EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited.
This week we look at what makes this whole industry tick – manufacturing people.
Question one: What additional skills and experience have managers and business owners developed over the last few months?
Response: Covid19 has certainly honed the digital skillset. Companies pivoted & learnt to adjust to immediate changes in customer demand, issues within supply chains, delivery & other restrictions. Markets also changed as customers looked to buy local where possible.
Made in Britain: Do you think COVID19 has forced some companies to join the digital world and this is something they wouldn't have done otherwise?
Response: Some have. The turnaround time for setting up a new website and digital comms is about 6 to 8 months if the right effort is put into the project. Look out for new websites launched in the next few months.
Made in Britain: Have you noticed businesses reverting to "digital" through low barriers to entry methods - e.g. trying to sell via Twitter for example? Any observations on this?
Response: Yes. I see many trying to generate leads through social media. Majority could do with skills training to be effective. Start with understand your customers.
Response: Reading and drawing learning from a wider spectrum. Insights and information from other sectors has fed into my knowledge base and helped to understand external influences that were not on the radar before. Scepticism of the MSM Patience.
Made in Britain: Sharing experience and knowledge across sectors is something that is lacking do you think? Or lacking before COVID-19?
Response: We are seeing an ongoing culture shift within the industry. UK manufacturers seem more open to the digital world and are willing to shout a little louder about what they are up to. Collaboration over competition!
Response: Digital skills most certainly, covering e-commerce and marketing as well as virtual meeting platforms.
Made in Britain: Do you think that some businesses have stumbled and bumbled their way into the digital world? And do you think some businesses need some extra guidance?
Response: Some have been very late to the party and not released the scope of digital in terms of communicating with staff, customers, potential customers. Social media for example has come into its own in terms of getting your message out.
Response: Yes perhaps but the first step is always to recognise the importance of the digital world in business.
Response: Possibly. In embracing it we've been able to keep in contact with clients and suppliers alike, so if you haven't then I suspect the reverse is true.
Response from Made in Britain member Addison Precision: I suspect for some it's around the importance of their IT infrastructure. We had already gone to Teams across the group and we've hammered it for the past few months, it's kept the management team totally in the loop.
Made in Britain: Have you found that the way people communicate using something like Teams, has changed the dynamic a little and is slightly less formal now that it has become the "norm"?
Addison Precision: Absolutely. Definitely less formal. It's become our internal default rather than the phone as we're spread out across several sites. Similarly with customers, once the relationship is in place, familiarity leads to informality.
Response: Large companies have built resilience, SMEs innovation and ability to pivot through difficult times. Exciting times ahead for #ukmanufacturing
Response: In terms of experience, there is definitely a sense of if you can get through this then you can get through anything. The level and speed of reacting to unexpected events is something that has been new to everyone.
Made in Britain member Stitched Boxes & Hardy UK: Definitely the ability of flexible/remote working. A lot of managers knock it, but for us, it's worked just as good as office-based work.
Response: We've really focused down on quality and have put into place many advanced quality measures to help us ensure the highest quality end product.
Response: We hope empathy is one of those skills learned by managers as it is essential considering all that people are dealing with.
Response: 1) That there are new ways to learn, work & manage. 2) How to be broader-minded. 3) Some will have developed, learned or engaged, digital skills. 4) Improved question and written skills. 5) Improved negotiation skills. 6) Improved planning skills.
Response: Move to JIT; more active in using tech to supplement/replace manpower; more active communication with creditors & local gov't; expansion of employee skills in new s/ware & coding; increased web development; risk assessment of supply chains.
Response: Resilience & Thinking Outside the Box (Production, Finance, Marketing etc.)
Question two: How has COVID-19 affected staff motivation towards manufacturing British products and staff motivation in general?
Response: For all of the manufacturers that I have visited spirits are high and more recently organisations have been positive about growth post-COVID. There is something fantastic about British resilience and the drive to innovate and diversify when required.
Made in Britain: Have businesses you have visited looked at and changed how they motivate staff or haven't they needed to?
Response: They haven't needed to - attrition has remained low and the staff that I have spoken to are all pleased that they are supported and safeguarded.
Addison Precision: We're heavily focused on #UKmfg in general, we don't export from the group, so that's not really changed. Each of the businesses has been affected in short or long since March, with WFH, or short time etc for staff. Uncertainty has been an issue for several people and remains now.
