1. Coming together to share best practice
The fourth industrial revolution is here, and the conditions for continued success are changing at a dizzying speed. To make the right decisions and convert challenges into opportunities, it is a good idea to turn to those who have already taken the first step. That was the point of departure for Digitalisation Day, which brought together around 100 group colleagues in Stockholm in September 2016. The agenda included visions from external experts, as well as important experiences from several subsidiaries. One overriding message was not to suffer from digital stress, but to start projects allowing plenty of time to think through the various options and solutions.
Digitalisation Day was one of many examples of how new knowledge is spread throughout the group so that it can then take flight in each individual company. “Being a part of Axel Johnson International is essentially being handed the key to an enormous competence cluster,” says Martin Malmvik, CEO, and President of Axel Johnson International. “In addition to our tailor-made training programmes, we meet up in different contexts, and bridge markets and business areas to share experiences and discuss new ideas, exploiting the benefits of being a group and working together, bringing us new challenges.”
2. Seeing and nurturing individual talent
“Spending quality time on recruitment is important, but more important is to ensure that people are growing once in employment. It’s about feeling ownership and being in control of one’s own destiny. I’m very passionate about holding on to our people, since I know it’s good for the organisation – staff retention being one of our KPIs,” says Kevin Smith, Managing Director at Certex UK.
According to Kevin, Axel Johnson International’s strong values as regards sustainability and long-term thinking mean that acquired companies are encouraged to preserve their entrepreneurial spirit, make their own decisions and make things happen – and also to continuously develop their people. Kevin likes to use Axel Johson International Business School to inspire his employees and develop their knowledge, and also talks abut the satisfaction of discovering talent and developing it within the organisation.
Will and skill are what counts
“Will and skill are what counts. First of all, as an individual, you have to want to do it and then we have a responsibility to develop the skills to do it. We have for example Atlanta Khalil, who joined us as an office junior at the age of 16 and will celebrate her tenth year in November. She’s grown under the guidance and encouragement of her manager Dave Butler and is now our offshore supervisor, planning and mobilising our offshore engineers to respond to customers’ requirements. This is a successful element of our business. This is a successful element of our business and the story about Atlanta is clear evidence: when our people grow, we grow.”
3. Training at our own business school
Axel Johnson International Business School gives our people an opportunity to extend their skills and develop their full potential. The programme comprises several tailor-made professional courses focusing on career development, such as Personal Leadership, Profitability and Business Understanding, Contract Law and Insurance, and Structured Storytelling.
4. Mentoring the next generation
How can we retain our employees’ unique skills when the people who know “everything” retire? This is a highly topical subject for Danny van Deuzen, Managing Director of Mennens. Steel wire rope accounts for 25-30% of sales, and with an ambition to grow further in this segment, knowledge that has been built up over decades is a key piece of the puzzle.
“Knowledge and experience are essential to success when handling steel wire rope enquires,” Danny explains. “Most of the solutions we sell are far from standard, and to have employees with ‘I’ve-seen-that-before’ experience is invaluable. We still have some people with these unique skills, but we’re facing a challenge since some of them will retire within a few years.”
You never see the same construction twice, which is why experience from similar solutions is crucial.
It is essential to make it easier for older employees to pass their experience on to the next generation. In 2016 we launched a unique training programme for selected people in the group. Pairs of employees share a mentor and spend 18 months taking part in key training work. It is of course essential that the training is of high quality: it not only ensures knowledge for the company, but it is also a way of keeping younger employees interested, and thus retaining them for the future.
Programme Manager Kees van Tilborg has a long history with Mennens. Since starting out in the steel wire factory four decades ago, Kees has seen a continual increase in pace. This calls for the perfect planning. And access to past knowledge is crucial to success. “What we do is not just about replacing steel wire ropes, it’s about giving advice regarding the construction and making it last and be safe for a long time to come,” he says. “You never see the same construction twice, which is why experience from similar solutions is crucial. And since our work, repairing bridges for example, is to make society function, I’m very happy to let young and motivated colleagues inherit my knowledge.”