In 2004 a major FMCG multi-national corporation was faced with some employee relations issues at one of their plants that were creating a low morale and a high turnover of staff. This was having the obvious effect on output, product quality and overall productivity.

“Gary is a very good HR professional. He can act at a senior strategic level but equally is prepared to roll his sleeves up. Give him a broad direction and he does not need to be micro-managed. In summary he is a very experienced senior HR guy and one of the best that I have come across in 25 years.”

Tom Hughes, Plant Manager for the FMCG corporation

In addition two Trade Unions were seeking recognition for collective bargaining purposes.

The new Plant Manager for the FMCG corporation, Tom Hughes, and the Vice President of HR for the parent company called in Gary Fisher on a five month consultancy assignment to spearhead a new employee relations improvement programme. A key objective was to ensure that the Trade Unions didn’t secure a presence within the company.

Gary immediately conducted focus group sessions with representatives from the three shop floor shifts and the administrative staff. He also organised one to one meetings with all of the supervisors and the management team. Everyone was given the opportunity to put forward their views on what the issues were, why they had arisen and what could be done to improve the situation. The meetings were held over a three day period, conducted at times to suit the three shift pattern, thus causing least disruption.

The company had never held focus group or one to one meetings in this way before and Gary identified lack of communication as a key issue within the facility.

The feedback from these meetings helped Gary to put a planned programme of activity in place that included setting up a regular and formal Consultative Staff Forum for all staff, supported by an agreed Staff Forum Constitution. The Forum had defined roles and parameters, including how often it should meet, subject matters covered and decision making process. In addition Gary set up training sessions for all participants, both management and elected representatives in the Forum so that they had a greater understanding of what they could achieve and how to do it.

Gary also put a new training programme in place for the handling by management and the elected representatives of disciplinary and grievance procedures. Before the training the disciplinary procedure was misunderstood and ill-used, and grievances, if raised, were improperly heard and dealt with.

A new grading structure and programme of retraining was discussed with shop floor representatives and then implemented. This gave the shop floor staff a clearer understanding of their status within the company and how they could move from one grade to another and into supervisory roles. This helped the management to recognise the people with more relevant skills and promote them accordingly. In the past people received promotion purely because they had worked for a certain length of time in the company, rather than because they had the right skills for the role. The improved grading structure and rates of pay were paid for by measured increases in productivity.

The employee relations improvement programme was strongly endorsed by the staff and the claims for recognition by the Trade Unions were nor supported.

Tom Hughes commented: “Gary came in with a blank sheet of paper. I was in deep need of a senior HR professional and we were in desperate need for proper HR processes to be put in place. Gary set up the correct consultation processes and not only acted as a part of the operations committee but provided a voice of sanity within the organisation.”

“Gary is a very good HR professional,” continued Tom. “He can act at a senior strategic level but equally is prepared to roll his sleeves up. Give him a broad direction and he does not need to be micro-managed. In summary he is a very experienced senior HR guy and one of the best that I have come across in 25 years.”