HIE Support

Right ingredients for fair work

Irené Archer holding a tray of oatcakes

Practical support at right time for Orkney bakery

Based in the picturesque harbour town of Stromness, Stockan’s Oatcakes is a 4th generation family-owned, award-winning business that has been baking oatcakes for over 100 years. 

Its story begins in the early 1900s, when the great grandfather of current owners, sisters Catriona and Irené, bought R. Gardens & Company bakery in Kirkwall. In 1986 the company took over Stockan's Oatcakes and in 2004 all operations moved to the bakery in Stromness. 

There have been many changes over the years but what has remained constant is the business's pride in their heritage, a focus on quality and taste, and a loyal, skilled workforce. – many with two or even four decades of service. The Islands remain central to operations where oatcakes are baked and shipped out to customers all over the world. Irené Archer explains why the business took the opportunity to review their set-up with the programme:

Why are the people who work with you so important to you and your business?
Our employees are one of our key assets and without them we would not be able to remain a commercially viable and successful business, especially given current market conditions. Keeping our existing staff and being able to attract new members is vital. Today there are three administrative staff based in Edinburgh and over 20 production-oriented staff in Stromness. To remain profitable, every employee has a very important role to play to make sure that the team is efficient and effective, and to help achieve this the organisation needs to operate with a fair work culture.

What was your main motivation in taking part in the Fair Work Support Programme? 
The main motivation was to have a fresh look at how we worked. Did we offer effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect, were our personnel management systems current and appropriate, and how did others view our culture if considering working with us.

Receiving an overview of the fair work principles prior to the workshop and then working through them in more detail during, was helpful.  It allowed us to recognise how the theory fitted within the business and how we could strengthen areas or put new ideas in place.

What kinds of areas did your 1-2-1 session focus on?
In the initial stages we identified that our Staff Handbook was central to our personnel management so being able to provide a copy to be read before the 1-2-1 proved very useful, helping us target areas that needed to be reviewed.

What was in your customised report?
The final report provided an accurate summary of the session:

  • identifying what we should continue doing - open door culture and offering job security.
  • what we should start doing - introducing more flexible working and trying to introduce promotion opportunities even within our flat organisational structure.
  • what we should stop doing - consider changing from more manual systems to an HR information system.

For others maybe thinking of taking part – what would you say is the most useful aspect from your experience?
The most interesting experience was from the webinar workshop breakout sessions when participants openly talked about their organisations, some of the issues they were tackling and solutions already in place. This highlighted possible action points which the 1-2-1 session then consolidated. 

In general, a very worthwhile programme to undertake which should benefit the whole business.

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