Westwood Works 1903-2003
"The importance of people to the life of a business does not need emphasizing. Without people there is no business and the directors acknowledge this every year at the end of their report to the shareholders. The term "personnel function" has been introduced into the management vocabulary in the last fifty or sixty years to cover the multiplicity of attitudes and relationships which have of necessity come into being with the growth of large scale business. This period of time has seen the development of specialists in the personnel function and has been paralleled by the development of specialists in other aspects of business." [Extract from the "Baker Perkins UK Group Personnel Policy - 1970 - R.H. Wilkins, Executive Vice Chairman - United Kingdom].
The average employee at Westwood Works, when asked what the Personnel Department did, might have to ponder for a while before answering. It is possible that the only time that he/she had direct contact with "Personnel" was when they joined or when they left the Company. If they sought guidance in the Staff or Works handbook, they would see, under the heading - "Personnel Department" - on the very last page of the booklet -
"The Company does not normally seek to be concerned with the private affairs of its Employees, but if a personal problem should arise on which advice or guidance is required the Employee should feel free to contact the Employment Manager, the Welfare Officer or the appropriate Personnel Officer. Appointments may be made at any time through the Employee's Superintendent or Foreman."
- a not particularly enlightening statement perhaps. If asked what sort of company Baker Perkins was, most would respond with mention of - "the Quaker Influence".
In fact, it is very clear that from the early days of Joseph Baker & Sons, and further developed by F.C. Ihlee from the "Perkins" side of the business, the concept that its employees were the firm's most important asset was the fundamental driving force within the organisation. It follows from this that the Personnel Department itself was a key asset to the business and a function that was involved with just about every aspect of life at Westwood.
A Personnel Department was introduced into Baker Perkins at the end of 1945 in response to the clear need to begin to plan for impending manpower shortages. The Company Annual Report for 1944 stated - "The great success of our own forces and those of our allies during 1944 have made it possible for us to start preparations for the important task that lies before us of re-equipping the industries which we serve". The proportion of civil production going through the factory was beginning to increase, although over 400 men and women had left to serve in HM forces. By 7th May of the following year, A.I. Baker was writing – "Now that the end of the war is in sight, the beginnings of the change-back to our products has started. This process will gain momentum from now onwards, and I hope that guns and other war equipment will soon have disappeared from the factories".
By the end of 1945 the return to production of machines and ovens was almost complete but there was still one whole bay of Westwood Works devoted to production of the Bofors guns ordered under the Government's defence policy. Labour shortages – aggravated by the "call-up" of younger men – uncertainty on costs and shortages of materials continued to cause problems. Although Westwood Works welcomed back 100 men from active service, cancellation of the deferment of younger men and youths led to losing 60 skilled workers. Sadly, the death toll among those who had left to serve their country rose to seventeen and three more were feared lost.
The need for extra capacity to cope with the back-log of orders was readily apparent but the idea of a central Personnel function was not well received at first as managers and foremen were used to hiring and firing their own staff. R.T.(Bob) Chapman was recruited from Littlewood’s to be the first Personnel Manager and get the new department up and running. He brought with him a card record system which was guaranteed to answer a straightforward query, such as someone’s date of birth, within ten seconds and that was usually the case. The department was first housed in a sort of attic on the top of the old building overlooking the railway lines and there were four flights of stairs leading to it from the front enquiry office. There were no lifts in that part of the building so every job applicant or visitor had to be escorted up by the office junior who had just descended the stairs to fetch them.
Kay Kisby recalls:
"Bob Chapman was a flamboyant character and by the time I was taken on in 1947 he had the show on the road. He called all the female staff by their surnames and summoned them by bells and I was five rings but if you were busy doing something it was sometimes difficult to know just how many you had heard. If he had a visitor in his office whom he wanted to impress, my bells would go and he would ask for some ink for his pen and once he gave me a rolled up copy of The Times and asked me to swat a wasp in his window – which was quite entertaining for his client.
