We spoke with Natasha Waterfield, Head of Human Resources about her work at the New World Trading Company (NWTC) and winning the Sunday Times award for ‘the best 100 companies to work for’.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What led you to work in HR?
I started my HR career in the Engineering industry progressing from a HR Graduate, which allowed me to study my MSc in HR during the evening, to a HR Advisor. Whilst the engineering industry gave me a great number of years grounding in HR, my love for the excitement of the experience of being a diner in Hospitality drew me to the industry. I started with Living Ventures as a HR Advisor and fell in love with everything NWTC taking the role as HR Manager and now coming up to 2 and a half years later heading up the HR department.
How many people do NWTC employ and across how many sites?
We currently have just over 1000 employees across 16 sites and our Head Office in Knutsford.
What do you see as the most important HR issues to tackle within your organisation?
When I joined my key focus was to transition the HR department from a Head Office function and become part of the wider operations. Myself and the team spend a large proportion of our working weeks out in our sites not only supporting the management teams but making sure that we are a familiar face rather than just a number in a manual.
Do you think the work the HR department has done at NWTC has helped the company to achieve the Sunday Times award?
I think our commitment to putting people at the forefront of everything we do and every decision we make. Also our innovation with the Tribes project, our focus on the project lies deeply within our company culture, as we’re looking for each team member to feel part of the New World family as we grow so quickly. It’s an incredible project, where we get teams together across the country and join them in having a great time together, for “no strings attached” fun. The development and love between the internal relationships in New World is what makes the company so special. Providing our staff also with an app platform to communicate and win prizes every day.
As a company it was one of the most exciting moments we’ve had to date, we celebrated the accolade properly and are just delighted that our teams love working for the company! We also hope it will open the doors to attracting more of the best talent in the industry to join us as we grow. As well as this it allowed us a proper insight into how our teams feel and think and how we can continue to make the company an even better place to work.
Have you made any changes since being listed?
We are continually making changes and innovating our approach to HR and the whole company, it’s important that we never stand still! Both for the success of the business as a whole, and the happiness of our teams, which is a continual focus for me. We’ve held a variety of focus groups and have launched an internal newsletter to improve our communication. We also currently have further changes in the pipeline based on the feedback that we will implement later this year.
Does NWTC have an engagement strategy in place? If so, can you tell us more about it?
The Tribes project was launched in May 2016 after 12 months of development and we see it as being vital to the future success of the company, as the fast growth of NWTC presents many threats to a smooth operation. Tribes presents amazing opportunities for NWTC to bring employees together, organise events based around the wants and desires of team members, and to reward employees on a regular basis on a platform solely developed for fun. Competitions, rewards, prizes and benefits are communicated through the Tribes app – which also works as a social media platform for team members to communicate with each other from across the country. There’s no hidden catch with Tribes, the project rewards and inspires hard working team members, and engages the full team through team spirit.
How has it worked so far?
It is our inspirational way to make employees feel valued, and feel part of something incredible, and is our primary technique to be able to share our values and vision in unexpected and exciting ways. Our vision to pioneer to pub industry is mirrored in Tribes – where we pioneer the way in which leaders can engage their teams.
How are you measuring the levels of engagement and wellbeing within the organisation?
We measure this through internal employee surveys, our Tribes app and encouraging open communication and feedback in everything we do. Ranging from our internal newsletter to feedback surveys built into training session and day to day activities.
How do you develop and retain talent within the organisation?
The company’s focus on internal progression offers employees real career development, a continual opportunity to educate themselves further within their field, or even to cross-train into another department to create a more well rounded employee. One of the key benefits of working for the company is the genuine offer of progression.
There are many further training courses available to expand the team’s knowledge and passion for the company and our products. Including; the wine training course offering a comprehensive look into wine from tasting to food matching, and the processes. ‘The Bar Blade’ training offers an in depth course on bartending, the support required and develops their skills practically as bartenders. The ‘Train to Train’ course for future In-Store Trainers, is invaluable for the step up from bartender or server to the training positions. The self developed “Masters of Beer” is a qualification which extends knowledge of the brewing methods along with beer styles. Further training is conducted wherever possible to give team members the knowledge to apply for progression confidently. Personal development within our teams is also a big focus. Our new benefits package includes financial support for employees who are looking to develop new skills; this could be in the form of learning a new language, or music lessons.
Have you faced any obstacles when driving the people agenda at NWTC?
Our growth strategy for the business involves the opening of new sites, and for HR department our plans are to keep supporting and developing our talented teams across the country continuing to offer real career progression opportunities.
After a great charity campaign for Barnardo’s last September, raising a successful £43,000 in one month, but also involving numerous team members across the estate in incredible projects. We had members delivering cookery courses to disadvantaged families, jumping out of planes and climbing mountains to raise money, and organising numerous respite and fundraising events. This year and beyond will see our involvement in local communities grow exponentially, both for local and national charities.
We are growing our partnership with Pure Innovation, who provide fully paid working opportunities for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. This will be another big focus for the department for the future of NWTC.