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Nature and Nurture

Founded in 1994, Natures Way Foods is a privately owned business that has made its name by manufacturing fresh, convenient food for major retailers and food service companies in the UK. Having expanded steadily and organically it now has a turnover of circa £135 million, and is recognised as one of the most advanced and innovative fresh produce manufacturers in the UK. The board recently embarked on a plan to double turnover over the next five years through a combination of customer and category diversification. As part of this drive Susan Barratt, the Chief Executive, asked Wickland Westcott to help find a high-calibre commercial HR Director with the intellect and personality to partner her in constructively challenging the senior management team, and put HR at the heart of the business. She was particularly looking for an energetic, open-minded leader with an enlightened approach to employee relations and the skills to build a high performing team and talent pipeline. The new recruit would need to thrive in a fast paced, rapidly changing environment.

The specification described a fully rounded, generalist HR role which also carried board accountability for health and safety, and driving the company's corporate and social responsibility agendas.  Susan wanted somebody who would contribute to the wider running of the business and act as the conscience of the company, ensuring it lives by the cultural values it espouses. The candidate profile called for a proven multi-site, change management track record and extensive experience managing employee relations, communications and negotiations. Ideally, this would be combined with specialist expertise in organisational design, learning and development, and performance management to develop the structure and skills to support the company’s growth, making it a brilliant place to work.

Wickland Westcott’s search strategy had a twin focus looking for high-calibre individuals at head of function/director level in the food industry and related retail/service sectors and identifying suitable individuals in a selection of blue-chip companies within 50 miles of Natures Way Foods' Head Office in Chichester. After an extensive search of the target sectors, and an interview process which focused on identifying the essential blend of strategic and hands-on commercial expertise that would command credibility both at board and factory floor level, an appointment was made. The successful candidate is a qualified occupational psychologist and coach, with demonstrable success building high performing teams in generalist and talent management roles. She combines a commercial and entrepreneurial approach with a passion for helping individuals and businesses realise their full potential.

"This assignment was critical to the continuous high performance of the executive team and the organisation as a whole. It was conducted very professionally and real care was shown to ensure any reservations or concerns were dealt with successfully before the offer was made."

Susan Barratt, Chief Executive, Natures Way Foods Ltd.