Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. High-performance cultureOn 1 May 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. We asked HR operations manager Warwick Hall how BMW developed a new breed ofsupervisor to meet the skills demands of its latest engine plant in the WestMidlandsOne statistic sums up the training problem confronting BMW since it beganmanufacturing petrol engines at Hams Hall in Warwickshire three years ago. Only20 per cent of shop floor workers had received relevant training before beingrecruited, compared with 80 per cent at its sister plant in Steyr, Austria. Warwick Hall, HR operations manager at the UK plant, says the reason isobvious. “Walk into the average technical college in this country and youwill probably find the engineering department in mothballs.” Much of this dates back to cutbacks in engineering’s training infrastructureduring the late 1980s and early 1990s, which means fewer apprentices went on tobecome the experienced engineers of today. Even if people did arrive with therelevant background skills, additional training was necessary because of themuch deeper level of knowledge expected of them to perform the plant’s complexmachining and assembly operations. Without a suitable college network to fall back on, BMW has had to relyheavily on its own bespoke programmes to plug the skills gap. Huge resources have had to be allocated to foster a learning environmentamong the 650-strong workforce at Hams Hall. By 2005, around £20m is due tohave been invested in its training and development programme with 45 per centcoming from government grants. Hall says: “In the past, we had done a lot of work teaching peopleabout problem analysis and resolution but had not talked to them about thematerials, tools and manufacturing processes they were working on. What wasmissing was fundamental basic engineering knowledge.” At Hams Hall, semi-skilled workers are expected to look after and maintainequipment in their particular section of the plant to both increase a sense ofownership, and reduce dependence on maintenance staff. Jobs within each section are regularly rotated, making it much easier tocope with holidays and absenteeism because everyone ends up being able to doeach other’s job. FlexibilityThe key to managing such a flexible workforce has been the creation of technicalleaders, who are each responsible for between five and 20 people, depending onwhich area of the plant they are working. Their role includes guiding, coaching and deploying people within their areaas well as checking the quality of the processes they are responsible for.Disciplinary issues and formal appraisal of staff remain the responsibility ofmanagers. Hall says: “A technical leader understands and knows his area betterthan anyone else. He ‘owns’ the plant and equipment and makes any necessaryimprovements and changes. All our equipment here is very complicated, technicaland inter-related. A traditional maintenance person would come, perform themaintenance function and then leave. He does not have ownership in the sameway.” The mixture of technical and inter-personal skills needed for the job meansthere are few obviously qualified people to take on the role. Hall says: “They must have a technical engineering or maintenancebackground and a good knowledge of the production processes, the product andthe quality requirements. They must be good at planning with and working withpeople. We are looking for someone who has the empathy to understand andappreciate what their team members are going through, and be able to operate ontheir behalf.” He says the main dilemma when identifying potential technical leaders iswhether to go for someone who already has the softer, people-related skills andbuild on the technical knowledge, or to build on the softer skills in someonewho already has the technical background. Selection How then, has BMW selected and trained people for the role? Hall says mosthave a background as engineering apprentices and the initial intake was mainlydrawn from people who had already maintained and serviced the machinery. One option for candidates lacking the necessary technical background hasbeen to join the plant’s two-year mature apprentice scheme, which includes oneyear of full-time college. This has been developed because of the dearth ofrelevant engineering skills in the local labour market. The 31 people currently on the scheme are aged between 23 and 35. “Theystay on the same pay and we are giving them the ability to have a fresh start.It will bring them to the base requirement for consideration as a technicalleader,” says Hall. Assessment for this role includes aptitude tests and questionnaires.”We will observe them working with others in a team exercise and give thema personal interview as well as a technical one,” says Hall. “As andwhen we have a vacancy, we will put them into the role, under development,before they have any training.” At this stage, a mentor is assigned to give advice and, where necessary,help. “The mentor works in a different area of the plant, otherwise theywill know all the answers and simply tell you what to do,” says Hall.”If they work in a different area, they will have to question you to findout the problem. This gets you to find the answer yourself.” Technical leaders are given time to find their feet in their new role beforeattending formal training at Woodland Grange. Hall says: “Training is about doing the right thing at the right time,and there are a lot of things we can’t do in advance. We develop them intotheir role so they have an understanding of what they need. “Someone with some experience under their belt has an opportunity totalk with his tutors about those experiences, so they will come out with a muchgreater level of learning.” There is no formal validation of the technical leader training programme,although Hall says this is being worked on with the Engineering and MarineTraining Authority and could be introduced within two years. “The nextstep up is into a process or quality engineer type role, from where managementis the next progression. The best recognition they can get is when their workteam say they are doing a great job.” He denies the role creates resentment among shopfloor employees.”Technical leaders develop a good level of respect, upwards and downwardsbased on their knowledge, capability and competence. We have a differentenvironment here. There’s a culture of training.” Everyone is expected to achieve NVQ Level 2 in performing manufacturingoperations within a year to 18 months of joining. “We will put themthrough the necessary training for that, irrespective of whether they have theappropriate qualification, because we want them to understand the way weoperate,” says Hall. The plant’s training philosophy is simple – give employees the necessaryskills to perform at their best in their