5 lessons all business owners can learn from George Cadbury

As a business owner, maintaining the morale of your staff to ensure high levels of productivity is incredibly important. With that in mind, employee retention plays a very key role in the success of your business.

Indeed, research by Oxford Economics revealed that the average cost of turnover per employee (earning £25,000 or more) is £30,614. Having a regular turnover of staff could not only mean losing out on money and valuable members of the team but also reduced employee morale.

UK business owners could do well to follow the example of George Cadbury, who would have been celebrating his 184th birthday in September. Cadbury was known as a pioneer for workers’ rights and was one of the first UK business owners to offer staff benefits, including building homes for his workers.

So, find out why Cadbury was so respected and appreciated by his employees and the five lessons you can learn from how he ran his business and treated his workers.

George Cadbury was an advocate for worker rights

Although George Cadbury is known worldwide for producing great-tasting chocolate, he is primarily known by his ex-employees for promoting superb working conditions, an inclusive and supportive culture, and offering worker benefits like nobody before him.

Cadbury was a pioneer of improving the living and working conditions of his employees, building houses for his workers, and forming work councils that discussed working conditions, health, recreational activities, safety, and education.

One of his strongest beliefs was that “If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?” With that in mind, he built a new playground and summer camps and introduced country outings for his employees’ children. Indeed, in 1902, 30% of the firm’s capital expenditure was on workers’ welfare.

Additionally, Cadbury became one of the first firms in Victorian times to introduce a Saturday half-day off work and allowed all staff to have the day off on any bank holidays.

If you’re looking for inspirational ways to look after your valued team, here are five ideas from the Victorian entrepreneur.

1. Create a diverse and inclusive culture

George Cadbury was well-known for making sure that his workforce felt as welcomed and included as possible. In 2023, this is even more relevant than ever before.

Starting from the top, it’s important to encourage a sense of belonging in the workplace and create a safe and welcoming environment for people of all nationalities, sexual orientations, and genders.

In addition to connecting with employees on a personal level and welcoming different perspectives and opinions, creating a healthy culture includes giving employees multiple ways to provide feedback, so they feel they can speak up with suggestions for improvement.

2. Improve working conditions

Whether your business has 2 or 200 employees, it’s essential that you make sure that working conditions are as good as possible. That’s exactly what George Cadbury did, believing that workers who enjoyed a happy home and working life would be more productive and help the company to grow as a result.

Believing in the social rights of workers, he had canteens and sports grounds installed in his Bourneville factory. Additionally, he purchased 120 acres next to the factory so that he could build low-cost houses for all his employees.

While you might not feel the need to do the same, it’s worth taking on board Cadbury’s perspectives on workers’ rights and working conditions to ensure that your staff are happy, content, and comfortable.

For example, do your employees all have the equipment they need to be as productive and safe at work? Do you provide training and mentoring to help your workers to develop their skills? Is the equipment and technology that you use up-to-date and of the highest possible quality?

3. Understand workers’ needs for time away from the business

George Cadbury was known as one of the first employers to introduce a half-day of work on Saturday and allow his staff to have bank holidays off.

Aside from providing them with additional time off, he also believed in giving his staff the opportunity to take part in recreational activities outside of work and encouraged sport among his workers.

Studies have shown the benefits of a more content and happier workforce, with the University of Warwick’s study revealing that happiness made people around 12% more productive.

So, look at what you can do as an employer to allow your staff more time away from the business, whether that’s flexible working hours, remote working (where suitable), or giving them their birthday off as additional paid holiday.

4. Ensure supportive management structures

As a business owner, it is important that you have management structures that aim to help educate, support, and inspire your workforce. George Cadbury believed the same.

As a pioneer of workers’ rights, he was very intent on making sure that he and his brother truly supported his employees and gave them all the tools they needed to work productively.

To ensure his staff felt included in decisions relating to the future of the business, Cadbury formed work councils. These enabled them to openly discuss everything from working conditions and health to education and safety.

Additionally, Cadbury encouraged younger employees to attend night schools, allowing them to leave work early twice a week.

With many UK jobseekers wanting transparency, career development opportunities, and flexibility, and looking for businesses that value employees and offer a true work/life balance, it’s important that business owners follow Cadbury’s example where possible.

5. Provide staff benefits

George Cadbury is a fine example of an employer that focused on providing his staff with additional benefits.

Aside from the low-cost housing he built for his workers, he was also one of the first employers of a factory-led business to establish a pension fund in 1906. Cadbury also introduced sick pay of up to 90% of base wage and a dependent’s provident fund paid a lump sum to a next of kin if a male worker died under the age of 65.

Alongside that, the management team at Cadbury also organised reduced rail fares with the railway companies to reduce costs for their employees and developed dental and medical departments too.

When it comes to staff benefits, there are many things that you and other business owners can learn from Cadbury’s example. With staff benefits proving to be a great way of increasing staff loyalty and happiness, it may be worth you looking into what you can do to provide incentives for your staff.

With jobseekers now typically looking for flexibility, affordable healthcare insurance options, retirement plans, paid time off, and even childcare assistance, taking a leaf out of Cadbury’s book and prioritising worker welfare could be truly beneficial to your business. Not only would you be able to attract the very best, but you’d be more likely to retain them, too.

Get in touch

As a business owner, it’s easy to focus on the financial aspects of your business while neglecting your personal finances.

We work closely with many business owners and can help you develop a robust financial plan designed to help you to grow your personal wealth and achieve your life goals.

We can also help you to arrange a financial benefits package that could help you to attract and retain the best talent.

To find out how we can help you, please get in touch. Email or call us on 01454 416653.

Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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