Neal Meets..... Copeland

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Neal Lucas, Managing Director of the leading executive search and selection company Neal Lucas Recruitment, continues to talk to the HR Directors behind some of Northern Ireland’s most successful companies in this popular Ulster Business series.

This month he meets Liz Kearns, HR Manager, Copeland Ltd, Cookstown.


Name: Liz Kearns

Title: Human Resources Manager

Company: Copeland Ltd

Who is Copeland Ltd?: Copeland Ltd is a subsidiary of Emerson, employs 14,000 people worldwide and is a global leader in the application of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Copeland Cookstown supplies scroll compressors for refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump systems into Europe.

Years in Post: 15

No of Employees (NI): 200

Career Highlight: Winning the overall Emerson Operational Excellence Award – we were the first plant in Europe to be recognised by Emerson for our world class approach to our business through our people!

 With the Copeland Headquarters facilitated in Germany, how often do you communicate with your European partners and what are the key strategies for the HR function?

We have an excellent relationship with the European HR teams through annual meetings and monthly teleconferences discussing future strategy and challenges. HR has become a strategic function of the business and our key developing strategies are leadership effectiveness, continual learning and employee engagement. As a recognised Investor in People for over 10 years we firmly believe that the day to day involvement and development of our team are key reasons for our continued success. We have a very low absenteeism rate of 2% which we aim to maintain through further development of our health and wellbeing programme in 2012.

What is expected of Copeland employees and what training and development opportunities are available to them?

All team members have on the job training through standard work. Team members in production are trained to a specific standard in their work operations and rotate operations on a daily basis for variety of work and to maintain their skills base. Team members also have the opportunity to undertake part time study to improve their career opportunities. All of our Leaders have achieved qualifications up to and including MBA and MSC level and have completed the Emerson leadership and People Management programmes.

You are well known for being leading local exponents of Lean Manufacturing techniques, how does HR help deliver this?

The HR team is trained in lean manufacturing processes and have practiced this approach since the early days of Copeland . We are a recognised training Centre and have put 80 team members and first line leaders through NVQs in Business Improvement Techniques over the past 2 years. This has helped our people to identify waste and cost saving opportunities allowing us to improve performance in areas of quality, lead time and cost whilst maintaining a competitive advantage. After all, lean concepts are just tools and techniques that everyone can have access to; it is how they are used that is important!

Is there a Corporate Responsibility programme in place at Copeland?

As a large employer in Cookstown, we believe in giving back to the area in which we work. Our CSR programme gives employees the opportunity to volunteer within the community.Work experience and school visits are also facilitated regularly through close contact with local schools.

 What HR policies at Copeland have most improved the HR function within the organisation?

Our Learning and Development policy has led to numerous internal promotions and career opportunities for our team. Our workforce is relatively young (average age of 29) and is keen to learn new skills and progress quickly through the business. 90% of our Team Leaders and Managers have been promoted from within Copeland.

Are employees with the correct skillset at Copeland readily available within Northern Ireland? If not, what steps can be taken to improve this?

When the plant opened in 1997, unemployment levels were 17.5%. As our product is unique to Northern Ireland, team members underwent internal training to ensure we had the necessary skills to manufacture our high quality product. Today unemployment figures average at 4% and it is increasingly difficult to recruit engineers. Whilst maintaining good working relationships with local colleges and universities, I do believe we need to further enhance education and industry relationships to ensure that future recruitment and development needs are met.

 How do you ensure wellbeing in the workplace?

In conjunction with our Health & Well Being Programme, we have worked really hard to develop a positive culture within Copeland. We have implemented an “Emerson Olympic Values” initiative that is helping us ensure Copeland Ltd is what everyone working here wants it to be. This focuses on positive behaviours of respect, teamwork, involvement and improvement. Role play workshops are facilitated for employees to act out typical personality traits. For example Miss Teamwork, Mr Considerate and Miss ‘My Way’. By acting out everyday situations in a certain manner, it becomes obvious how one person’s attitude can affect the whole team performance. This is a fun way of highlighting that each team member’s engagement in a positive way is fundamental to our continued success.