When the apprentice school was built in 1954, the two bays of the ground floor of the 1933 multi-storey office block that they had occupied were turned into Personnel offices. So that he could see everybody from his end of the department, RTC insisted that the top half of all the separate offices should be plain glass. The last one, however, was to be of frosted glass, as by then we had our first women’s welfare officer, Mrs Leavy, and he didn’t want to see weeping females!"
|Between 1933 and 1966, the Personnel Department was housed on the ground floor of the 1933 multi-storey office block. The Training Department was sited next to the lift shaft at the east end of the building and the department's senior managers had offices along the Westfield Road side of the block.|
|In 1966, a new two-storey office block was built in front of the Old Canteen and this remained the Department's home until 1985 when Baker Perkins Ltd was split into three separate companies, each with its own Personnel Manager. At the time that the 2nd multi-storey office block was completed in 1975, the 1st floor of the Personnel building accommodated all the main Personnel staff, with the Medical Centre - Surgery, Company doctor's office, X-ray and eye test offices - and an office for the Company Safety Officer, located on the ground floor.|
|Layout of the 1966 two-storey Welfare Office Block.|
|The Personnel Department Reception Area.|
The building to the left of the two-storey block was known as the Tarslag building. Built in 1958, it served a number of purposes over time - in the 1950/1960s it housed a snack bar/canteen but by 1975, was part of the Personnel Department. For a short time it housed a "Company Shop" - run by an ex-shop steward from the Plate Shop - which proved an unsuccessful venture.
As with the other Personnel Departments in each of the key Group companies, the Personnel function at Westwood worked within the guidelines, standards of operation and strategy set down by the Manager - Group Personnel Services, a senior manager in Baker Perkins Holdings. Here it is important to note that the Baker Perkins Group did not have a "Personnel Director", the argument being that the responsibility for managing the Group's "most important asset" could not be left to anyone but the Chief Executive.
The Personnel Department's key areas of responsibility included:
Management Training and Development were particularly important areas and the utilisation and promotion of the Groups own developed talent was an important objective. There were, however, many sub-sets of the above responsibilities including - management of Canteen facilities; company vehicles; site security; employee travel arrangements, etc. etc.
The role of the Personnel Department was not to "manage the people", as was commonly thought, but to provide advice and guidance within a consistent framework of policies, procedures and practices, to enable line managers to take appropriate action to manage their people. This was made clear by R.H. Wilkins - Executive Vice Chairman, United Kingdom - in the "United Kingdom Group Personnel Policy" document, published in the at the beginning of 1970:
"It is the responsibility of line management to select, train and motivate people in their departments in order that they are able to attain acceptable standards of performance and, furthermore, to utilise their skills and abilities to the maximum. It is the function of personnel and training specialists to provide the support required by line management to achieve these goals".
It was the Department's responsibility to monitor the trends in both its own local environment and in the broader International environment in which the Group planned to develop its business and put forward suggestions as to how to develop the Group's human resources to meet the challenges posed - a task not easily accomplished. It is recalled that Bob Chapman, a well respected Personnel Manager from 1944 to 1957, whose responsibilities often entailed attending Board Meetings to advise the Directors on personnel policy, was once asked to report on a particularly difficult subject. After some thought, he sent his secretary out to buy a crystal ball and took it to the meeting. It is understood that the Directors accepted that his point was well made.
Some of the key business environment challenges that were faced in the years after World War 2 included:
These developments involved Westwood - and the other Group companies - in major training and re-training exercises resulting in a more highly skilled workforce but creating new challenges associated with keeping these valuable assets.
Gabrielle Abbott - still working for Baker Perkins but now at the Paston factory - joined Baker Perkins in July 1974 and remembers clearly her first contact with the company's Personnel Department:
"Near to the time when I hoped to complete my full-time education and get a job I wrote to Baker Perkins enquiring about the company’s secretarial training scheme. I received a letter asking me to come for an interview with Judy Briggs, Assistant Personnel Officer, and duly presented myself at the Personnel Department – having first presented myself at the main reception in the multi-storey building and been re-directed along Westfield Road to the Tarslag building which was home to the Personnel Department at that time. I clearly remember presenting myself at the “serving hatch” in the Personnel Department’s reception, taking a seat in the waiting area, and then sitting in Judy’s office, but the format of the interview is lost in the mists of time – except that I was told that the company no longer had its own secretarial and clerical training schemes and typing pool, so I should go to “Tech” to get my shorthand and typing and then apply again the following year.
