Changing a Culture

When a culture improves, KPIs follow.

Anna Młynarczyk-Widomska holds a Master of Engineering degree from Cracow University, though as fate would have it she never worked as an engineer.

Right out of school she got a job in selling technical maintenance and infrastructure services, then soon transitioned to do controlling for a production company from the automotive sector, and then worked for a Spanish construction company which built highways, buildings and airports. This was the beginning of her journey into finance.

At Fortaco, as Finance, People, and HR Director, she supervises a team of eight responsible for the financial areas of accounting, cash flow management, financial KPIs, and relationships with banks. Her team’s HR responsibilities include payroll, recruitment, and motivation. Motivation and people engagement is a topic of particular importance to her. She is lead of the IT and Administration team.

Communication and our behavior

“When I joined Fortaco in 2014, we still encountered elements from a very formal and old fashioned culture in our factory,” Młynarczyk-Widomska says. “Managers were addressed very often as ‘mister’ or ‘missus,’ doors were kept closed, people kept to their own departments, and the opinions of employees were not often sought.” Mrs. Młynarczyk-Widomska set out to change that.

She began to lead by example, using names instead of positions during daily work, keeping her office door open, greeting people in the production hall. “With other leadership team members we focused on introducing cultural change at Fortaco Janów Lubelski.

“Day by day we were able to see improvements. It was very helpful that new people joined our team. For example, we had a new production director, engineering manager, and quality manager.” Over the last five years new tools were implemented, including monthly meetings with three employees to hear their opinions about equipment, health and safety, salaries, or anything they wished to discuss. General meetings with the managing director were held in the production hall where people could ask questions and get key information about our current situation and our challenges.

The management team also began a campaign to tidy up the factory to make it a more pleasant environment. “You don’t have to spend much money to do that,” Anna says. “We painted walls and changed the carpets, put things in their proper place.”

Most important was the interaction with people, the hellos delivered on the factory floor. “It’s important to show people that we see their work, that they’re important. We must communicate with them, and treat them as partners whose ideas are valued.”

Accounting not only in the finance department

We are here to deliver the right numbers to our owners. “In the past, the forecasting process was located in the finance department. I changed it and asked managers responsible for each area to deliver data necessary to complete forecasting process,” she says. “We had to ‘clean up’ some mistakes from the past in case of bookings, clear up some accounting process ‘doubts,’ and take control of the flow and verification of financial documents. We created a new structure of cost centers and a transparent cost allocation process. Managers now get to manage their own budgets.”

“The beginning was very difficult because people couldn’t understand why they had to do these things, but now I know that they also see benefits from this changes.”

KPIs will follow

The soft changes quickly produced hard changes. Financial KPIs and survey results improved. EBITDA moved from three percent of turnover to double digits. Return on invested capital moved from a negative number to over 30 percent in the positive. Employee turnover is within normal bounds.

“There are lots of intangibles, too,” Anna says. “You can ask people how they’re feeling and get a very positive answer.”

Anna believes creating the right culture is essential to tackling problems which turn out to be more complex than previously thought. Several years ago, when KPIs did not improve after an across-the-board salary increase, we introduced a productivity bonus tool. To decrease sick levels, we created an availability bonus. “It’s a simple system. It’s very transparent, and people can easily calculate themselves the results of doing things differently.”

“Poland is not a low-cost country anymore,” she says. “In this period of transition it’s more critical than ever to create the best possible environment for people. It’s in everyone’s best interest. In Fortaco I meet a lot of fantastic people with great personalities. I am very proud to see what we achieved in Fortaco JL. We are aware that this journey is still ongoing. Trust in tomorrow.“