What does your job entail?
Responsibility for Human Resources across the Group provides an extremely rewarding, enjoyable and varied job due to the nature of a business that is diverse, global, expanding rapidly and also undergoing transformational changes as Kelvin Hughes.
It goes without saying my core responsibility is to support the business strategy set by the CEO and the Company’s board. The HR process and projects are creating a successful global organisation that looks after our customers around the world.
It all starts with ensuring we have the correct calibre of staff often with very unique and specialist skills, and then working with team leaders to provide an environment that encourages and promotes retention. Having employees in five different countries with wide ranging needs and cultural differences requires an ability to listen and learn.
There is a significant process element to running a HR function not least payroll, pensions, employee benefits, recruitment and training and development.
I am fortunate to be able to influence the company’s support in areas such as apprenticeships, over 50s forum recruitment, and working with other local employers and Councils on initiatives to support the local community.
Why do you enjoy working in manufacturing?
Manufacturing has changed a great deal over the 40 years I have worked in the industry. When I joined Kelvin Hughes I was fascinated with the output from each department in terms of design, modelling, prototyping and eventually producing equipment that was assembled on site and to producing a range of products for customers. In the late 70s we employed world class toolmakers – highly skilled individuals who were very creative. The business has moved onto very sophisticated design process techniques and different markets, which adds to the ever changing role I have, in a very exciting environment. The support of HR remains constant in this environment, but the art is adapting and meeting new challenges, with a good team and a sense of humour.
It’s the skill base that creates the perpetual family of creativity. From an HR and recruitment perspective, it’s the range of skills and experience that I find very rewarding to work amongst.
How did you get into manufacturing?
I’ve been at Kelvin Hughes for 41 years, starting out as secretary to the Personnel Manager. Following a five year apprenticeship, Kelvin Hughes invested in me, enabling me to obtain my CIPD qualifications. I progressed to Personnel Manager, HR manager, eventually becoming the Group HR Manager.
What challenges have you overcome in your career?
I entered the workforce in the 1970s, when perhaps the perception, especially in Engineering, was that women were more geared to administrative and shop floor roles. There were no females in senior positions at that time. It was a male orientated culture and my two previous HR directors were male. I am the first female at Kelvin Hughes to hold the senior HR position. This created challenging situations during the 80s, when Union negotiations were pretty heavy and often male dominated.
The hard times I may have experienced then, provided me with a lifelong lesson in managing people and situations and ensuring that you were respected for the role you played and how you played it. The real challenge is to earn the respect of your workforce at all levels. This career path is not for the faint hearted, if you really want to be part of the decision making and strategy of the business.
My latest challenge was when we moved from several buildings on one site in Hainault, Essex to one building at a new location in Enfield. I wanted to ensure we maintained the spirt of Kelvin Hughes, whilst adapting to a very different environment. We went from a run down 90 year old site, to an ultra-modern building. The only element I allowed the staff to take with them was their “continuous service”. I had interviewed 350 employees three times during the lead up to the move and on final transfer, we only lost 12 to retirement. The remaining workforce moved with us. The HR team worked to ensure every job specification, T & Cs, benefits and policies were new and up to date, ready for our next chapter in the Company’s history.
We had a few hiccups, but we have a very strong loyalty factor, where long service is a strong feature, providing the business with its strength and independence.
We have just completed the sale of our ChartCo business. This has been a tough period both professionally and also emotionally as it is like losing a large part of the family. I was determined this phase of their history and growth is supported in the best way possible. Hopefully the culture will follow and carry on for many years to come.
What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in manufacturing?
Do your research. Go for interviews at Companies that you have a real interest in. Look at the product range. Be honest with yourself about what you want from working in manufacturing.
Do you want to be involved in the whole process, from understanding the skill base to flicking through the brochures and being excited at being part of the Company that designed the product?