Founded in 2010 by CEO Ben Panter, Edinburgh-based Blackford Analysis (“Blackford”) provides an independent platform for the effective selection, deployment, management and use of best-in-class medical imaging applications and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The team grew to 25 staff in its first 10 years to 2020. Since then it has more than tripled in size to over 80 employees.
In its early years, Blackford hired AAB People’s services to develop and introduce an HR policies and procedures handbook, and help with ad hoc queries as required. As its needs increased, it turned to AAB People in July 2020 for more regular, continuing, multi-level HR support. The management team sought an ongoing partner who could help them retain and nurture the rapidly increasing team and enable the company to grow smoothly by providing tactical, everyday HR help and longer-term strategic people management support.
“Having AAB People supporting us in such a wide range of everyday HR needs, as well as helping us plan for the future, gives us the essential space we need to step back and reflect on how we want to grow and how we can best retain and develop all our talented people and recruit the best talent into the company.”
Amy Mohr, HR Manager, Blackford Analysis
An urgent priority was to help Blackford manage how its team worked during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. We provided advice on how to run operations with a mostly remote workforce, progressing gradually to a structure that combines remote, hybrid and on-site working. AAB People then helped to transform Blackford’s recruitment and on-boarding processes during its remarkable rapid growth phase. This involved building job descriptions, engaging agencies, hiring and training new staff, and creating professional development plans. A robust structure is now in place for all aspects of on-boarding, both for employees and their line managers. A new HR system has been introduced to manage sickness, holidays, parental leave and other core staff needs. AAB People also advised on any employee relations case management that arose, and undertook a salary benchmarking exercise to support the management team in its salary reviews.
As a result of Blackford’s growth, AAB People’s recruitment support extended to helping Blackford find and recruit its own dedicated HR Manager in 2022. AAB People have remained an integral part of the team, working with the HR Manager, as the firm continues to grow and to require solid people management and development processes to support its fast increasing headcount. Weekly check-ins explore the changing levels of input required and emerging HR-related topics for collaboration. The AAB People team are known to the majority of Blackford employees and remain a touchpoint for all staff on all HR issues when required, proving particularly useful when the HR Manager is absent or on leave.
AAB People also designed and delivered for Blackford a company-wide exercise (involving focus groups with every member of staff) to capture the core values that guide all company activity, decisions and internal culture. Every employee was asked “What is Blackford to you?” and as a result of the project, the company now seeks to embed its core values of being adaptable, robust and collaborative in all that it does.
A new feature has been the introduction of the People Forum. AAB People helped to involve employees from across the Blackford business in regular discussions around a variety of topics, including employee engagement, processes and social activities. A key outcome was the creation of an employee engagement survey and subsequent recommendations on review of the survey results.
In summary, AAB People provide comprehensive help and support in managing the full employee lifecycle at Blackford, from recruitment through to succession planning. The two companies work closely to review and implement HR best practice and initiatives that work best for Blackford as a company and their employees.
HR Manager Amy Mohr, who joined Blackford in 2022, particularly welcomes the mentoring provided by AAB People as much as the creation and delivery of HR and employment policies, processes and procedures. As the day-to-day handling of HR processes is increasingly handled by Blackford in–house, AAB People’s coaching, strategic guidance and future planning support has now taken a front seat.
“AAB People clearly care about our people and how we nurture them. We feel that they are part of us. They want to make a difference. They add value constantly, not only with recruitment, on-boarding and professional development, but also by acting as a proactive, bigger-picture adviser on company culture. The company-wide values and purpose project was fantastic.”
“Our relationship has evolved as the company has matured. I see huge benefit in the role that AAB People plays as our trusted adviser, sounding board, our coach and our mentor on all HR, people management and professional development topics.”
“They keep us on our toes, they keep us in touch with what’s working well in other firms, and most of all, they bring a consistency that is vital to our ability to look after our people well. The team provided great guidance and role development advice in particular to our Office Manager, who has less experience in HR and is now exploring a career in this field.”
“In our weekly sessions it’s valuable to be able to discuss the best timing for new initiatives and how best to ensure that HR priorities are balanced, for example, how best to manage a new recruitment drive if our line managers are already busy training new hires or managing existing employees and busy workloads.”
Amy Mohr, HR Manager, Blackford Analysis