Creating a new way of working based on trust
A Blue Circle Cement case study

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Page 4: Training

In order to facilitate the changes team training was at a premium. Team training involved everyone in the workplace and was given active support by shop stewards as well as the management team. The training programme included four main elements:

  1. Blue Circle Cement 2 Diagram 3Senior Managers - This workshop looked at all aspects of team building, leadership and teamwork. For example, it was concerned with procedures involved in building high performance teams, and ways of ensuring that suitable resources were provided for team building. Management needed an in-depth understanding of the training to be given to the rest of the workforce.
  2. Staff Team Training - Staff Team Training was given to all middle managers and supervisors. Attendance at each session was organised so that all managers were accompanied by their supervisors. The focus was very much on putting teamwork into operation and ways of organising the Team Building Workshops.
  3. Team Leader Briefings - The role of the team leader was seen as crucial. The purpose of the team leader briefings was to prepare the leaders for the workshop session with their teams and to ensure as far as possible that they assumed a leadership role in Team Building.
  4. Team Building Workshops - The workshop was the key element of the change process. During the workshop, an important part of the leader’s job was to relax the team and ensure that they became involved in the training experience. Because many employees were unused to the processes of teamwork, it was necessary to encourage and develop participatory and co-operative approaches. Team members were asked to list all their concerns about Integrated Working e.g. problems about flexibility, the need for job training, the prospect of not being able to earn more than a stable income, etc. All the concerns were listed and displayed until the end of the workshop.

In addition to the team training, employees were expected to carry out a skills training programme. Everyone had to learn at least four new skills and craft workers had to learn at least one other new craft. Initial training involved between four and six weeks for each employee.

Making the changes

It took Blue Circle Cement two and a half years to research, negotiate, carry out training and implement new approaches to teamworking. The new equipment, technology and new working practices dramatically improved the productivity and efficiency of Cauldon. In 1989 and 1990 recognised output and performance measures (e.g. output per employee per year, production costs per tonne, etc.) made Cauldon the top performing cement plant in the United Kingdom.

Cement production had increased from 330,000 tonnes in 1985 to 750,000 tonnes in 1990 and the workforce had fallen from 548 to 311. Continuous improvements since that date have resulted in the workforce in 1996 being further reduced to 223 with a corresponding increase in productivity. The new working practices were self-financing with reduced staffing levels, reduced unit labour costs and increased output per employee. Employees had gained higher wages whilst each worked on average eight hours less per week.

When ACAS were asked to review attitudes of employees to these changes, the results were heartening. There was an almost unanimous view that Integrated Working had been an enormous step forward both for the company and the workforce. The increased skills and flexibility of employees, plus the end of demarcations, produced a more efficient workforce able to complete jobs more quickly. Employees found the increased variety and challenge in their jobs stimulating and the development of team working increased employee involvement and sense of pride in the job. This had led to improvements in commitment and morale. Integrated Working was subsequently introduced to all Blue Circle Cement plants. However, this was in many ways only a starting point for a process of continuous improvement.

Blue Circle Cement | Creating a new way of working based on trust