A Kingston University researcher is helping to accelerate a major car manufacturer’s recruitment drive after carrying out a pioneering study of the company’s workforce. Dr Fiona Moore, a senior lecturer in human resource management, has been working alongside staff on the final assembly line at BMW’s Mini plant in Oxfordshire. For three months, Dr Moore worked 10-hour shifts to see for herself how ethnic and gender differences affected productivity and social relations at the company.
The firm was particularly concerned that less than 10 per cent of its workforce was female. Dr Moore looked at how improving working practice and better staff management could boost this number. “The type of research I carry out is very hands on – I live or work with the people I’m investigating,” Dr Moore explained. “I was taken on as a temporary employee of BMW, and my job was to test the cars’ electrical systems and fit particular parts. As well as observing first hand how the company operated, I carried out interviews with managers and spoke to workers on the line to see how they felt.”
Dr Moore discovered that, although the firm had a number of initiatives in place to cater for the needs of a diverse ethnic workforce, gender concerns were a different issue. “I found the majority of women employed on the line were either young and childless, or over 40 with grown-up children,” she said. “I concluded that mothers were not applying for manufacturing jobs in the first place, partly because organisations in the sector do not place enough emphasis on childcare issues.”
Dr Moore is now investigating how management education programmes can be adapted to allow factory bosses to get a better understanding of the needs of their employees. “Within office-based environments, flexible management has been practised for decades but that’s clearly not been the case on the shop floor,” she said. “I’m hoping my study will pinpoint how manufacturing companies develop working plans to help their staff and, in BMW’s case, solve their problem recruiting women.”