Regaining control from unions

Regaining control from unions, Chemical production company, Antwerp, workforce of 250.

  • Tense social climate and repeated social crises have totally ruined the working atmosphere
  • Employees are demotivated by recurring internal problems
  • Absenteeism is increasing month after month
  • Investment budgets are severely limited by the crisis
  • Still, the factory must be run more efficiently to stay competitive
  • The challenge: demonstrate to employees, but also to management that they can change/improve a lot themselves
  • Management needs to “take back” the factory to avoid downsizing


Listening sessions at all levels (individual) and in group for the teams to get to the bottom of a number of trouble spots from the recent SD Works survey (no duplication of effort)

Action points formulated around the following themes:

1.Sustainable trust of directors/management/employees

2.Increase future-oriented leadership N-1, N-2, N-3

3.Productive time management with efficiency improvements and coordination arrangements

4.Develop more efficient work organisation for 2 sub-activities

5.Develop stimulating communication, coordination and consultation throughout the company

6.Cascade inspiring and motivating strategy throughout the plant

7.Renewed dialogue with the social partner: move on from the past, make new agreements in consultation


  • Step-by-step plan over 3 years
  • Year 1: focus on strengthening trust by making better use of the N-3s
  • Organisational structure redesigned and responsibilities clearly defined.
  • Initiative to start with a fixed monthly communication
  • Monthly consultation of management and N-3s started, to keep a finger on the pulse and to be able to work with a more anticipatory approach
  • Tackling absenteeism with a clear policy Addressed recurring disruptions with a major budget impact to free up existing resources for investments


  • After six months, positive signs of “peace process” were already detectable in terms of industrial relations.
  • A whole series of problems have been addressed that were previously swept under the rug or concealed.
  • Many actions have led to “quick wins” in terms of cost savings and have made more room for investments that boost competitiveness.
  • A number of trouble spots in terms of inadequate management have been addressed and permanently resolved.
  • For the first time in 30 years, the 3-yearly shutdown was carried out on time and within budget
  • The factory has learnt that a lot of intrinsic added value can be tapped into to remain competitive.

Creating new future

Creating new future, Travel agency, 30 people in Brussels.

  • CEO and CFO are fired (breach of shareholder’s trust)
  • New CEO is appointed but the team in Brussels refuses to accept it and threatens with a split
  • A split-off would mean the end of the office


  • Atmosphere is very hostile to change.
  • CEO and CFO have “agitated” the people against the shareholder and had already started organising a split-off in secret.
  • New CEO is very professional, has been working in the group for a long time but in a different travel segment. Employees are reluctant to accept him because he allegedly has no experience in their luxury segment. In fact, they would like to run the office themselves.
  • Employees have drawn up a document with their requirements for the recruitment of a new CEO. Many requirements are unrealistic.


  • Proposal: not a “frontal” attack but involving employees in the “new” project, building the travel agency of the future.
  • As a result, gradually gaining the confidence of the employees in the new CEO.
  • At the same time, using the expertise and talents of employees to take the business to an even higher level of customer loyalty.
  • Harvard methodology used to determine the company’s vision and mission together with employees.
  • Based on this, draw up a strategic plan for 3 years.
  • Involve all employees in the implementation of the plan.


  • Created a very strong shared vision and mission, which employees and shareholder support 100%
  • Trust in the CEO has grown.
  • Willingness to work on the future can be seen in the daily improvements (work organisation, follow-up of customers, etc.).
  • Shareholder agrees to give employees shares.
  • A crisis has been avoided.
  • Survival is assured.
  • Implementation of the strategic plan: using SEAM for this as well is currently being considered.