Star Interview

Burton's recipe for people success


Following a string of HR tech enhancements Burton’s Biscuits has witnessed a spike in employee engagement…

Words by Jade Burke | Design by Matt Bonnar

 

Whether we like it or not, technology is transforming our personal lives as well as the world of work. From organising meetings using online portals to utilising corporate messaging services in order to communicate with other members of an organisation, tech is helping many workforces adapt and evolve. HR is no exception to this.

Statistics back this up. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 56% of respondents were redesigning their HR programmes to leverage digital and mobile tools. One example of a business actively doing this is Burton’s Biscuit Company, a brand that has been baking biscuits in the UK since 1935 and is now producing a selection of well-known household brands such as Maryland Cookies, Jammie Dodgers, Wagon Wheels and Royal Edinburgh.

Whether we like it or not, technology is transforming our personal lives as well as the world of work. From organising meetings using online portals to utilising corporate messaging services in order to communicate with other members of an organisation, tech has helped many workforces adapt and evolve. HR is no exception to this.

Statistics back this up. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 56% of respondents were redesigning their HR programmes to leverage digital and mobile tools. One example of a business actively doing this is Burton’s Biscuit Company, a brand that has been baking Great British biscuits in the UK since 1935, now producing a selection of well-known household brands such as Maryland Cookies, Jammie Dodgers, Wagon Wheels and Royal Edinburgh among others.

HR’s selection box

The company currently employs around 2,000 staff across sites up and down the UK, where they are responsible for making 5.5billion biscuits a year. With a huge quota to fill, Burton’s recognised the need to streamline its business and people strategy, realising how technology could make some crucial changes to benefit each and every employee.

“We have a team of 20 in HR covering our bakeries (Blackpool, Edinburgh, Livingston, Llantarnam, Dorset and St Albans head office) and have used technology to make our offering to our employees more relevant and to offer them easier ways to communicate with their teams,” Hayley Kingdom, HR Director at Burton’s Biscuits, tells HR Grapevine during an exclusive interview.

“We implemented new systems in 2019 including an absence management system, which enables real time reporting for our managers. We have also implemented an e-learning system so our colleagues can learn whenever and wherever they like, this enables personal development plan (PDP) conversations to be tailored around the solutions we can offer.”

 

Putting people first

These digitally enabled changes make sense. According to 2019 survey by Zensar, 76% claim having the digital tools they need at work makes them more productive and more than half, 53%, said digital tools make them more successful. Burton’s has seemingly understood this demand, setting up new systems which in-turn allowed its HR department to focus on initiatives that aim to transform the lives of staff members.

For example, last year saw the roll out of a new PDP site, an e-learning system, management training, improved recruitment processes and the addition of TV screens within each bakery to enhance communication between sites, as well as the launch of the ‘Being your best’ leadership competency framework. “The fundamental reason all of these new launches have embedded so well within the business is that they all link back to our job levels and our cultural values, so everybody knows what is expected of them from both a task perspective but also in terms of their behaviours,” Kingdom explains. “These ‘being your best tools’ enabled us to have a consistent language across all of our locations and for people to fairly assess their teams and to give people databased feedback.”

HR’s core focus

The new additions that have been introduced allow Kingdom and her HR team to focus on the people of the business and their wants and needs. So much so that the team have been able to create a stream of work called ‘Love Our Employees’. “It sounds like a simple concept but having a clear plan of activities that truly makes life better for our employees is a difficult challenge when we have so many colleagues at different locations,” reveals Kingdom.

This included a ‘cultural calendar of events’ which focussed on bringing employees together and having fun. In addition, Kingdom explains that starting with the very basics such as communication and management training have all helped to make the Burton’s HR strategy a reality. “As an HR team and as a Board we are constantly looking at ways to give back to our loyal and hardworking teams and to continue to make Burton’s an even better place to work,” Kingdom adds.

 
 

Burton’s biscuit history…


1953 saw Joseph Burton found Burton’s Biscuits, with Lyon’s biscuits being launched three years later.

The famous marshmallow sandwich biscuit, Wagon Wheels, first went into production in 194, closely followed by Royal Edinburgh Shortbread in 1952 and Maryland Cookies in 1956.

In 1960, Jammie Dodgers were released, while the 1980s saw the introduction of Potato Puffs and Fish ’n’ Chips.

Since then, Burton’s has branched out into more bespoke consumer goods following the acquisition of two new businesses in 2019: Thomas Fudge’s Dorset Village Bakery and Paterson Arran Limited.

Engaging everyone

As a result of Burton’s improved people strategy, Kingdom has witnessed a noticeable peak in engagement among workers, so much so that engagement figures jumped from 58% to 72% in 2019, which has had a positive impact on the business’ overall performance. “Our employee engagement journey has a direct positive correlation with our business performance, and we have grown every quarter since Q4 of 2016 when we started our ‘new Burton’s journey’ which consisted of a new Board and a big change in the way we worked together,” she adds. This performance growth is to be expected. Research from UNC Kenanflager Business School show firms with highly engaged employees have revenue growth at on average 2.3 times higher over a three-year period.

Looking forward

While Kingdom is ‘thrilled’ at the figures, she hasn’t rested on her laurels as 2019 also saw the launch of an initiative called ‘The Big Idea’. With Burton’s bakers in charge of baking some of the nation’s most recognised biscuits, the HR team invited all of its bakers to come forth and present their idea for the next new Burton’s Biscuit. In an attempt to build morale and a sense of purpose among peers, Board members and bakery managers visited all of the company’s sites to review the ideas of staff members.

“We know that ideas can stem from anywhere which is why we launched the Big Idea campaign we wanted to give all our employees a chance to design and develop a Biscuit which had the potential to end up on the shop shelves. It was a great way to engage our employees and we had some fantastic ideas and one that actually went to production and is now in the shops,” Kingdom concludes.


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