That I duly did, applying early but not applying anywhere else – a very linear and optimistic approach to job hunting! I was the first student in my class at Tech to be offered and accept a job. I was to become a Secretarial Trainee, based in the Personnel Department, with periods to be spent in various departments. But soon came another letter, with a different job possibly available. As the secretary to Mr J A W Deboo, Group Training Manager, had indicated her intention to leave when she married early the following year, Mr Deboo was looking for a replacement secretary from amongst the ranks of the next secretarial trainee intake and would like to interview me for that position. Again I presented myself for interview. Parts of this interview are still clear in my mind, and to this day I do not know how Mr Deboo spotted any potential in me, but nevertheless a new job offer was made – Secretarial Trainee in the Group Training Department - and I accepted this. This is the art of interviewing, which Personnel people have in spades and often line managers have not at all – to see beyond the nervous and inexperienced job applicant sitting in front of them and to find the potential well hidden within. This is particularly true of young applicants, who have no track record, only - possibly - potential.
So on the appointed day – 17 July 1974 – I presented myself to Judy Briggs and in her office she ran through some administrative induction formalities before taking me across to my workplace in the Management Training Centre, above the Apprentice School. Mr Deboo had left me a note apologising that he was not in the office to welcome me – it was East of England Show week and he was on duty on the Careers in Engineering stand – but that his secretary, Ruth Aldridge, would set me to work. The rest of my formal induction took place a couple of weeks later. It was the custom to hold an induction session once a month for all new starters that month, in Gymnasium (lecture hall) in the Apprentice School, covering some explanations of basic health and safety procedures and precautions, pay and deductions, welfare and social facilities etc. I remember there being perhaps a dozen of us, including some other new secretarial and clerical trainees, but already I was set apart from the others, as I was part of the Holding Company and in a defined position already, never to experience the “Cook’s tour” of working in different departments covering other secretaries’ absences, until general training under the auspices of the Personnel Department was complete and a specific vacancy occurred.
I remember that starting on 17 July meant I had missed July pay day (14th of the month). So my first pay day was in August, for six weeks pay – I still have that payslip. I remember being offered a loan/advance to tide me over until pay day, but I did not need this – I was still living at home and did not need to give my mother any money until I had been paid.
A few weeks later, when I had married, I also remember being asked whether I wanted to pay full or reduced “stamp” (N I contributions), and opting for full stamp without any clear idea of what this was all about.
Apart from Judy Briggs, who recruited me, I soon came across most other members of the Personnel Departments – both in the Holding Company where I worked, and in Baker Perkins Ltd. In the Holding Company there was Mr R W Batson, Group Personnel Services Manager (my boss’s boss), his secretary Eileen Fountain (later Morrison), and Karen whose surname escapes me on the Reception desk. In the BP Ltd Personnel Department the secretaries were Pam Krajewska, Dianne Longfoot (nee Mayfield), Val Holland and Joy Gommer (later Holloway). The managers etc were:
And in the Apprentice School office, below the Management Training Centre where I worked, were Peter Mowbray, Technical Training Officer, and his secretary Diane King (replaced not long after by Joy Gommer who moved across from the Personnel Department). In the Apprentice School itself the instructors were Ray Lydiard, Graham (Bill) Brewer, Ted Oselton, Dave Stonebridge, Tom Ayliff, Len Barsby and Pete Woods.
A View from outside
In February 1950, John Paton began a three weeks attachment to Baker Perkins, Westwood Works, arranged by his university. John's report is very detailed and adds another dimension to our coverage of the development of the Personnel function at Westwood and it seems appropriate to reproduce here in full the record of his experience. Even after the passage of more than 60 years, one can smile at the content of his opening paragraph - some things never change!
REPORT BY JOHN PATON DATED 8th FEBRUARY 1950
Three weeks in Personnel Department of
Messrs Baker Perkins Ltd, Peterborough
"Beyond the fact that Messrs Baker Perkins was an engineering company, I really had no idea as to the nature of their products. It was therefore interesting to note, that whilst everyone I spoke to on the cross-country train journey to Peterborough was familiar with the name “Baker Perkins”, no-one seemed to be sure what they actually made! Some said “ammunition”, some said “farm implements”, and a few said “bakery equipment”. The latter turned out to be nearer the truth. The remarkable thing, however, was that everyone I spoke to had heard that it was “a good firm”.
A short bus ride from the station took me through winding streets of rather depressing houses to the factory, situated at the extreme edge of the City. Its modern six-storey office block adjoins the roadway, presenting a rather bleak facade to the surrounding countryside. The factory buildings themselves are sprawled out beyond the office block and adjacent to the main railway line. From the number of cycles and cars in the nearby park, the need for a personnel department was apparent!
