Stuart Branch is Group People and IT Director at Weetabix, having started out at in operational roles at Whitbread, the UK’s largest hospitality company, which shaped his outlook. Stuart went on to realise his passion lay in operations and people rather than hospitality and he has had several senior operations and HR roles, including at Boots and Masco, before joining Weetabix Food Company.
“…The more companies that publish their results, the better, as it puts pressure on all businesses to reduce the gender pay gap – and that can only be a good thing…”
Stuart, please can you tell us a bit about your role at Weetabix?
My passion lies in operations and people and my current position is Group People and IT Director at Weetabix. My role is to make sure we continue to make Weetabix a great place to work, through the talent, capabilities, behaviours and ways of working of our brilliant people, as well as the systems, processes and the tools people use to do their jobs.
Please could you give us an overview of the types of roles in the organisation?
There are a variety of roles available at Weetabix, across manufacturing, procurement and supply chain, commercial, finance, research and development, engineering and marketing.
We work with schools and universities through our Open Door programme, where school children come to visit our sites, as well as with our apprenticeships to make engineering and manufacturing an appealing career choice.
You’ve published the Weetabix gender pay gap report in October 2017, well ahead of the April 2018 deadline. What drove your decision to report sooner and why is this transparency so important to the organisation?
As a leading company within our sector, it’s crucial we lead by example and publish our pay. We’re proud of our results and as we were ready to share the figures, we thought there would be interest in publishing the results early.
There is a gap, which we’re not proud of, and there’s still more for us to do. However, you’ll see from the report that there was a positive closing in the gap. The results show that Weetabix had a 5.4% pay gap in mean pay in 2016-17. We’ve closed it by 3.7% over the past year and in the last few years we have been working on addressing any unconscious biases. We’re proud of this and are keen to get our message out about how important it is for us as a business to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
What are the lessons learned for the organisation with regards to reporting and how did the figures help you?
We didn’t learn anything specifically from the process of gender pay reporting as it was a journey we were already on. Over the past five years we’ve been working to make sure gender is not a factor in any decision, including what our colleagues are paid. Ensuring we encourage career progression for all colleagues in our business, regardless of gender, has been and remains at the heart of our leadership team’s agenda.
We’ll continue to look at data, as well as policies and procedures to make sure we don’t have any unconscious biases in them. For example, where previously our working hours may have better suited some people than others, now we have flexible working hours. Through our Weetabix people survey we are getting really good feedback on these policies and can see that they are being well respected and appreciated by the team.
Why are a strong narrative and robust communication so important?
It’s important to have a strong narrative and robust communications around gender pay so that everyone knows where an organisation stands. I believe reporting the gender pay gap is a positive thing. It will ensure transparency and make many companies which employ manufacturing staff re-look at and remove any potential biases within their organisation.
For Weetabix, it’s been as important to make the internal team aware of our positive news, as it has been to communicate the news externally. Not only does it make the team proud to work for Weetabix, it gives our partners and potential future talent an insight into the company too.
What changes, if any, would you like to see around the reporting requirements?
The process of gender pay reporting has been quite straightforward for us. They were already figures that we were aware of and that we’re happy to continue reporting moving forwards.
It’s been a positive thing and there is now so much more awareness in the UK now about the gap within businesses and the media. Our report has helped to remind us of the work that still needs to be done to close the gap further and we’ll continue to work on this, regardless of any reporting requirements.
What is your advice for organisations that have yet to report in the last few weeks before the deadline?
Each business is different and I can’t really comment on what other businesses should be doing, but I will say that the process of gender pay gap has been straight forward for us.
The more companies that publish their results, the better, as it puts pressure on all businesses to reduce the gender pay gap – and that can only be a good thing.
What is coming up next for you and Weetabix?
One of the challenges we face is that manufacturing is traditionally a male dominated environment so our numbers are skewed somewhat by the number of men within our business. We therefore want to make sure we make Weetabix an attractive place to work, to ensure we continue to attract, recruit and retain both men and women.
31% of our workforce is female, but, where appropriate, we want to encourage more to come into the business. Inclusion is an important focus for Weetabix, and we’re working on initiatives to promote inclusion across all of our teams, such as growing our apprenticeships, encouraging more flexibility in our working practices and employee benefits, and promoting self-development through our learning programmes. We’re also actively working on sharing our common experiences through the media, networking groups and mentoring opportunities.
We’re not actually trying to recruit more women. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we get the very best recruit for the role and to ensure there is no unconscious bias in their appointment.