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Our approach to investing in people. A conversation with Kirkstall Operating Director, Iqbal Bahia

At Kirkstall Precision Engineering we’ve kicked off 2021 with a major investment in a new ERP System with help from The Access Group and we’ve even ventured into 3D Printing (more to come on that in our next blog piece).

Investments in technology and machines are one thing, but investment in our people is a constant here at Kirkstall and so we wanted to highlight not only our beliefs in this area but how why we go above and beyond to ensure our people feel valued, motivated, and invested in. That’s why we sat down with our Operations Director, Iqbal Bahia to ask him some questions on this subject.

Good morning Iqbal, Kirkstall has a long tradition of investing in machinery, can you tell us more though about investment in people?

Good morning. Well, in a rapidly evolving landscape, productivity is not only dependent on employees, but also on the technology they use. Training and development go a long way in getting employees up to date with new kit and helping them use existing ones better.

This goes a long way in getting things done efficiently and employees who have the right training need lesser supervision and guidance. Training develops necessary skillsets in employees and enable them to address tasks independently, this also allows supervisors and management to focus on more pressing areas.

Talent management helps employees feel engaged, skilled, and motivated, allowing them to work in the direction of the company’s business goals, which in turn, increases client satisfaction and business performance.

What kind of skills training is in place at the moment?

We have a very structured and comprehensive training infrastructure and program imbedded in our business management system. We have a process and role driven competency matrix for each area of the business and every employee, these matrixes highlight the competencies required in every role and function.

More importantly they also highlight the gaps and training needs. To fulfil the required competencies there are individual training plans and programs in place. We also have bespoke training plans and SOPs for bespoke training needs; for example, members of the team are currently engaged in sales orders processing training on our new ERP system to improve work instructions on our Passivation process.

You’ve long had an apprenticeship programme in place, how is this going?

We Currently have 5 apprentices at various stages in their apprenticeships, our talent pipeline for the future is very positive. We have identified key strategic rolls and responsibilities for the future of the business and our apprentices will fill these roles.

There is also a comprehensive apprentice training program in place for all our apprentices, which is overseen by Peter Newbould our QA Manager. He has a strong background in training. In addition to our apprenticeship program, we have also started this year a University Graduation Scheme and our first Graduate comes on board in June this year specialising in Design and CAD.

Morale is massively important at Kirkstall; how do you achieve a high morale?

One of the key elements regarding employee morale is employee satisfaction, as a company one of Kirkstall Precision’s key business objectives is investing in training and development. If employees’ shortcomings and weaknesses are addressed, it is obvious that an employee’s performance improves. This has a direct impact on the employee’s morale. Training and development, however, also goes on to amplify your strengths and acquire new skill sets. It is important for a company to break down the training and development needs to target relevant individuals.

We have found that if we have satisfied employees with high morale, they are more likely to fully understand their role and have the required skill set and business tools to carry out their duties. Additionally, we have a very structured employee feedback program to address their input on any training and morale issues.

Our management team work very closely with all members of staff and have a very good relationship with each team member. This enables any issues to be identified early and provide support throughout the team.

Ultimately, we recognise that our people are the core of the business, this is reflected in our vision and value, which are:

  • Employ and invest in a highly competent and passionate team
  • Foster a culture built on teamwork, honesty and mutual respect, experience and competence, trust and reliability, entrepreneurship and a positive attitude backed up by bags of enthusiasm

The true test of a great workplace is in longevity of service, how true is this at Kirkstall?

This is extremely true here at Kirkstall, we have a long-established history of over 30 years and we still have members of the original team. I would say one of our key successes for employee’s longevity is that nearly 75% of our strategic team leader and management positions are filled by home grown, Kirkstall Precision apprentice trained people. This mix with the addition of new recruits has proven to be a success in employee satisfaction and retention.

There is a skill shortage in the market in the UK and to overcome this it is key to develop your people and keep them. With our training plan and continual strive for improvement we are able to keep things fresh for everybody. Understanding experience over time and introducing new working methods ensures the best for both Kirkstall and our people.

You’ve come through a tough year like many businesses, how have your people handled it?

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, the team at Kirkstall have been excellent in their understanding of the situation and also in adapting to overcome the situation.

Employees who were furloughed understood and accepted this requirement, some employees worked from home and some employees worked as normal with new working conditions and requirements. With all the health and safety measures we put in place our employees felt safe coming into the new working environment.

The team has been the backbone of the company during the difficult times. So understanding the pressures during this difficult period both inside and at home was critical to keep our employees morale as high as possible.

What proactive efforts do you have in place to support the professional and personal (wellbeing) needs of your people?

Here’s just some of the things we do to help, inspire and motivate our employees:

  • Gather employee feedback
  • Talk to individuals with regular 1-2-1s
  • Keep an open line of communication, especially relevant and powerful during COVID-19
  • Recognise the importance of employee contribution with employee rewards and recognition.
  • Offer flexibility for employees and support for both the working and home life.
  • Regular updates for Employees through daily or weekly stand-ups.
  • Small social events such as getting bacon sandwiches on a Friday and celebrating the achievements of the month.

Many thanks Iqbal, keep up the great work.