During my few minutes wait in the Commissioner’s office at the main entrance I was impressed by the courteous and efficient manner with which all enquiries and callers were being dealt with. The firm obviously knew how to “dress the window” – I wondered if a similar spirit pervaded the Works?
A young lady, who I later learned was the Assistant Personnel Records Supervisor, collected me and I was ushered up several flights of stairs to the Personnel Department. My visit had begun!
Here I was first introduced to one Mr Batson “the Junior Assistant”. It transpired that Mr Chapman, (or “R.T.C.” as he was known throughout the Department,) was away for the day. Mr Batson’s professional style quickly put me at ease and he then proceeded to tell me something of the firm in general. Later in the afternoon I also managed to read through the synopsis of the History of Baker Perkins which is given to all new employees.
I discovered that Baker Perkins originated from an amalgamation in 1919 of Joseph Baker and Sons and Messrs Perkins Engineers. The history of the latter Company goes back to 1870. The current firm has many associated companies in the UK; inFrance, and in America. It would appear that collectively they have an almost complete monopoly of food manufacturing machinery – ranging from large automatic bakeries; high-speed biscuit making machinery; chocolate and confectionery plant to laundry and chemical processing plant. The factory occupies a site of 14 acres and today employs some 3,000 people.
The Personnel Department did not come into being until 1944 although it soon became obvious that the Management of the Company had for many years prior to this paid particular and increasing attention to its employees and to employee relations.
Mr Chapman, the Personnel Manager, had been appointed in June 1944. His report to the Board of Management, a monumental document outlining best personnel practice in England and abroad, was completed in August 1944 and most of its recommendations were approved. In particular it was agreed a Personnel Department should be established with the following responsibilities and duties:
1. Training, Education and Employment Services
2. Personnel records
3. Relationships with the Ministry of Labour, etc.
4. Research into matters personnel
5. Advice to the Management on all relevant legislation
Needless to say, such a transition could not be accomplished all at once. In fact, a period of five years was allowed for this new Department to assume full responsibility.
Later that afternoon, I met Mr Hill, the Deputy Personnel Manager and Mr Wheeler, the Senior Assistant, who in turn introduced me to a bewildering array of faces, (mainly attractive female faces!) in the Records and Typing offices of the Department.
After such a display of apparent efficiency I was not at all surprised when given a neatly typed programme designed to cover almost every minute of my stay! A copy of this programme had been sent out to all the many people I was to visit. It began with a “Works Tour” starting at 8.15 the following morning.
During this period I had been able to look around the Department. It was obvious that the waiting room and adjacent four offices had been formed in what had once been a single large room. All partitions and doors were of opaque glass – which resulted in a very noisy working environment and one not very conducive to conversation at a personal level. There was, however, plenty of natural lighting and the whole place was tastefully decorated in cream and green. I could not help but contrast the air of feverish activity with my past experience of a local government department!
All “new starters”, on their first morning, were taken on a brief tour of the Works and Offices: I was no exception. A group of 14-year-old boys about to start their pre-apprentice training year formed the party on this particular morning. We were conducted round by one Mr Ingram, foreman in charge of the Apprentice Training Bay. He had a family of boys of his own and was obviously very interested in his new charges. One boy, overheard to say “my old man works here” was promptly admonished and told off for being disrespectful of his father. This assumption of responsibility for things other than the material was I felt particularly impressive.
The Works tour ended with tea and buns in the Canteen and it was here I was able to talk to the boys. It became clear that for most of them, employment by Baker Perkins was no haphazard affair. Several had fathers or brothers already working for the firm and most had visited the factory on tours organised by their schools.
“But we won’t get any more cream cakes here” remarked one boy – no doubt referring back to an earlier school visit! Mr Beale, the Works Welfare Officer, conducted the office part of the tour. He appeared to be a very brisk and efficient man. Later, I was to learn that he also possessed a really understanding nature. He certainly enjoyed everyone’s respect and confidence.
The office tour was of necessity quite brief but it did at least illustrate that the “black- coated workers” were just as industrious as those in the machine shop or foundry.
