don't necessarily think like that.
"Before we acquired our competitor, they ran a scheme that rewarded staff for significant service. Rather than asking about their job security (as people tend to do), the first thing that new staff asked when they joined us was if we would be continuing the annual award scheme, so I realised it was obviously really important to them.
"We'd never had a HR department. One of the other co-owners acted as the person people could go to if they had an issue. But we realised that we needed a neutral forum that our employees could use to talk to us, and let us how they really felt, so we set an HR function up.
"We also rolled out the competitor's awards scheme across the company and introduced a newsletter. It's more lighthearted than finger wagging, celebrating new births, good work and stuff like that. We’ve got just over 240 employees spread over four different sites, so it was an attempt to bring them together in a way we’d never even considered it before.
"I've certainly learned to embrace new people coming in because they bring new ideas. I'm probably late to the party on this one but I got there eventually."
It’s a simple but potent reminder for bosses of any business. No matter how old the dog, it can always learn new tricks.
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