What do you think is the most important part of a people function?
The role of the HR team is to ensure organisational effectiveness. Part of our role (and that of the entire leadership team) is to remove any potential blockages and to allow the team to be as good as they are. We need to ensure that our workforce meets the needs of the business and to make sure that we have pragmatic, people-related plans in place to meet these targets. Helping the executive team and stakeholders to make effective decisions through people data is vital. I’m looking forward to getting started and making a difference at such an established and well-loved brand.
How would you describe the culture at Weetabix?
Here at Weetabix it’s about making sure we continue to do the right thing, even when no one is watching. While we’re serious about creating quality products and innovating to meet changing consumer needs, we also want to ensure Weetabix is a great place to work. Along with cultivating a workplace that’s diverse, Weetabix is a company that promises career progression too. Thanks to our flat, flexible organisational design, we’re able to offer our staff the opportunity to test their skills in different situations, allowing them to grow into new roles and responsibilities. For example, Marketing Director, Fran Davies spent several years in a category role after being Head of Brand, before returning to the marketing function in her current role. Our senior management team, founded on retained talent, is living proof of our commitment to both gender diversity and the rewards hard work can earn.
What is the onboarding system like at Weetabix?
We hold a fervent belief that the Line Manager Makes The Difference and are a key part of the onboarding process. Empowering everyone to make a difference and ensuring line managers understand their role in creating the right environment for this. By promoting a wider environment where people can succeed, you can make your organisation an attractive place to work and continue to attract and retain the best talent – both men and women.
Would you call the organisation inclusive – if so, how?
Even in my short time at Weetabix, I’ve found it to be a workplace that is always striving to be a genuinely inclusive environment that allows anyone and everyone to flourish. Ultimately, a company is only as good as the people within it, so as a company we’re committed to making our workplace as fair, empowering and inclusive as it can be. At Weetabix building a team is about talent first and foremost.
The organisation has shown over the years that it will work hard to remove barriers that prevent people from being at their best, e.g. we now have flexible working hours to accommodate different living situations and ensure there aren’t any unconscious biases within the business. We also get yearly feedback on our policies through the Weetabix people survey and this helps to implement even better practices.
What challenges do you anticipate at Weetabix?
A challenge we face is that manufacturing is traditionally a male-dominated environment. We therefore want to make sure we make Weetabix an attractive place to work, to ensure we continue to attract, recruit and retain women in equal proportion to men; and this includes in manufacturing.
Weetabix is located in a competitive region for engineering skills, and coupled with an ageing workforce, we have to take proactive steps to future-proof the business. This is why we launched our apprenticeship programme with Tresham College, which has proved a successful way of bringing new talent into the business. It has also helped us to inspire young people about manufacturing, engineering and the food industry as a whole.
A key part of my role is to ensure Weetabix continues to develop the next generation of manufacturing talent, while also supporting in driving a better gender balance within manufacturing, building on last year’s positive gender pay gap reporting.
Can you cite a people issue in the past you overcame (perhaps at PepsiCo)?
I’ve had the opportunity in the past to lead a number of change programmes, a challenge I particularly enjoy. Often these have required difficult messages for employees affected as they have included changes to roles, terms and conditions or the working environment, many of which have been long-standing arrangements.
Helping all employees understand the need for businesses to change is critical as it opens up significant opportunities for them and the organisation to move forward through the development of new skills and working practices that are fit for the future.
What are the biggest challenges that face HR in this current business climate?
The gender pay gap will continue to be a challenge for companies, while there will also further discussions on the best ways to keep employee data safe in an increasingly digital age. Another ongoing challenge will be developing the next generation of executive talent and ensuring we’re putting the foundations in now for the business leaders of tomorrow.
What is the biggest change you’d like to see during your tenure at Weetabix to the people agenda?
I’d like to see an organisation that is inspiring the next generation of manufacturing talent, while also helping to drive a better gender balance within manufacturing.
I’m really looking forward to delivering change within our Operations function to help drive the company forward. I am also interested in looking at how we can further improve our full employee life cycle, including how we recruit, retain and develop talent.