appropriate role. “I firmlybelieve people will do anything, provided you give them the right toolkit,” says Hall. Once a funding package for training had been agreed with the Government,partnerships were set up with Sutton Coldfield College and City CollegeCoventry to provide bespoke off-site training for the company in technical,engineering and business skills. Lecturers were brought in to complete thenecessary training. These colleges also run related BTEC and City & Guildscourses on site. Although the Hams Hall HR department is responsible for the foundation andinduction courses, all other training is run by outsiders. The plant has three training managers but no dedicated trainers of its own.The annual budget for training is £1.1m a year, or £1,500 per employee. Hall insists that neither the plant’s German-based parent group norgovernment training agencies such as the Learning and Skills Council havemodified the training programme to meet their own objectives. “The factthere was external support available was irrelevant. We have done nothing toimplement a skills, training or competence strategy because of externalinfluences.” He says the spin-off for the Government has been to enhance the regionalskills base. Applying a BMW blueprint to meet the plant’s training needs wouldnot have worked, because the skills base varies so much from country tocountry. “BMW wants us to build a high-quality product which is verycost-effective and attains the necessary business performance objectives,”says Hall. “It is up to us to encourage people to deliver that for them.What we do here is not the same as what we do in Germany, South Africa or theUS. It is observed by other plants, but it does not necessarily mean they will follow.”If someone does, then Hall’s advice is not to be too prescriptive. “Theprimary lesson for me is to go into these things with an open mind and be braveenough to allow your organisation to float and find its own level.” With technical leaders, this has meant allowing individuals to work out theboundaries of the role themselves, depending on the technical demands of theirwork area as well as the personal demands of the people they work alongside. CVWarwick hall2000 HR operations manager for Hams Hall1995 BMW manager responsible for the Hams Hall training projectFrom 1977 Various roles in industrial relationsand personnel management with Land Rover, Austin Rover and the Rover Group1974 Sales support engineer in UK, Europe and the Middle East 1968 Mechanical engineering apprentice Management training for technicalleadersAll technical leaders undergo asix-day training course to develop their management and interpersonal skills.The course is specifically tailored for the needs of Hams Halland is run by Woodland Grange, the Leamington Spa-based management trainingcentre. The main subjects covered are:– Managing Hams Hall’s processes and systems– Working with people and facilitating effective relationships– Playing a leading role in the development of fellow employeesLinda O’Shaughnessy, the centre’s head of management training,says: “It’s a very different type of training to that in technical areas.I think this area is often ignored in business; people are promoted because oftheir technical ability to manage others, without being given this type oftraining beforehand.”The BMW programme is highly interactive, using case studies andexisting situations for team and individual exercises. It is based around a‘buddy’ system, where trainees from different areas of the plant team up beforeand after the course. The idea is that any advice they give to each other will bemore dispassionate than any given by someone they work alongside. The course is split into two three-day segments. After thesecond one, trainees examine a problem specific to their work area which isusually concerned with managing people. They then give a PowerPoint presentation to managers and fellowtrainees about how they have dealt with, or intend to deal with, the problem.So far, nearly 50 people have participated in the course, which costs around£600 per person.
Hull manager Steve Bruce intends to speak to owner Assem Allam about his proposal to rebrand the club after claiming the Egyptian “does not understand” the tradition that goes with the name of the team. Allam has been the target of strong criticism from fans ever since he announced his intention to ditch the 109-year-old title of Hull City AFC in favour of his preferred Hull Tigers. He has been dismissive of those who oppose the move and in an interview with a Sunday newspaper told his detractors they could “die as soon as they want” – a reference to the City Till We Die movement. “They can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.” “How can they call themselves fans, these hooligans, this militant minority, when they disturb and distract the players while taking away the rights of others to watch the football, and of companies who have paid good money for advertising?” The latter suggestions were met with disappointment by the City Till We Die fans group. A statement released to Press Association Sport read: “Thankfully, hooliganism at football in this country is now exceedingly rare. “The intemperate suggestion that singing “City Till I Die” or holding a banner with Hull City’s name on it constitutes disorder is ill-informed, unhelpful and will be considered by many to be offensive.; nor is it credible to believe that such measured actions will have any effect whatsoever upon the team we so admire. “We reiterate our advice to all City fans to continue their fine support for our fantastic team while positively expressing a preference for our current name.” Bruce has thus far attempted to rise above the row and focus on football matters but now plans to intervene in a bid to prevent the issue affecting on-field performances. “I think the chairman has put something like £70 million into this club, so without him there wouldn’t be a club or a ‘Hull City’, it would be down the tubes,” he said. “However, I’ve got to have a conversation with him. I don’t think he understands quite what it means to the history and the tradition. “All he thinks about is going forward. He thinks the brand would be better and that’s his opinion. “What we can’t let happen is for it to fester on. At times when things aren’t going so well it can create an atmosphere that no-one wants. We should be enjoying the Premier League rather than talking about a badge or a name change. “They (the Allam family) don’t really want brownie points, I just don’t think they quite understand what it means to a lot of people. “If we’re Hull City Tigers or Hull City, we’ve got to stay together.” Bruce’s words may serve to smooth some of the tensions arising from Allam’s most recent interview, during which he told the Independent on Sunday: “I don’t mind ‘City till we die’. Press Association