Department Index

Control Office Publication journal

Control Office Correspondence Group. Photo 1951

Control Office Typing School. Photo 1951


The Control Office

The Control Office was the office of the firm's Comptroller of the Clerical Department and was the home of the Assistant Comptrollers. The Office, as the name implied, co-ordinated the work of the general offices in the Clerical Department and, in particular, assisted management to carry out staff policy. Other members of its staff acted as advisers on personnel matters, saw to the engagement of new staff, and organised staff training and preparation of certain personnel records. All staff employed in the Cadby Hall offices were engaged through the Control Office. A list of vacancies was kept to show which offices wanted clerks and for what job, and constant contact was maintained with employment exchanges (now called job centres), youth employment committees and local agencies, which were all probable sources of staff. These contacts were supplemented with advertisements which were placed in local and national newspapers.

Applicants were interviewed and given appropriate tests for arithmetic, typing, office machine operation and/or general intelligence. The results of these tests were taken into account at the interview to help staff engagers to decide where the applicant might be most useful. Quite a different approach from today when interviewing is more of a two-way process. Transferring existing staff (perhaps promotion) to other jobs in other offices was carried out in the same way. At the initial interview for new staff, Income Tax forms had to be completed and an Insurance Card obtained. A medical examination was carried out by the firm's doctor and a photograph of the applicant was taken which would remain on his/her record card.

The clerical staff numbers at Cadby Hall in the 1950s was in excess of 2,000 and the Control Office had to keep abreast of the general conditions of employment and rates of pay offered by others firms in the area. This was carried out in a number of ways: by discussions with the staff applying for, and leaving for other jobs; by consultations with other firms in the area; by studying press advertisements; and by comparison with such analyses of clerical rates that were published from time to time.

In addition the Control Office also provided a secretarial service for the Clerical Staff Committee and its various sub-committees, working in close conjunction with the office committees and arranging regular supervisors' meetings during the winter months. It produced, and maintained, the Clerical Staff Handbook, and also published an in house magazine called The Journal. Weekly staff changes were made to the Comptroller and every quarter a report of general staff statistics was produced.

The Training School, which was the responsibility of the Control Office, carried out all centralised clerical training and maintained a library of technical books which could be borrowed for study or reference by any member of the Clerical Department through the office manager. Nearly all staff were given induction training on the Company's history and organisation. Tuition was given by the training staff in shorthand, typing and machine operation and other courses as required. There was also a special course for Group Leaders and Supervisors.

When the company began its decentralisation policy in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the work of the Control Office was reduced as departments and subsidiaries began to take responsibility for their own recruitment. Modern technology too needed different employment skills and the Control Office was not in a position to provide this. Dictaphones, word processors, computer programmers, systems analysts, computer operators, tape librarians, to name a few, changed office procedures forever. Right up until the 1970s office staff was less expensive than computers. Now of course labour costs far outweigh the cost of technology.

Some interesting statistics were thrown up in the 1951 Census, the first since the Census of 1931. During the 20-year span between them, the number of clerks almost doubled. In 1951 there were 2.3 million clerks employed by British industry; the increase since 1931 being equivalent to the whole population of Birmingham at that time. One in ten workers were clerks.

© Peter Bird 2005