Established in 1948, Douglas Laing is an independent, family-owned Scotch Whisky business. A leading distiller, blender and bottler based in Glasgow, the 60-strong company has a premium, award-winning collection of brands that are enjoyed worldwide.
With over 75 years industry expertise and experience, this family-run business is now in its third generation of ‘Laings’ at the helm. The founder, Fred Douglas Laing, was a true entrepreneur and innovator who still remains at the heart of its mission. Today the company is headed up by Fred’s son, Fred Junior and his grand-daughter Cara.
Having supported Douglas Laing for four years, AAB People recently increased its level of support in mid-2023. Douglas Laing’s incoming executive business partner Claire Bruce found that HR was an increasing part of her role in a fast-growing business. She asked AAB to review and elevate the company’s entire HR provision.
Consultant Jane Connell worked with Claire to review and upgrade all policies, contracts, systems, and to help advance their HR processes. Together they worked to create a different way of working and bring more structure around HR to reflect the changing business needs.
Jane has been a consistent behind-the-scenes source of practical materials, support and guidance ever since, freeing up Claire to manage day-to-day employee-facing operations with a trusted sounding board at hand.
A key feature of AAB People’s support for Douglas Laing has been to help manage employee relations across the different locations and diverse working environments. As well as bringing a deeper understanding of employment law, this support has also helped to produce supporting documents for emerging situations. Jane and team have also advised on how to balance the needs of employee and employer to achieve the best outcomes for the business.
Executive business partner Claire Bruce has valued the part-of-the team working relationship, and the knowledge that AAB People can always steer the business in the right direction.
“It’s a very positive experience, working with AAB People. Jane and James have practically become part of our extended team. It doesn’t feel like an external consultancy and never feels disjointed. They’ve adapted to my style of working and that really helps.”
They took us back to basics. We now have a framework and more structure for everything to do with HR, and it’s invaluable to be guided on employment law and to have templates for every type of situation, whether it’s about returning to work, managing sickness absence, paternity leave, employing new and expectant mothers, hybrid working or new car allowance rules. They help us sense check how we manage our people. They also advise us on wider issues and trends that help us attract and retain talent. We can now deliver our 2024 people strategy with more solid foundations.
“Having AAB there gives me support in what can be sometimes feel like a lonely role, because we don’t have an internal HR team. We all like as humans to bounce things off people, especially when they are sensitive issues. Their daily support makes me feel more confident and provides the knowledge that we’re doing the right thing. Nothing is too big or small. Their constant support is key for me to be able to do my job, and actually, I couldn’t do it without them!
AAB offer such a variety of experience. It’s all there under one umbrella. I can go to them for everything. We found the benchmarking info on salaries in like-for-like businesses really useful. I didn’t realise that they also cover health and safety or whistleblowing policies, for example. I love that we can draw on the experience and expertise of their wider team to build the right kind of policies to suit our culture. Getting that right is a massive thing for me.
We’re fortunate that at 60 employees we can still have conversations with everyone, unlike in a big corporation. But in a business with such a fast-paced growth and a lot of change, it’s great to have AAB’s support to make sure we’re putting our next foot forward and looking after our growing team as best we can. Having more structure means we have more control.
The people management needs in manufacturing are quite different. AAB help us think about how we can bring a training and development framework to our manufacturing and bottling teams that also suits functions like accounting and marketing. When we’re looking at policies and procedures, we need to reflect different needs of those different environments and working hours. Although we are one company, we have to be flexible enough to meet all their diverse requirements and still bring consistency.”