People Director Kelly Rock is helping the Birmingham-based company achieve healthy growth targets by mapping a people strategy to their business plan and developing a more confident and effective set of managers within the business.
Based in Birmingham, Evac+Chair International Ltd designs and manufactures safety evacuation chairs and accessories, designed for people with restricted mobility to vacate a building, aeroplane, train or boat safely and quickly.
Since its inception in 1985, the company has experienced a steady expansion into national and international markets. In recent years, however, a management buyout and new Managing Director in place had prompted an ambitious strategy for growth.
With more than 100 staff but no dedicated HR function, it was becoming clear that processes and procedures were needed to manage recruitment, performance and staff development.
But more importantly, the business had outgrown its relatively flat structure. Everyone was still looking to Managing Director Ges Wallace for decisions, which meant he was still heavily involved in day-to-day operations. The business was growing quickly, so Ges needed to develop his management team to ensure they had the right level of accountability and authority to help drive the growth.
Twelve months ago, Ges took on People Puzzles’ Kelly Rock to help implement the changes that were needed. Kelly joined Evac+Chair as a part time People Director, sitting on the board as part of the senior team.
One of the first things Kelly did was to investigate what the needs of the business were from the people perspective and made a series of recommendations aimed at driving the business forward.
Devising a people strategy and restructure
Using the People Puzzles growth target wheel, Kelly drew up a people plan that aligned with, and would drive the business strategy. ‘We had lots of conversations about the business and developing the people to help drive growth,’ she says. ‘Ges wanted to make changes so we discussed how to go about it.’ Part of the plan was to work with the senior and management teams, moving accountabilities around and bringing in new senior positions.
Developing the senior team
With the senior and management teams established, Kelly then focused on developing managers’ skills. ‘Many of them had been with the business a long time but hadn’t had any formal management training,’ she says. This was soon rectified by a leadership programme that was delivered partly by an external provider and partly in-house by Kelly herself in the form of one-to-one management coaching sessions and off-site training. ‘Often, issues weren’t being dealt with because the managers didn’t know how to,’ she explains. ‘Now, they have someone to talk to about it.’
Facilitating better performance management
Part of the coaching work was on how to carry out monthly ‘check-ins’ – short one-to-one meetings that Kelly introduced to enable line managers to regularly touch base with team members. Each check-in follows the same format, and Kelly coached the managers on how to make them as productive as possible. ‘The leadership team had decided that formal yearly appraisals weren’t right for the business because it was changing so much,’ Kelly explains. ‘Check-ins give an opportunity to give and receive feedback regularly – as well as identify areas for development.’
Launching a new HR toolkit and system
Kelly also put together an ‘HR toolkit’; a set of policies to improve HR processes, particularly when recruiting and inducting new staff. ‘Recruitment has become more structured and we now personality profile candidates for key roles,’ she says.
Kelly also updated the staff handbook and ensured that all current staff had correct and up-to-date contracts. A new HR system, being launched in January, will further strengthen and streamline processes.
In twelve short months, there has been a very marked change in the way the company does business. ‘The management team is now working together to make decisions for themselves,’ Kelly says. ‘Ges is now able to step away from the operational side and focus on leading the business.’
The new plan and systems in place means that people issues no longer get in the way of the business running effectively – it’s now on track to comfortably hit growth targets for this year – and has laid the foundations for future growth. Not only that, the board is now in a position to think about succession planning and identify who might potentially develop into senior roles further down the line.
Staff engagement has increased and Kelly knows from feedback that managers are glad to have someone to discuss people issues with. ‘You can certainly see a change,’ she says. ‘It shows a company cares about its people when it’s made this kind of investment.’
Kelly Rock, People Director