Meet Emma Bateman – HR specialist and rollercoaster addict.
Everybody needs to switch off from the stresses of the day job – but Emma Bateman’s idea of relaxation would be most people’s worst nightmare.
After all, you need a certain masochistic streak to willingly volunteer to tackle some of the world’s biggest and most terrifying rollercoasters.
And then go back for more.
Emma, the new Group Head of HR for Whitworth Bros and Carr’s Flour Mills, can’t see what the fuss is all about, though.
“I don’t find them frightening at all,” she says. “When everyone else is screaming, I just laugh. It’s a very safe environment – these rides are constantly tested – so even if you think you’re in danger you really aren’t.”
Over the last few years Emma and her two teenage children – fellow rollercoaster addicts – have been regulars at Alton Towers, Lightwater Valley and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Sometimes they jet off to Florida to try out the rides at Universal Studios or Busch Gardens.
In recent months their adventures have been curtailed by Covid restrictions, of course. And nine months ago Emma started her new job at Whitworths in the most challenging of circumstances “It’s been a challenging time to start somewhere new,” 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’ve been 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 has had an impact on people’s mental health across the board. All we can do is try to be supportive of individuals, because everyone is different.”
Emma was approached by an agency 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 control 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.”
When it comes to HR itself, Emma believes the sector has undergone fundamental changes of its own.
“The internet has been incredibly helpful in keeping up to date with case law, legislation and best practice, but overall it has become less relationship-driven and more litigious. People are a lot more aware of their rights – which is a good thing –because wherever I’ve been it’s been about dignity and respect for both the person and the business.”
Nine months into her new role, and with things slowly getting back to normal, Emma is steadily building up her team. She will have two HR advisors, two administrators, and an apprentice as she is in the process of recruiting more staff to cover the whole group.
But also keeps one eye on the restrictions as they apply to pleasure parks – and particularly her beloved rollercoasters.
“As soon as the doors open, we’ll be first in the queue for the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers,” she promises.