21st century women in the milling industry
The HR Manager: Emma Bateman
Emma Bateman started her job as head of HR at Whitworth Bros in Wellingborough in the most challenging of circumstances.
No sooner had she taken up her new role, than the Covid pandemic hit.
“It would be an understatement to say it wasn’t difficult,” she says. “It’s hard to build up relationships when you can’t meet face-to-face, and that’s the way I’ve always liked to operate.
‘We were lucky to a certain extent because the flour milling industry had key worker status – a lot of people found that very helpful. But at the same time Covid had an impact on people’s mental health across the board. My job was to be supportive of individuals, because everyone is different.”
Emma was head-hunted for the Whitworth’s job from British Sugar, where she’d held a similar role since 2019. But her route into the HR world was unorthodox to say the least.
“I was working as a stock manager for a logistics company and the HR manager went off sick. The boss says, ‘You’re a girl, you can do it!’. So I did. And I loved it!”
That was 20 years ago. Since then Emma had launched her own business, become a partner with Access and spent four years in a senior role at Kier Group.
The flour milling industry was a new experience – and not what she was expecting.
“Like most people I just assumed it was all like Windy Miller, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s an amazing, modern industry with so much to offer in so many ways, and this Group is a huge investor in the latest equipment and technology.”
With things slowly getting back to normal, Emma is steadily building up her team. She has two HR advisors, two administrators and an apprentice and is in the process of recruiting more staff to cover the whole group.