Adnams HRD on fair pay and 'doing the right thing'

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Sadie Lofthouse, head of HR at brewer and hotelier Adnams, on making low-paid work pay.

“In our business, there are lots of operational, lower level roles. But our business agenda is driven by customer experience and expectation, and the people who are critical to that will only do it [well] if they are engaged and motivated. If we are paying them the minimum wage, customer experience is not going to be what we’d like it to be. If we want the best people, we can’t pay them minimum wage and we can’t treat them as lower skilled.

Pay is really important. We have got to make sure wealth is distributed fairly. But for me, the biggest thing we can do is around training and development, and making sure there are opportunities for genuine progression. We are good at spotting latent talent in people – our operations director started as a cleaner. People at operational level often work for a manager who started where they are, which creates aspirations. 

There are challenges around pay and we look at it regularly. As HRD, I take the role of the conscience of the business and make sure we are not paying more to the people who shout the loudest. Often it’s the people at the lower end of the skill bracket who don’t have the confidence to ask for more. There are many hard working people in the UK who work long hours, but who are still on benefits to make ends meet.

A key component of us being a trusted brand is about doing the right thing. Customers wouldn’t want to be served by someone working hard on the minimum wage for a profitable organisation. We have got to put our money where our mouth is.

Paying the living wage is hard for a smaller organisation, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to it. It will just take us a couple of years to get there. We are redistributing our bonuses. Losing 4% of your bonus is not going to have a huge impact on the sales director earning £60,000, but will have a huge effect lower down. We also work to increase the spending power of employees, through things like discounted shopping and salary sacrifice schemes. 

I consider my HR function to be very commercial and come from a commercial background, but we have a responsibility. We have to be a commercially-focused, financially-successful business, but still do things the right way.”

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