Before being returned to the Apprentice Bay for their initial training, the boys were treated to a lecture by Mr Blake entitled “Company Rules and Practices”. The lecture took place in a cosy little office equipped with a cinematograph and other modern demonstration equipment. Emphasis was laid on the firm being one big happy family (!) and it was explained how the office, works and sales staff were all equally important with those engaged on actual production. Personal appearance and hygiene featured prominently in his chat. It was even pointed out that bicycles should be kept clean and in good mechanical order. The fact that the Works was a “closed shop” was explained and they were all advised to join a trades union as soon as possible (!). Small, but important points, such as their responsibility to notify the firm in case of illness, use of lavatories, etc. were explained and Junior Meal Cards, enabling food to be bought at reduced prices were issued.
Their initiation over, the boys now went on to the Training School. Where for the next six months, instruction will be given in the rudiments of engineering, tool handling etc. They will then go into the factory and spend one or two months in each of the different “shops”.
Immediately prior to his 16th birthday, each of these pre-apprentices will be interviewed by the Apprentice Advisory Committee and the question of his future trade will be discussed. If the boy is “acceptable” his final choice of trade will, within reason, be left to him: indentures will then be drawn up and preserved in the Personnel Department.
A special bonus scheme covers apprentices. This is linked to progress on the job but also to other considerations such as timekeeping. Achievement levels are reviewed quarterly. No employee under age 18 is allowed to work overtime except on Saturday mornings.
The education programme by this Company appears to be extremely comprehensive. It provides, in the main, for one day’s paid leave each week for all staff under age 21 to attend technical and/or clerical courses at the local technical college – providing they agree to also attend one evening class each week. Text books on loan, are paid for by the Company. Subject to an 80% attendance record, course fees are refunded and text books become the property of the student.
In addition to the trade apprentices scheme, a limited number of student apprentices are recruited or promoted from the trade apprentice group (after members of the latter group have served 2 to 3 years of their trade apprenticeship.) In practice, such transfers are limited to boys who achieve an Ordinary National Certificate. Now many boys, after three years of study have found the National Certificate course beyond their capabilities. They then have to start a completely different course to take the “next best” examination – the City and Guilds Certificate. Efficient??
The Student Apprentice Scheme includes, in addition to normal workshop practice, a more general experience involving several departments, including periods in the Drawing Office and Technical Department. The Company also provides for student apprentices of unusual ability to attend University at the Company’s expense. Before any firm would contemplate such a comprehensive apprentice training scheme it is obvious that there must be a real need for skilled men. This is indeed the case. The North Midlands and Peterborough in particular, are places of literally no unemployment. Post-war demand from industry has outstripped and still exceeds supply. Labour turnover is currently 20% per annum and although this figure is well below the general level (approximately 40% ) it means that between 600 and 700 new employees have to be found each year by this single business.
Further, because Baker Perkins has no “line” production, a very high proportion of skilled men is required. The apprenticeship Scheme, having been in operation for just over five years, is just beginning to bear fruit in this respect. It is interesting to note that whereas traditionally, when a man had finished-his-time, he would become a “journeyman” in the real sense of the word. Today, very few apprentices leave their parent company on finishing their training.
Baker Perkins also employs a graduate teacher, Miss Yates, who is in charge of its Clerical Training Section. Visiting this Section I was able to see all the modern methods of teaching being practised here in the middle of this large factory. By reading essays about various aspects of the factory written by her trainees I was struck by the expressions of sheer enjoyment with which her charges had begun factory life.
During the remainder of the week I spent various periods in various departments. Mr Edmunds, who is in charge of the typing pool here, discussed with me at some length the psychology of administering both reprimand and praise at one and the same time as an increase in wages is being awarded. He believed that no –one should ever have to ask for a raise. If an employee deserves more, then it is up to his supervisor to see that he gets it!
Perhaps my most interesting visit was to the Foundry. Here the atmosphere is primitive to say the least, although, as foundries go, this one was well ventilated and lit. An unfortunate choice had, however, been made with the installation of mercury discharge lighting with its reduction in colour values. This only further enhanced the already pale complexions of the foundry-men. Small wonder that so few pre-apprentices elect to train for the foundry. As a consequence, there are very few young men to be seen in this department.
A more recent development has been the construction of the latest design toilet accommodation adjacent to the foundry. Lockers and clothes drying arrangements, also shower baths and a circular continuous-spray hand-washing apparatus. Hand drying is effected by foot-operated hot air machines and “Rosalex” dispensers are available in an attempt to prevent dermatitis. Sad to record only some 5% of men use the clothes lockers and a mere 40% even bother to wash before leaving for home. It is hoped that eventually the older men will follow the example now being set by the newer apprentices who do make good use of the showers provided. By way of contrast, the lavatories adjacent to the machine shop are old-fashioned, without soap or any provision for drying. Within the factory it is termed ironically “The White City”.
