Business case studies
Case Study: R&W Scott
R&W Scott has been handcrafting jams and preserves from Carluke for more than 130 years.
The impact of the pandemic on the business has been difficult, although not critical to its survival. Before Covid, the firm had 97 employees, most of whom worked in production. More than half the staff were furloughed, with some redundancies.
The culture for office staff and managers was based on delivery rather than hours at the desk, although offsite working was used only occasionally.
2 Adjusting to lockdown
In response to the drop in business, reduced numbers of production staff remained on site.
As the furlough scheme became more flexible, they were able to bring back some people part time, and to furlough people in and out. This was important especially for colleagues who had been working full time and flat out from the start of lockdown, to give them a break.
The production area is large, and so with reduced staff numbers there were few issues around social distancing. Health and safety and hygiene was not a challenge because running a food facility meant they already met very high standards.
Very few office staff worked from home pre-Covid. But 80% were homebased during lockdown. Good IT infrastructure was in place and, just as importantly, so was the mindset to support working from home.
“We have an advantage over our bigger competitors in that implementing flexible working isn’t that much of a challenge for us. It is more of a mindset thing. We’ve always been very supportive of it, and I’m 100% convinced you get more productivity by offering flexibility.”
The firm had recently upgraded its digital capability and capacity including cyber security measures. And the firm already expected employees to work to outputs and not by hours.
“We don’t pay much attention to people’s working hours. It’s not a relevant metric to us. The only relevance it had is if people are working too many hours and then they have impacted productivity. It’s a case of, you’ve got some tasks and you’ve got areas of responsibility, you’ve got to manage them.
“In terms of performance we continually reviewed our sales targets in line with what we felt was the new reality. It was more a case of making sure we fulfilled the customer demand and met the customer service requests and queries with fewer bodies.”
Culture helped them to adjust to working off-site.
“We were fortunate we were relatively progressive. It was part of the DNA of the leadership team and that went through the rest of the managers.”
As people began to come back into the business, social distancing was made easier by a rota system. Communication was supported by daily morning briefings over Teams.
Performance and productivity improved during lockdown. However, it was not sustainable over the longer term.
“There was an element of, ‘we just need to work hard and get through this’. That definitely happened, but that wasn’t sustainable because after several weeks, we had to give people a break.
“I think if it had gone on any longer before we got some people back from furlough, you would have had longer term issues such as people getting burnt out. It was a short-term increase in productivity, but that genuinely wasn’t sustainable in the longer term.”
Covering core skills
“There are certain processes and machines that need specific skills, so we can’t run the factory without these five or six people. We couldn’t even switch them in and out.”
Getting everyone to support difficult changes
“We were fortunate the team embraced the vast majority of what we asked them to do, and a lot of that is because they share the same values. When you have similar values, you might not agree with every single specific decision, but you trust the guys that are directing the business. We were doing what was right for the business and what’s right for the people and if you do what’s right for the people, more often than not you’re going to get a more positive outcome for the business itself.”
Supporting inexperienced managers
Several managers had no experience in managing remote team members. Practical peer-to-peer support helped to build confidence.
“We quickly identified those managers who weren’t overly-experienced at managing teams remotely and gave them support. Sometimes it’s just old-fashioned ‘lead by example’. It might not be our preferred coaching approach. But in a crisis you need to go back to basics.”
Avoiding overwork and burnout
One of the biggest challenges, especially for office-based staff and those managing childcare as well as work, was setting boundaries around their working day, and avoiding working long hours.
4 Flex in future?
Flexible working is the right thing to do for the future
“The benefits I’ve seen over the years, in terms of productivity in giving people flexibility, they’re undoubted, it’s 100% clear it’s the best way to go.
“It’s about doing the right thing and flexible working is most fundamentally part of doing the right thing.”
Flexible working will be different for everyone, although different parts of the business make different demands of staff and will need different solutions.
“The challenge is going to be offering flexibility in the plant because if you need to produce 150 tonnes of product each week, you need people on the ground to do that. The flexibility we may offer is expanding our twilight shift offering, which is the four hours during the day. We may need to offer increased night shifts. We’re very much of a mindset that if we can produce the output we need to service our customers, in a flexible way and keep people happy, all well and good.”
Flexible working will become the norm and not the exception
“Now is the time to formalise what was already in our minds before and, to a certain extent, is already in place. We’re going to ask our Head of HR to pull together a policy around flexible working on the back of the Covid crisis. But we would embrace this as our new world, our new way of working.”