'We get people applying to us on a speculative basis because they want to be associated with the brand': Head of HR at Morgan Motor Company
With 35 years of experience at the Morgan Motor Company, Sarah Baldwin has witnessed the transition from a small family business to one with 250 employees.
And as head of HR, she has taken on the role of prioritizing the well-being of the company's staff — particularly after the lockdown period.
“We were very much all in it together. We took a one-company approach to most things,” she said.
“When everybody came back from furlough and from the lockdown post-pandemic, you could just tell that people were wobbling, and that things that they perhaps hadn't worried about previously were suddenly major concerns for them. And so it was just a natural thing for us to want to support them and to look after them as best we can.”
Mental Health First Aid boosts wellbeing
The first step was to train Mental Health First Aiders, and there was a great response with many employees volunteering for the role, Baldwin said. The company now has a team of 10 for a workforce of 250.
The team meets bi-monthly to share ideas and feedback from staff, and volunteers wear green T-shirts to provide visibility and challenge stigma. A First Aid room has also been adapted to provide a comfortable, safe space for private conversations.
And an employee engagement app called “Morgan Hub” provides a private chat facility.
“Everyone's got the app on their phones. They've got access to that 24-7, 365 days of the year,” she said.
From that training was born the idea of Wellbeing Wednesday, which is basically a newsletter available in print or by email, or via the “Morgan Hub.” The content follows national campaigns such as Dry January, Men’s Health Week, and Stopober.
There is also content based around general wellbeing, covering topics such as “Empty Nest Syndrome,” menopause, seasonal affective disorder and stress/anxiety.
“The consistency of pumping out regular, branded, and tangible things to send out every week has really made an impact. And it gets people talking even if they're not… and it's creating some engagement,” Baldwin said.
Furthermore, the company incorporates physical activity into the program. For example, when exploring the effects of different types of sugar, Morgan Motor Company invited a sugar coach to speak about the harmful effects of sugar in one's diet.
“We do all sorts of giveaways and competitions as well. So that week we had a big basket full of groceries, healthy groceries, and a sugar-free cookbook to give away a competition on the app. So all these little things just bring engagement and really get people talking about whatever issue is where we're looking at that week,” she said.
Of course, Morgan Motor Company is monitoring employee satisfaction with the programs, and seeing levels increasing, Baldwin said.
Fusing traditional with electrical craftsmanship
That focus on wellness and improved employee engagement can only help the company as it looks to recruit and retain employees.
There is often a misconception that Morgan Motor Company is a quaint workshop nestled at the foot of the Malvern hills, with craftsmen diligently working away with their hand tools, Baldwin said.
However, beneath the surface, there is a fusion of traditional craftsmanship and 21st-century technology that is shaping the future of the company.
“We get people applying to us on a speculative basis because they just want to be associated with the brand. They love the brand so that's our biggest selling point, I guess,” she said.
But it is getting more difficult to recruit staff, certainly at the grassroots level — meaning shop floor workers who specialize in metalwork, carpentry, painting and trimwork.
“[They are] difficult to find these days, which is why we recruit apprentices and bring them up through and train them ourselves most of the time, just for succession planning. That's how we have to do it,” Baldwin said.
In June, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has adopted a new labour standard surrounding apprenticeships.
In line with the industry's shift toward electrification and the rapid advancement of technology, Morgan Motor Company finds itself amidst a period of significant transformation. The company's ability to adapt and integrate new technologies poses immense challenges and opportunities for growth.
Recruiting for top talent
When it comes to recruitment, word of mouth is still a popular method, she said, “because we're such a niche product, and it's quite a small pool of people that you can draw down from.”
The company also goes through traditional methods such as advertising on its website, LinkedIn and job boards, along with working with the universities.
“With electrification, I think our engineering department is going to double in size over the next sort of two to three years. So there is going to be a lot of recruitment going on soon,” Baldwin said.
But once Morgan Motor Company finds the right candidate, it’s likely they’ll stay for the long term — the average length of service among employees stands at an impressive 16 years.
Interview by Chris Davis