Case Study - Mortons of Horncastle

Mortons is a print and publishing business with 250 employees, making it the largest employer in the town of Horncastle. As a growing business the company is keen to attract the best employees by standing out as a great employer.

One of the ways Mortons demonstrates its commitment to employees is by funding and supporting its’ well established social club, the ‘Out of Hours’ club. The club is run by employees for employees and receives a budget from the company each year to put on events, activities and informal learning sessions. In 2011 Mortons employees Fran and Jayne, who run the Out of Hours club, along with HR Manager, Michael Gill, became involved with Workplace Learning Advocates (WLAs) and were instrumental in helping to set up the Lincolnshire & Rutland network of WLAs as part of the Employment and Skills Board pilot. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspired a number of local employers to start up their own informal learning clubs and to look at their own learning cultures.

Fran and Jayne subsequently took part in the Workplace Learning Advocate training including a two day accredited Information and Advice Course run by The Johnston Partnership. This enabled them to take their approach to informal learning to a new height, giving new insight into courses available and advice on how to engage people and overcome barriers to learning.

Jayne and Fran now support other WLAs, providing support, encouragement and information about what is available in the local area.    And it’s not just Mortons’ employees who benefit from their Out of Hours Club.  Events and activities are also open to family members and employees of local companies, such as Forum Packaging.

Activities run by the Out of Hours club are split between learning and social with a strong health and wellbeing theme including for example yoga, running and health checks. This ties into the organisations health and wellbeing agenda. The recent focus on health and wellbeing at work has resulted in a good relationship with the local ‘Health Trainers’ initiative. This has been very successful with many employees taking up the opportunity to have a health check. The club has also organised themed events covering bad backs, stress and diabetes to raise awareness of prevention and once a month an occupational health visitor comes into the organisation to give support.

The club has been designed to fit the organisation culture. Morton’s Workplace Learning Advocates encourage people to see ‘Out of Hours’ as belonging to employees, and encourage their colleagues to put forward suggestions for the activity programme.  Other activities have included cookery demonstrations and cupcake decorating classes; visits and talks on bee-keeping; rambles through the local countryside; photography classes and painting. The WLAs also take time to promote the club and its activities finding awareness as key to the clubs success. They use a busy area within the workplace to host activities and the staff newsletter is issued with payslips to capture people’s attention and remind them of what’s on offer via the club.

Persuading people to take their first step to get involved in activities is one of the biggest challenges for WLAs Fran and Jayne. To overcome this they encourage colleagues to take part together on the basis that when one person in a team tries something new others are likely to follow. A key finding for Mortons is that once people take part in informal learning through the Out of Hours club they tend to become more willing to undertake formal learning. The print room, a department where employees were initially reluctant to take part in formal learning, now has 80% of the team with a work related qualification.

Mortons’ commitment is paying dividends for its employees through greater qualifications, better health and improved working relationships. It’s also benefiting the business. Absence is very low at just 1.8%. Staff turnover is also very low and this has had a significant impact on recruitment costs. Exit interviews show that the Out of Hours club is highly valued by employees and a key part of the company’s reputation as one of the best employers in the local area.

As for WLAs Jayne and Fran, the role has had a big personal impact. They have both taken up public speaking opportunities to promote the Out of Hours Club which has significantly contributed to their personal development and confidence. As part of the local WLA network they have had many more opportunities to network with people from other local organisations and this has increased perspective and helped generate new ideas. Michael Gill said, "The WLA project has been good for Mortons, it has reinvigorated the Out Club and both Jayne and Fran have gained much from it. Mortons will be all the richer for that".