Long, healthy, rewarding careers are vital says Colette Backwell
AT THE Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF), the voice of the food and drink manufacturing industry in Scotland, we believe that a healthy workforce is vital to the success of every business. Around 27 million of us go to work in the UK every day and we spend more time working than doing anything else. The workplace offers us a major opportunity to drive health improvement.
UK food and drink manufacturing is a world-class industry characterised by the quality of our products and our ability to innovate. To remain that way we need to recruit a steady stream of the brightest and best of the UK’s talent. Crucially, we must retain this talent and supporting employee health and wellbeing plays a vital role in ensuring that people in our workforce have long, healthy and rewarding careers.
Our members, food and drink producers of every size and sector, have long recognised the importance of ensuring the wellbeing of their workforce. They have been developing schemes that go beyond the traditional health and safety agenda to focus on initiatives that will help employees lead healthier lives.
Border Biscuits is an example of a small Scottish producer that sees its people as being central to the success of the business and which puts their workplace wellbeing top of the agenda. The company set up a “values development” project and, as part of this, they have carried out a series of team days aimed at engaging all employees around the company’s vision, mission, values and strategy.
The objective of the team days was to ensure that all team members understood why the company’s values were created and how they would support Border Biscuits to achieve its goals. It also had to encourage and inspire people to use the values-led behaviours on a daily basis.
Whilst the goal was to inspire and create belief and pride in Border Biscuits, this can be quite an intangible thing to measure.
However, real examples of action resulted from the events, which generated a buzz around the factory and allowed new ideas to be implemented across the organisation.
An employee favourite was the “values station”, where cards are available for employees to recognise a colleague for actively demonstrating the values (“You Bake us Proud”). A quarterly prize is available for the best values-based behaviour card posted in the box.
The success of these team events has not only resulted in the ongoing recognition of values-based behaviours by the workforce but the development of an employee forum to carry on discussions and improvements in all areas of the business.
Border Biscuits has also seen teams getting together to contribute to the wider community through volunteering for local charities, which is one of their core values.
Initiatives such as “Free Food Fridays” encourage staff to socialise and eat well by offering them free healthy choices to enjoy with colleagues.
Another example of a food and drink manufacturing business that is committed to promoting and protecting the wellbeing of its employees is New England Seafood. This importer, processor and wholesaler of fresh fish and seafood was awarded the Mayor of London’s Achievement Award last year for taking part in the Workplace Wellbeing Charter and, more recently, it scooped the Good Employer Award at this year’s FDF Awards.
The company began trading in 1991 and in recent years has actively managed staff attendance and progressively reduced employee absence which has led to hitting their lowest-ever absence rate in tandem with lowest-ever staff turnover last year.
New England Seafood is now working towards achieving the next level of the Achievement Award, focusing on involving employees in more sports activities.
Management has established a sports and social fund available to all staff, in addition to discounted gym membership, cycle to work scheme and an in-house weight management programme.
In order to help with balancing work and personal life, New England Seafood has opened the factory to families through an organised Factory Open Day, which was such a success that it will now be an annual event.
The company has also launched the X Awards and the “X hat of awesomeness” for employees who are considered to be experts in their roles.
To help more businesses create successful health and wellness programmes in the workplace, FDF, of which SFDF is a division, created a workplace wellbeing toolkit, which provides practical guidance for employers on how to create, enhance and promote a health and wellness programme in the workplace. Drawing on the UK food and drink industry’s collective experience and incorporating the latest Government guidelines in areas such as healthy eating and physical activity, this resource has been designed to benefit organisations of all sizes.
Through helping employees to lead healthier and more active lives, as well as reformulating the recipes of some of the nation’s favourite products, developing healthy choices and promoting food literacy among consumers, our sector is playing its part in working towards a healthier Scotland.
• Dr Colette Backwell is director of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation.