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HR responds to COVID-19: manufacturing

Manufacturers are having to develop new ways of working to keep their processes running and clients happy during the coronavirus pandemic.

London-based Key Production Group, which specialises in vinyl pressing, CD manufacturing and cassette duplications, has switched lots of its workers to remote working yet said its manufacturing lead times had not yet been affected.

The key to its 58 workers adapting to a ‘new normal’ is continuity in maintaining a company culture wherever they are working from, according to its HR consultant Tacita Small. This is despite some of its team being put on furlough.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “We needed to communicate with clarity, regularly, to all team members, and reassure them that we are all on the journey together.

“When it came to seeing if furloughing was for us, the leadership team took time to understand the implications for everyone and set up processes to ensure customer service levels for clients was maintained while ensuring team members that were to be furloughed understood why - throughout the early stages of the process.”

Staff members have daily video calls with all the team in the morning and then the team manager has a separate one-to-one call with members of their team at least once a day.

The senior management team also tries to check in on at least two members of staff per day and weekly virtual meetings are organised with all members of staff within the company.

The pandemic has been a learning curve for new ways of working within the business. Karen Emanuel, CEO of Key Production Group said: “We have learnt that we can all work from home very successfully, that video calling in the time of lockdown is priceless, but we do miss human contact and the camaraderie of the office.”

Workers with children are also encouraged to fit their day around their needs as long as employees get their work done and clients don’t see a drop in service.

This comes from Small recognising every workers’ needs will be different. She said: “HR needs to support everyone with their wellbeing by listening to individual needs and requests - no two home situations or setups are the same.”

A confidential register is kept of any employees with coronavirus symptoms for HR staff to follow up with colleagues who that person may have come into contact with.

Key Group has also set up a “cup of tea” group for members to catchup on the missed kitchen chat and has a shared Spotify playlist which everyone is encouraged to add tracks to.

Being in the vinyl trade, the company of course encourages listening to music on vinyl as it gives the listener a natural break to get up and turn over the record.

Key Group also recommends entertainment including apps, books and articles for employees to consume when they aren’t working.

Small added: “Even though we are not yet through to the other side, we believe that all of our employees are taking comfort that whatever happens next and whatever government legislation follows. Processes that need to be adhered to will have the key culture layered on top to ensure we do the right thing.”

The company is now developing processes to welcome its workers back into the workplace.

Emanuel added: “Our next step is to continue as we are with a lot of contact and communication with furloughed staff too to check in to see how they are. We are now talking about how we phase a return to work when we are allowed back into the office whilst keeping everyone safe.”

Key Production Group is made up of six companies employing 58 people at four offices in England with a turnover of £14 million per year.