New Talent, Values and Feeling Valued: Q&A with Anne Allen, Head of Human Resources (Part 2)

The second half of our Q&A with Anne Allen is all about new talent, our company values and our aims for each and every Aquascot partner.

“That’s what we want to do: pay people a decent wage to come to work, enjoy what they do, and feel valued.”

Anne Allen has been Aquascot's Head of Human Resources since November 2015, and has been a driving force in our continuous improvement mission ever since. As Aquascot continues to progress, grow and develop, so too does our approach to people.

This is the second part of our Q&A session with Anne — Part 1 can be found HERE

Does Employee Ownership affect Aquascot's HR strategies?

I don’t think it just affects HR strategies, I think it affects all of our strategies. We’re an employee-owned business, for me that is one of the key attractions of working for Aquascot, we are accountable for our own destiny. With that comes a whole host of accountabilities and responsibilities. Being an EO business is not easy, and ultimately we all need to make money, because we all need to be employed.

It’s about building a sustainable business in the local community, but it’s also about offering people a great career, and to me that is about being an employer of choice. I think an EO business with the right leaders — which I believe we are — is about looking at growth and exceeding that. Along with other members of the LT, I’m part of the EO Strategy Group, and focused on making it a great place to work. We want to make it as enjoyable and as profitable as we can so we can pay people well.

What can a new employee at Aquascot expect in their first week?

Whether you’re an agency worker or a permanent partner, everyone has to go through a mandatory H&S induction. We need to make sure people go home safe, that is our absolute number 1 priority. If by any means we can reduce the number of accidents, or incidents, then we do so. After that, it’s down to the individual manager of each department to run with what their induction will look like.

We’ve changed our tactics recently. For example, the newly joined Process Engineers were first introduced to everybody within all the departments, and that allowed them to get a real flavour of what each department is, where they reside, what their faces look like, and more importantly it gives an idea of how passionate people are in the business. But if I’m really honest, we have got work to do in terms of our induction. I think it needs to be much broader and that’s where the Values Workshops slot in.

“This is another form of communication and for me will be a huge opportunity so that people understand where the business is heading.”

What are the Values Workshops?

Every month, from September onwards, John (Housego) and I will be holding a Values Workshop, that will be attended by 12 partners for 2 hours, and it’s mandatory that they come. It’ll take 18 months, and then it’ll just be ongoing and rolling. It’ll allow John and I to take feedback from partners that we might not necessarily see every day — on the factory floor, about things that are going well, but equally about things that we can change. This is another form of communication and for me will be a huge opportunity so that people understand where the business is heading.

We’re conscious that we created the values in 2019, and there’s been some refinement of those in 2020, but we’ve not had the opportunity to go back to partners, especially people who joined the business, for them to really understand what the values are, how they’ve been created. It’s to get people to understand what the journey has been to date.

As part of the Values Workshops, we’re going to ask people their opinion of, ‘What does Naturally Kind mean?’ to them, and what does it look like, what does it feel like, can they give examples of what Naturally Kind would be, good and bad. That will then allow us help to shape what is known as a behavioural framework, so we can give people direct examples of how you’re really showing the great values (whether it’s Naturally Kind or Actively Ambitious, etc), but equally we can call out people who are not working to our values, because people understand what they are.

This year, we welcomed Kickstart and Saltire Scholar interns to the Aquascot team and have just taken on our second ever Graduate role — what key benefits do young and learning staff like this bring to Aquascot?

I think recruiting younger people is an absolute key aspect of our journey for growth. These individuals have come in with a whole different attitude and a different aspect that we’ve not had before, and I think they are a great lifeblood for our business going forward. We just need to do more, and people need to understand that in order to bring people in — young people or anybody else — we need to invest in them, because if you invest in people, you’ll get back tenfold.

Currently we are looking at local schools – how we capture the interest of school leavers, what a modern apprenticeship looks like — because of COVID at the moment we are limited in what we do with that, and yet there is a huge amount of options that we need to look at. The way things are going, we also need to think about part-time roles, shared working, shift patterns; they all have an impact on people, so we need to try and be less rigid in our scope, to cater to what is now a very flexible and diminishing labour market.

What personal characteristics have you noticed in people who tend to thrive at Aquascot?

They need to be flexible, open to change, open-minded, have a ‘can do’ attitude, a sense of fairness, and our core values in everything we do – they also must be open to be invested in and invest in others. What Aquascot is not, is ‘that’s not my job’.

Let’s face it, we have a lot of partners who fit all those criteria. It goes back to this point of if you’re happy at work, then that will spread to others, and equally if you’re unhappy at work it will have a detrimental effect. That’s what we want to do: pay people a decent wage to come to work, enjoy what they do, and feel valued.

Part 1 of our Q&A with Anne is available HERE.

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Interviewed by: Justine Fourny (Category & Marketing Officer)

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