During my visit to the Plate Shop I was enormously impressed by the way in which Mr Leech, the foreman, handled his men. His particular skill was in getting just the right man in the right Job! Here must surely lie the secret of a happy and effective industry. I wondered how much credit to this state of affairs was due to the short intensive courses for supervisors run by the Leicester College of Technology and to which the Company sends employees prior to promotion.
Next came Mr Satterthwaite, the Sales Manager. Obviously on top of his profession, he proceeded first of all to sell himself to me. Then followed an attempt to pass on to me all the knowledge and information he had acquired over a lifetime in his profession. By the time our interview was over I was fairly reeling – whilst scarcely knowing what he had been talking about! But I certainly knew rather more about the sort of person to be found in a sales department than I knew before!
A period of three hours had been allocated for my visit to Accounts Department. In that short period I was taken through the whole system of accounting, costing, methods of making Holiday Fund deductions, etc. etc. This Department is situated in the “old” office building where both lighting and ventilation are poor. I was struck by the large percentage of rotund and be-spectacled people working in Accounts. Is it the job that attracts such types, or have the poor working conditions been responsible, I wonder? Actually, much of the accounting is done automatically by Hollerith machines. For instance, the whole of the PAYE wages system is performed by these Hollerith machines over a single morning each week which must reduce enormously the amount of eyestrain inevitable when this work was done manually.
During my stay, I was fortunate in being allowed to sit in on a meeting of the Safety Committee. Its sixteen members, representative of all departments and workshops, sat round a circular table and discussed a wide range of subjects connected with accident prevention. Mr Strickson, the Safety Officer, acts as secretary to the Committee and it is he who implements its decisions. RSPA posters were inspected and approved for display, samples of eye shields for grinders were reported upon after having been tested; and a new system of selling steel-toed safety boots was discussed. It transpired that the Casting Shop supervisor was reluctant to ask for the provision or renewal of essential lifting tackle because all such expenditure had an adverse effect on his unit’s overall bonus.
It was, however, pointed out that whatever the foundry-men thought this matter was too serious to allow any delay. The Safety Officer was instructed by the Works Manager to put the matter in hand immediately.
I spent a good deal of time exploring the various employee services that the Company operates. For example:
- There is a well-equipped medical block, staffed by a team of State Registered nurses, which is open during all working hours. A medical officer and dental surgeon are in attendance each afternoon. The service includes infra red and ultra violet treatment: also a small X-ray unit. This latter is particularly useful in the prompt diagnosis of the many cases of suspected fractures. There is also a full time hairdresser and chiropodist. Their services may be obtained by appointment during working hours but at the employees’ expense.
- When a junior employee is found to have postural defects, arrangements are made for him/her to attend the City’s Orthopaedic Clinic during working hours. Several office workers are currently attending the clinic, having been diagnosed with flat feet!
- Personnel Department has recently been made responsible for the introduction of a weekly overall facility. An outside firm of cleaners to collect all dirty overalls which ensures they are cleaned and mended at least once each week. The success of the scheme is evident throughout the factory.
- An active Section of the St John Ambulance brigade has been established in the Works – the Welfare Office being a keen member himself. In addition to normal first aid duties, they do much good by running a scheme for the loan of medical “comforts”. Such items as bed-rings and wheelchairs are available to both employees and their families. The St John’s men will deliver and demonstrate the use of such equipment in their own time.
- The Canteen, as it now stands, is a war-time addition to the factory – hence its standard pre-fabricated design. The floors are concrete and the whole atmosphere is pretty drab. This said, I did feel the best had been done with the material in hand. The standard of food was certainly very good, and on the kitchen side I found a high standard of cleanliness. The only complaints I heard mentioned at Canteen Committee meetings were of a very minor nature – although one representative actually said that he ate such hearty dinners there that he was scarcely able to return to work in the afternoons! It was also stated that many workers stayed on to do overtime because the Canteen’s meals were “so much better than they would get at home”. The usual complaint about elusive crockery was discussed at length, but to little purpose. It was reported that a special cook had just been appointed in order to prepare meals for individuals certified by the Works Medical Officer as needing special diets. Miss Greenwood, the Manager, showed me the Canteen accounts and it was obvious that even with the price of a full meal being only one shilling and two-pence, and junior meals sixpence, it was still possible for the Service to be self-supporting.
