How putting people first has helped Cranswick tackle staff shortages - Comment

Good in equals good out”. This simple mantra inspired a group of farmers to start Cranswick in 1975. Their beginnings were humble but their ambitions were anything but, and in the 1980s Cranswick moved into food production, bringing one of the first true ‘farm to fork’ offerings to a large market.

Addressing how people achieve a work/life balance is just as crucial to retaining and recruiting staff as how much you pay them. PHOTO: OJO Images / Rex Features.

Today, our business is one of the biggest food producers in Britain. We are a successful business with a long-term view, yet we’re not immune from the current economic and labour market challenges.

You will have seen in the news about the staff shortages. Recruiting and retaining workers is critical to keeping timed production lines going. Meeting these challenges, we have had to adapt quickly. In doing so, we took stock of our roots.

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Putting people at the heart of our business, we have been able to maintain rates of productivity and our position as a national supplier. What we have learned from current challenges will strengthen our business in the future.

In a time of staff shortages, there are numerous issues to address. To retain our staff, of course rates of pay must be competitive but you need to go further than that. We want our business to be a better place for our people to work.

Increasing links into the local community has led us to re-structure some of our working patterns with more flexible, family friendly hours. We are also improving pastoral support for our workers, many of whom have English as a second language.

Addressing how people experience life at work and achieve work/life balance is just as crucial to retaining and recruiting staff as how much you pay them.

To drive our recruitment, we have forged links with schools and community groups, attended events, careers fairs and open days to make sure people in Malton and other local towns, are aware of our job opportunities.

Our wider community links have also brought to life an educational side to what we can offer, sharing our knowledge on topics such as valuing local produce, minimising food waste and healthy eating.

There’s no doubt times are hard and in order to meet our commitments in the short term, we may have to simplify our product ranges and delay product development, but once the many external factors start to settle down, we can get back on track with our medium and longer-term plans.

We are also adapting our operations to become fully circular, making sure nothing goes to waste and helping us to build a net zero business. Having a local workforce also contributes to those aims.

Active planning helps us to ride out the current storm and recognising the value of a localised workforce to our business will be critical to our long-term success.

I am a member of the Business Board of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. It is our role to identify current and emerging issues at the heart of all types of business and use that understanding to inform business support and economic strategy.

The vast majority of our region’s businesses are small and micro and every single one of them will have faced unprecedented challenge and change over the last 18 months.

As a board, we are keen to hear from businesses across the region, and to understand how they have met these challenges and what that means for where their business goes next.

The York & North Yorkshire LEP’s annual conference is on Friday and will offer such an opportunity to listen and learn. Visit to find out more.