February 5, 2014 in Events (live blogging), HR Directors Business Summit 2014

Are we developing the right skills for the 21st century?

Susan Yell, HR Director, Warburtons


Susan talked about Warburtons’ HR journey over the last couple of years and of how, originally, ‘people’ didn’t receive the same focus that was given to products. In these tough times, talent is a key differentiator (and can make the difference between success and failure).


Warburtons is a family business (currently with the 5th generation) and was described as a straight-forward down-to-earth business. Warburtons set out to be one of the world’s best family food businesses and identified 5 key areas (Lead for growth, deliver a relevant brand position, drive new business growth, lead the industry on quality of service, deliver effective operations) and these key areas are used to help everybody have line of sight of how their objectives and targets relate to the strategic priorities. Three of the key drivers that drive how this is implemented are: simplicity, focus, and reality.


There is a detailed talent strategy and a recognition that ‘who gets promoted’ is hugely important, and impacts culture. The definition of talent is inclusive and isn’t restricted to a pool of high-potentials.


Home-grown talent is important and this receives a lot of attention at Warburtons with Board involvement, simplified talent management processes, and tailored programmes. As part of their diversity initiative, there is a women in leadership forum which includes suppliers and customers. There is an alumni programme for people to join at the end of leadership initiatives and this helps learning to continue.


Warburtons believe in the strengths approach and the power of focusing on what is right with people (and I’m delighted to see that!!). There is disciplined performance management in place and a lack of tolerance for poor performance, balanced with treating all people with dignity and respect.


Warburtons values: Family, ambition, responsibility, care, quality


How Warburtons do it; winning as a team, driving for results, energy and engagement, raising the bar.


“The soft stuff is the hard stuff.”


Warburtons are clear on their EVP (employee value proposition) which they believe is essential to attracting talent and they’re focusing on filling the talent pipeline at many levels (including apprentices).


Business impact has included the retention of talent (saving £300k), and 57% of high potentials have been promoted or extended their role.

A lovely, practical, inspiring talk on doing the hard stuff (i.e. the soft stuff).

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