blog banner

Employees don’t come first, but actually they do!

To deliver upon fast changing customer requests, most manufacturing SME’s nowadays face the challenge of becoming ever more efficient, flexible and innovative. Agility and customer responsiveness become key drivers for success.

To achieve this, manufacturing operations should enable production processes to run as smoothly as possible. In that sense, the process comes first. However, the competitive advantage of any manufacturing company actually lies with motivated and multi-skilled employees. This target group of highly engaged people should be seen as the real key enabler of business success.

From process to person

With the operational process at the very definition of why the manufacturing SME does what it does, the people component is an equally important one to get organised and managed. In an ever more competitive, quickly changing context of 21st century companies, people make the difference. Investing in collaborators, nurturing talent and enabling every individual to grow and extend their potential, are key tasks for leaders and management.

“ Employee involvement in the future development of the company is crucial.
Individual factory workers need to be transformed to a group of employees with the autonomy and space to channel their talent, creativity and initiatives within the context of an innovative organisation. The best fitting leadership style (servant, inspirational, coaching, …) should enable competence and skill development. Sustainable employability is about motivating and supporting individual employees to continue to contribute to a(ny) labour process, through continuous/repetitive evaluation of their skills and update of their competencies through training, coaching, etc.
The resulting climate is such that people feel the relevance of continuous learning and remain motivated to provide a top performance.”

In order to operationalize the definition of Human-Centred Organisation (HCO), four dimensions have been set out.

Individual employee

The company invests in challenging jobs, thereby focusing on individual growth and self-realisation, in terms of skills, knowledge and competences. The organisation and the individual together work on continuous talent- & competence development, experience and knowledge accumulation, wellbeing and work quality (rich, varied jobs).

Focal areas include :

  • A system with a variety of learning methods for competence development
  • Operator driven competence management through flex matrices
  • Active sharing of knowledge and lessons learned
  • Jobs to measure of every operator, maximising potential and autonomy


The organisation empowers teams to ensure efficient production. Teams work with authority and responsibility. As such, planning and work organization are taken up as a(n additional) task of the team that manages its own objectives and KPI’s. By maximising the use of autonomy when and where possible, teams are stimulated to be engaged and empowered.

Focal areas include :

  • Appropriate hierarchy to enable involvement and taking up responsibility
  • Company goals are transferred to specific team-owned targets
  • Maximal autonomy and ‘liberty’, within minimal specifications


A clear vision and strategy is well deployed and new leadership roles have been developed. The organisation seeks for a balance in horizontal & vertical direction by stimulating the follow-through of operational processes within a (horizontal) team context, and setting up a supporting vertical (hierarchical) staff.

Focal areas include:

  • Stimulating flexibility and promoting individual development
  • Coaching, mentoring, etc. to support employees in their development


The organisation stimulates life-long learning and individual growth paths using an open communication philosophy between all hierarchical levels. By doing so, open discussion on short and long term ambitions and goals can be held within the organisation, through enabling and supporting a positive company culture that embraces change.

Focal areas include :

  • Sustainable employability through life-long learning for all
  • Open communication throughout as everyone is a valued contributor
Share this post on social media