(Later, I did a little research into the canteen’s labour-turnover, which I found to be no less than 88% during 1949 as against 71% for the previous year. Whilst canteen turnover rates are generally pretty high I felt that these were unusually so. The main reasons given for leaving at exit interviews are recorded under one of two (rather crude!) headings: “dissatisfied” or “domestic”. From these and other observations, I concluded that Miss Greenwood, whilst without doubt a very capable person in most fields, was failing in her key role as staff manager. In my opinion she had also failed to secure adequate pay levels for her employees. If the latter item was remedied I do accept that the Canteen accounts would be a matter for Company policy.)
With regard to “external facilities”, Mr Blake, the Welfare Officer, plays the leading role. He assists employees with any housing problems; visits all employees or families in hospital, and attends any funerals. Once each day he is required to make a complete tour of the factory so that he is clearly available to any employee who may be in need of help. He has recently moved his office into the Medical Centre because its situation is more readily accessible to the shop floor. I spent a highly instructive afternoon here, going through the case book during which I was able to see something of his methods and how well he was able to distinguish the genuine from the spurious. He had a very real knowledge of factory life and its people, having worked on the shop floor himself. He was more than willing to pass on his knowledge to me.
A short distance from the firm is its Recreation Club, surrounded on three sides by playing fields. Facilities are available for all the more popular sports, including bowls, rifle shooting, fencing, etc. (I was able to volunteer some instruction in the latter sport when invited along to several Club nights!) Juniors under 18 are not allowed to use the actual Club premises since they are “Licensed”. However, provision has been made for them in the Sports Pavilion, where table tennis, darts and snooker were very much in evidence. I was able to attend several functions in the Club. It was pleasant indeed to witness all ranks, as it were, at home together on neutral ground.
Mr Hill, the Deputy Personnel Manager, has been engaged on job evaluation for the past two years. He is usually to be found half-buried beneath piles of graphs and masses of figures. He did, however, manage to simplify this pretty involved subject sufficiently for me to at least grasp the fundamentals. Mr Hill was sent to America to study the system and since his return all staff jobs throughout the firm up to a limit of £400 pa have been “rated”. His graphs showed how some departments had consistently under-paid, others the reverse. His charts showed that the former cases nearly always coincided with high labour turnover and difficulties of recruitment. After assessment, a graph is constructed showing average wages, from which a mean average is calculated. A 10% margin is allowed on either side of this mean to give a 20% range within which an individual will actually be paid, depending on his conduct, attendance and timekeeping.
The majority of my second week was spent in the Personnel Department Records Office. Not having worked in such a large concern before, I was very interested to see how and why such intricate records of all employees were kept.
My first task was to write “D/C Pensions 1949” on the record card of each man in the order in which they appeared on a typed list. In 1949 a Pension Scheme had been introduced and the list was of those employees who had opted to join the scheme from its outset. About 90/5 of employees had so opted. So it was some job! However, everyone took a turn at it and this helped me enormously to get to know everyone in the Department really well. A routine job can have certain advantages after all!
Another full day was spent addressing envelopes, folding up duplicated letters and inserting them. Everyone joined in. People were borrowed from other sections and the job continued until it was completed. This particular letter was addressed to all those employees who were members of the “Mutual Aid Scheme” – which was also introduced about a year ago. 95% of those eligible have joined the Scheme, which for a payment of one penny per week provides for payments of ten shillings per week during certified sickness absence. Very modern! Mr Batson’s statistics indicate that there has been no increase in sickness absence since the Scheme was introduced.
The lady Records Office Supervisor arranged for me to spend some time on pretty well every aspect of her office, from working out the “lost time” statistics to deciphering doctors’ sick notes (with the aid of a medical dictionary!)
A recent development at the firm has been the employment of “Elderly Gentlemen” (mainly retired works foremen and the like.) They are paid £4 10 per week to replace young boys previously employed at a mere ten shillings per week. (No doubt the recent raising of the school leaving age from 14 to 15 reduced supply of the latter!)
A Mr Popham was our “Elderly Gentleman” and I felt that his many years of experience on the shop floor have proved a valuable asset to the Department.