Made in Britain: How do you manage the "uncertainty" of the people?
Addison Precision: Communication. Give them the facts as best you can. In our offices, for e.g. we have made sure they are fully 'compliant' and risks are managed, masks worn etc. The expectation is that if you have a desk/machine you will be at that place and not circulating unless needed.
Made in Britain member Stitched Boxes & Hardy UK: Spirits are still at an all-time high at Hardy UK due to their premises coming to a finish. For Stitched Boxes the original WFH plan ran smoothly and it's almost as normal here, there isn't really anything to dampen our motivation as of yet!
Response: The pandemic has raised awareness on how reliant we are on offshore manufacturing however it remains to be seen whether this will have the desired effect in boosting our homegrown manufacturers. I fear the perceived cost is still a sticking point.
Made in Britain member Easify: We need to strike while the iron is hot and get home the benefits of branded quality. So much of what we import is cheap unbranded junk with little come-back on the originator. People will pay more if they know the product will be good quality, warrantied and designed to last.
Response: The pandemic has made everyone re-evaluate life in general. Why do we work? Why do we work as we do? Where do we work? How can we make work & life more harmonious? Child, 'staff', others alike. Things will not be the same, no 'old' or 'new' normal. Change.
Addison Precision: Although we have come through the other side in a lot of cases, and revised business planning has lead to an improvement in understanding where the business is going now overall. We feel that we're through the pain providing the politicians have a coherent view of the future.
Response: The staff up in our Oldham plant have been exceptional. We have resilient supply chains and the business continues to thrive and grow. Morale is high and we are proud to be a British manufacturer.
Question three: What changes have businesses made towards managing staff and their morale over the last few months and are these going to be permanent changes?
Response: The issue of motivation affects all: owners, directors, managers, team members. It's not possible to address it for employees without first addressing it for C-suite/managerial people. The Pandemic's affected everyone. A point missed at a company's peril.
Made in Britain: Different motivations for the differing roles?
Response: Good question. My humble opinion says there are in a 'work' sense yes i.e. money/ambition etc ... but as resulting from the Pandemic, I'd say it's levelled the 'motivation filed' to the basics: time at home/work, love, time with family/friends etc. Same for everyone.
Made in Britain: Almost a case study of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?
Response: A short personal catch up call to ask how someone is doing can life spirits. Many are still very afraid for the future
Made in Britain: Uncertainty has come across in a few comments today. How does a small business handle that with staff?
Response: Amongst small tourism, hospitality and events companies there is still trepidation. Many are in hibernation until warmer weather comes.
Response: We have offered home working as an option and made it easier for staff to work effectively from home.
Made in Britain: Do you think that will have additional benefits going forward if you need to recruit new staff? Is it less geographically restricted?
Response: Yes I would say so. Homeworking wasn't something that was offered when I first joined the company but the Spring lockdown taught us that it can work and work well, providing the tech is in place
Made in Britain member Stitched Boxes & Hardy UK: Can't speak for the whole office but less formality in the office, we don't need to worry about wearing the smartest clothes or having the least creased shirt! Sometimes the smallest changes make a difference in morale.
Response: We have recently partnered with ChampHealthUK as part of our commitment to prioritising our employee's health and wellbeing. We endeavour to make impactful changes in the very near future!
Made in Britain member Humberside Heavy Lifting: Staff working from home need even more clearly defined targets to provide motivation and focus. This has paid dividends to our sale guys who have reacted positively to the new challenges with remarkable results.
Question four: How are businesses going to reward staff this Christmas as the usual Christmas parties are unlikely to be able to go ahead?
Response: As we're only a small team of 5 we've booked our Christmas 'do' and (subject to lockdown restrictions) it will be going ahead as planned!
Response: Make the reward simple, authentic & sincere. A letter to EACH employee & their family, wishing them well, thanking them for their collective effort & a commitment to their future wellbeing
Response: I am awaiting confirmation from our venue (we have paid a deposit) for our party however if weddings are limited to 15 and funerals 30 it would be foolish to think that it would go ahead. I like the personal touch thought - first subject next management meeting!
Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #madeinbritainhour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). As you can see, our transcripts read like a friendly chat down the pub – probably the most useful pub chat you've ever had! Well, since February at least.