Influencing cultural change from the top down


The way we work continues to evolve at an astonishing rate, and many organisations are focused on improving their company culture to empower their teams, retain talent and encourage growth.

This was certainly the case for Exide – an energy storage company – who wanted to change the culture of management to boost productivity and workforce engagement.

In 2020, Exide split from its parent company. This seemed the perfect opportunity to forge a company culture that reflected a new set of values and norms. As such, they needed to inculcate these values across the company, and the shop floor was the place to start.

Agility and collaboration

The thinking was that if frontline supervisors – many of whom had never had formal management training – could learn how to manage their teams more effectively, that would translate into more efficient operations and increased output.

“We wanted to focus on developing agility and collaboration,” outlines Ana Solana Castillo, Senior Director of HR, Talent and Compensation at Exide. “So, we started by defining our core values and key leadership behaviours. Alongside Cegos, we created a programme that promotes such behaviours, so that the frontline leaders who participated could carry them into the organisation.”

The frontline leadership programme

The key objective of the training was to encourage self-awareness, accountability, and empowerment among frontline leaders, and develop the following:

  • Powerful interpersonal skills to improve communications and leadership style
  • Coaching and feedback skills to optimise performance management
  • Team cohesion and its impact on production
  • Conflict management and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Workplace safety and product quality
  • Leading and accepting organisational change
  • Trust and accountability

“We wanted to improve the way people work together so they could be more efficient,” explains Ana. “That meant giving them the tools to communicate and deal with change. The programme had to be very practical, so that supervisors could learn how to manage difficult situations, give feedback to their teams and know how to support them.”

International rollout

The face-to-face programme was rolled out across Europe, with frontline supervisors from different countries sharing experiences and developing their skills together. In that sense, the training programme acted as a team building activity. Their managers also took part in an online training programme to ensure they knew how to support their teams’ learning.

Initially, there was resistance from some supervisors who questioned the relevance of the training to their work and the disruption it would cause. However, scepticism soon turned to enthusiasm as they began to engage with the programme and understood how it would empower them.

Cultural change

The frontline supervisors who participated in the programme quickly noticed a difference in their own performance and how that influenced a more positive workplace environment.

“We got good feedback,” says Ana. “The cultural change has definitely happened, and people understand each other more. There are also better lines of communication and supervisors feel empowered. In some cases, they feel more comfortable in their roles because they know they are doing things right. They feel more supported.”

Management reported an improved behaviour and attitude among the frontline supervisors’ group, especially in terms of accountability and ownership.

Keys to success

The quality of the training programme had a significant impact. But there were several other factors that made a big difference.

“The fact that the training was localised and customised contributed to its success,” explains Ana. “Cegos paid close attention to detail and shared our desire to change the culture. They took time to understand our needs and we received excellent support. This was the first time we had commissioned an international training programme and we worked very closely with Cegos project managers to make it happen. It felt like we were all part of one team.”

Another success factor was the involvement of top management. Exide’s Senior Vice President of Operations was totally on board with the need for cultural change and championed its importance to supervisors. Having buy-in from the top gave the programme prestige and made the employees feel highly valued.

A transformative experience

Not only did the programme help improve management skills and team productivity, but management also learned of operational issues that needed improving and adapted the approach to training as a result.

“What started as a training programme ended as a transformational programme,” shares Ana.

This goes to show that training those on the frontline to better manage their teams has a tangible and positive effect on company culture. In turn, this leads to better communication, retention and productivity.

With so many challenges facing companies today, any investment in empowering people pays dividends. Exide will now reap the rewards. How many others will follow their example?

If you would like to know more about how Cegos can boost your company culture, contact us today.