My final week was spent with Mr Batson “at the Bar” – i.e. interviewing job applicants. The interview cubicles, situated in the basement (!) were cheerless, depressing places devoid of natural lighting, and more like ice boxes in cold weather. The peculiar circumstances of a “closed shop” factory often made interviewing a particularly tiresome affair, although much could perhaps be put down to the depressing surroundings. After this initial screening, potentially suitable applicants for available vacancies were returned to the waiting room, there to fill in a printed application form. The respective shop supervisor was then asked to attend in order to deal with the applicants’ technical vetting. Waiting for his arrival is often a particularly lengthy and tiresome affair. In all cases, the actual appointment is made (or not) by the foreman or supervisor in question.
After sitting in on one or two interviews, I plucked up sufficient courage to conduct one myself. It was very interesting indeed and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Sadly, I was not allowed to follow the interview through to its logical conclusion. At this particular time, most of the men presenting themselves were land-workers who merely wanted winter employment as labourers. These, without exception, were turned away, as were men “on the road” and other men deemed as “undesirables". I did, however, interview several journeymen “platers” from the Tyneside shipyards. Two young lads in particular, were very keen to start work. Unfortunately, they were unable to read drawings. However, the Plate Shop foreman gave them a really fatherly chat and paid their train fares home. They went on their way determined to do some more study. They left with the parting words “we’ll be back!”
An interesting off-shoot of the Department is its psychological training section, where one Miss Kelloway holds office. She had been trained at Rowntrees of York and most of the tests she uses were devised by their Dr McDonald. All juniors are tested prior to employment, as are applicants for higher paid posts. At present, the department is largely experimental in order to enable standards to be established. However, initial opposition from Staff and Works committees appears to have been overcome. Indeed, testing now plays a real part in the selection of all staff up to and including executive posts. I was allowed to take a group of people “through their tests” after doing them myself (results not for publication”) I also made notes during the group’s “Form Board” test. My notes compared favourably with those done by Miss Kelloway herself.
I have left Joint Consultation until last, largely because little formally designated “joint consultation” actually takes place at Baker Perkins. All the real work in this area is done by the Staff and Works’ Committees. Their recommendations are submitted in writing to Management. The reverse also takes place. Only in cases of disagreement or when really important issues have to be settled has it been found necessary to convene a meeting of the so-called “Consultative Committee”. This Committee consists of members of the Staff and Works’ Committees together with all of the Members of the Company’s Board of Management. In theory, there is also a “Joint Co-ordinating Committee.
This smaller and more workable body consists of six members each of the Works and Staff Committees respectively, together with the Chairman of the Board of Management, plus the Joint Works Managers and one or two Directors. This committee has in the past, played quite an important part in developing new policies but nowadays meets but rarely. The last meeting was held to review the Profit Sharing Scheme, when several amendments were decided upon.
Living as I was, in the Company’s “Staff Hotel” (Peterborough’s one time Temperance Hotel!), I was able to peep behind the scenes and get a more first hand impression of actual working conditions/employee attitudes. Most departments were represented at the hotel and on the whole, very few complaints were expressed about life with Baker Perkins. I did, however, hear one newcomer raise an unusual point. He said that Personnel Department had given him a quite remarkable initial reception, both at selection interview and on his first day at work. All his problems had been dealt with promptly and sympathetically. However, once he had been introduced to his respective foreman he had felt totally forgotten! This suggests that the “follow-up” system, supposedly introduced for new recruits, has some way to go before it is working properly.
During my stay I had several interesting discussions with Mr Chapman and Mr Wheeler (the latter having been in charge of my programme). At all times I had access to them (as had everyone else) and I was able to check up on any doubtful point as it arose. Mr Chapman continually impressed on me the necessity for a personnel department to be just as efficient administratively as any other. Before the end of my visit I was well able to appreciate the importance of this observation.
First impressions of places and of people are sometimes found to be sound and sometimes not. In the case of Baker Perkins, most of the good impressions created during my first afternoon were continuously substantiated during the remainder of my stay. Being complete new to factory life, leastwise as viewed from within, I had little to go on by way of objective comparison. However, the experience has been extremely interesting, involving the formation and analysis of much information and a multitude of impressions. I have since been able to formulate these observations to form a clear picture of Baker Perkins and the role played by its personnel department. I am very grateful indeed to all those who allowed and contributed to this experience".
TO BE CONTINUED - The story of the development of the Personnel function at Westwood Works will be added to later.
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