People Puzzles provided the management team at this specialist horticulture supplier, Micromix, with the tools to manage the business effectively, making it an attractive proposition to buyers.
The Client, Micromix
Established in 1987, Micromix is a family-run business specialising in the development and production of agricultural and horticultural fertilisers and other industrial chemicals.
With a manufacturing plant spanning three acres in Nottinghamshire, the company has recently increased its overseas activity. Now with sales offices in Amsterdam and Madrid and a full subsidiary in Sao Paolo, Micromix exports to a number of countries throughout Europe, South America, North Africa as well as the Middle East and Asia. Many of its products are manufactured for third parties.
Back in 2015, the leadership team at Micromix had plans to grow the business further but the company was struggling to retain staff, with some leaving within the first two weeks of joining. As is often the case with expanding businesses, staff didn’t feel that they knew enough about what was going on in the business and there were performance issues to address.
Clive Baker, a senior manager at Micromix, contacted Kelly Rock of People Puzzles to bring in some HR expertise. ‘As a family business looking to grow, we knew that it was important to have proper HR systems and processes in place,’ he says. ‘That, coupled with the need to attract and retain talent as we grew, meant that we needed to obtain specialist help.’
Both hands-on operational support and strategic thinking were needed, and this was why Clive chose People Puzzles over other HR consultants. ‘Many didn’t even offer to attend the site on a regular basis; their support was 90% by phone or email,’ he remembers. ‘People Puzzles offered pricing that was competitive despite a more hands-on approach.’
The first thing Kelly did at Micromix was to conduct a ‘fact find’, interviewing staff and the leadership team to find out where the company was in relation to their plans, key opportunities and frustrations, and what would really help with people and efficiency.
She then developed a plan of action, focusing on several key areas: better communication across the business, particularly in regard to business goals; attracting and retaining key talent; and introducing HR processes and systems.
To improve communication throughout the business, Kelly introduced quarterly business update meetings where the CEO would update staff on business performance, answer any questions and allow people to put forward suggestions or ideas.
With the senior management team, Kelly worked to develop and implement role profiles for all positions in the company. These defined each person’s role and helped individuals to understand how their role impacted on the success of the business.
Kelly then carried out a review of the company benefits, including salary bands and changed the holiday entitlement to ensure fairness and make the company a more attractive place to work for potential job candidates.
To help retain new employees, Kelly introduced a new on-boarding process which has significantly changed Micromix’s staff retention rates.
Managers were coached in effective people management skills, and Kelly also introduced a new staff appraisal process in order to allow managers to give specific feedback about performance and discuss career progression and training needs.
Alongside this, Kelly ensured all HR compliance issues were dealt with, including updating and reissuing all employee contracts. A new Employee Handbook was introduced, with key policies for all to read.
Two and a half years since first being contacted by Micromix, Kelly is delighted with the progress made so far. ‘As it was a family run business, I had to earn the trust of the management team,’ she says. ‘This involved working collaboratively with each manager to understand their pain points and find solutions.’
‘We now have robust HR systems and procedures in place, as well as better top-down communication and professionalism.’
Providing managers with the tools to manage effectively, while giving them the freedom to make decisions within an agreed framework, has really transformed the business, which has seen its headcount grow by a third since Kelly started working there.
Having a strong and confident leadership team has made it an attractive business proposition, as evidenced by the company’s recent purchase by a large PLC.
The benefits of making these changes and installing these new processes are becoming ever more apparent to the senior team. ‘Having Kelly on board has meant that we now have robust HR systems and procedures in place,’ says Clive, ‘as well as better top-down communication and professionalism.’
Kelly Rock, HR Director.