It was very disappointing to read that a 9,000-strong petition was delivered to leading bookseller Waterstones’ managing director by angry staff complaining of low wages and low morale. The petition was accompanied by a book, written by employees, detailing their experience of low pay, including having to dip into their savings to make ends meet and suffering poor mental health because to stress.
Waterstones are not alone. There have been numerous disturbing stories of unpleasant working conditions in some of those massive warehouses where on-line retail giants store and distribute their products. This wilful neglect of staff welfare, sometimes bordering on exploitation, has no place in 21st century Britain.
It needn’t – and shouldn’t – be like this. Employers have a moral duty to look after their staff, while an enlightened and compassionate attitude towards employees makes sound economic sense. A happy and valued workforce is much more likely to be productive and motivated, willing to go that extra mile for the good of the company. Conversely, staff whose work is not appreciated and their input not noticed, are much more likely to take days off sick and to demotivate their fellow employees. This leads to a higher staff turnover, which in turn, has financial implications. It makes sense on every level that achievements should always be rewarded appropriately.
Developing a strong and trusted bond with an employee will act as a greater motivator than any pay rise, bonus or staff benefit or trip; this increases the happiness and motivation of staff which can then lead to countless benefits. Here at York Handmade Brick, we like to practice what we preach. We believe the physical and mental welfare of our staff is absolutely crucial and that their loyalty and commitment are an integral part of our success. We also have a firm policy to encourage as many employees as possible to obtain vocationally-related qualifications, understanding that a well-trained and qualified workforce is fundamental to a bright future.
One shining example illustrates how important our staff are to us. Production manager Steve Pittham, who has been with York Handmade since we started out 30 years ago, has created the state-of-the-art brick dryer from scratch. The dryer is capable of handling more than 33,000 bricks at a time, significantly speeding up our production process and making us even more efficient.
Steve is the most loyal and dedicated employee one could wish for. Even since we formed York Handmade, Steve has been the bedrock of the company. He is also extremely talented. A new dryer would have cost us about £300,000, but Steve’s ability to design and build our machine has saved us about £200,000. This has been a labour of love for him and he is very modest about it all. But it is a fantastic achievement.
Every day, every week and every month, each member of our 30-plus workforce are making important contributions to the success of York Handmade Brick. These contributions may not be on the spectacular scale of Steve’s new dryer, but they are crucial nonetheless. We are currently enjoying one of the most successful periods in the company’s history and it is beyond doubt that the main reason for this success is our loyal, hard-working and dedicated workforce.