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How Did I Get Here, HR Director, Swizzels-Matlow


Nici Matlow, HR Director at confectionery company Swizzels-Matlow explains why the business’s sound culture and family element really makes life sweet!

1. How strategic is your current role and what does it involve?
As Head of HR, I oversee most aspects of the “people strategy”:

  • Training – together with the Training Manager, I look at how we can continue to develop our staff in order to maximise efficiencies – whether it be through the NVQ process or lean manufacturing.
  • Recruitment – together with the Recruitment Officer, we look at who we need to employ and when, what skills we need, and how to retain and motivate employees.
  • Wages – each year I have to plan a wage review that will satisfy the needs of the company and at the same time satisfy and motivate employees at all levels.

2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
The HR function has only been in existence since I took over the role in September. Before then it was Personnel and Training, under two different managers. Having said that, the organisation understands that the two functions needed to come together under the umbrella of HR, as they are so interlinked. Once someone has been recruited they then need to understand the culture of the organisation, how to work safely within it and be trained and developed to reach the standards required.

3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
By training our employees to the standard required we are able to continuously improve the way that we work and therefore keep costs down.

4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
This one is an easy answer. Being a family business (I am third generation), we care about our employees and treat them fairly and with respect. Also it isn’t just about work – we have a social club which organises trips and parties.

5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
With difficulty! Yet showing respect and listening to people gains a mutual understanding of common goals.

6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
I can’t really answer yes to this question otherwise I would be talking myself out of a job! However, I really believe that HR is about being at the heart of the company: understanding the needs of the organisation as well as the needs of the employees. Good HR practice is about being hands on – becoming a member of the whole team, getting to know each of the players and having a personal touch. Therefore, no, I don’t think that outsourced HR will have the same impact.

7. What’s the new skill set of HR?
Developing the organisation and not just the people in the organisation. Changing cultures and attitudes.

8. What’s the worst thing about working in HR and the best?
The worst thing about HR is that it is a service department; it has to service the needs of all other departments whilst at the same time trying to change the needs and develop the personnel. The best thing is that we are working with people and making a difference.

9. What are the key issues preventing HR professionals from getting a seat on the board?
Many board members, in my opinion, do not see HR as paramount to the running of a business – bottom line increased profits are not tangible. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to be persuaded that an HR Director needs to be involved in the decision making process of the business.

10. If you have a mantra / motto what is it?
Listen, learn, develop and don’t be scared of change.

11. What are you currently reading?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.

12. What would be your desert island disc?
Hotel California by the Eagles.

13. If you could have lunch with three famous people, dead or alive who would they be and why?

  • Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel – she was inspirational in her belief and ability to lead a people in a man’s world.
  • Ghandi – to be motivated by his good will and determination
  • Elvis – in his early years – because he was gorgeous!

14. If you’d like to be remembered for one thing what is it?
For making a difference to the culture of the organisation, taking us back to the “good old days” when the people were as important as the profit!

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.

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