When AstraZeneca made the decision to close one of its manufacturing sites at Avlon, near Bristol – a site where some 200 people are employed – the senior management team (SMT) identified the need for support during the period of change. The 2017 closure is part of the parent company’s strategy to cease manufacture of two products when their patents expire.
One of AstraZeneca’s preferred suppliers, Oakridge has worked alongside the blue-chip business for over 17 years and with a strong track record of designing and developing strong performance programmes, Nick Fletcher – site HR and Training Partner for AstraZeneca Avlon – knew it would deliver.
Nick was aware that there are severe risks that come with turbulent times of change, including low morale, absenteeism, increased risk of accidents at work, and loss of employee focus. Fortunately, he knew who to turn to.
Oakridge was asked to design a programme to help ensure that performance remained high until the site’s closure, and also to support its leaders, who would undoubtedly face huge challenges through this time of change.
Avlon specified the importance of:
• identifying each team’s needs in order to inspire positive behavioural change;
• increasing staff focus and morale; and
• improving both individual and team performance.
Oakridge’s senior consultant, Andy Fleet, developed a bespoke, flexible and evolving Team Effectiveness programme to meet the specific needs of the SMT and workforce at the Avlon site. The programme was based on proven research and used the concept of focused performance improvement (commitment, monitoring, and team engagement to drive performance).
As the task at hand was such a complex and unusual situation, the work was carried out in a number of stages:
1. A pilot with the SMT, evolving and developing the plan, according to feedback. Oakridge used a 14-indicator Individual and Team self-assessment to diagnose and identify strengths and areas for development; the report from this was used to inform ongoing developments.
2. A bespoke Team Effectiveness programme for Avlon. Andy developed this programme based on two key theories (from Prof. J R Hackman, and Katzenbach & Smith), online tools, emotional intelligence instruments and further feedback. It was ensured that this was organisationally consistent, but at the same time specific to each team.
3. An SMT workshop to identify and commit to three ‘must-wins’ to further improve team and individual performance.
4. Another visit from Andy to audit and review progress, six months later. On this visit, three more must-wins were identified, to create a cycle of high performance and motivation.
Such was the programme’s success – team performance wasn’t only maintained, but had improved – that it was rolled out; all 20 team leaders and their teams were offered the opportunity to work with Andy.
Due to circumstances, a fall in team effectiveness measures would have been expected, but all projections were surpassed: instead of simply maintaining team effectiveness, all teams improved, with team performance indicators increasing by up to 29%.
In addition, feedback from the teams was “overwhelmingly positive”, with one employee stating it was “the most practical team session I’ve ever attended”. Others said the course was “well run”, with “a good style of approach and content”, while Andy was an “excellent facilitator”.
AstraZeneca was so pleased with the results that it has commissioned further change work off the back of the Team Effectiveness Programme.
Nick Fletcher, AstraZeneca site HR and training partner in Bristol, highlighted the importance – particularly in pharmaceuticals – of maintaining the highest standards consistently; he “knew Oakridge could help reach that goal, despite the prospect of closure”.
On the programme’s designer and facilitator, he noted: “Andy has experience in closing businesses and was very quickly able to understand our requirements. He had an excellent rapport with staff on all levels and created a fantastic atmosphere to work in.
“The results surpassed all expectations and we were delighted. We would use Oakridge whatever the stage in any lifecycle of the business – growth, maturity or closure.”