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People InterAction

Better engagement, better business

Engineering Design company lays solid foundation for business
success with better employee engagement
The company
Westlakes Engineering, an independent civil, structural and architectural design consultancy,
was established by entrepreneur and the company managing director, Andy Hooper, in 2004.
The Cumbria-head quartered company was successful and the client base grew quickly.
Correspondingly, an increasing number of people were hired to help support and drive further growth.

The challenge – growing pains The restructuring of the business is still ongoing to some
extent, but Westlakes Engineering has already experienced
It wasn’t long before staff numbers reached 15 and it was at this significant benefits.
point that the dynamic company hit an artificial ceiling.
The flat management structure which, up until this point, Results – company growth
worked very well started to show strain. Despite rapid Westlakes Engineering has still been able to expand over the
expansion, the decision making and responsibility for day-to-day last 12 months, despite the tough year which the construction
detail continued to lie with Andy. As a result, his time and focus industry has had. Andy points to the fact that the talent of the
was increasingly stretched in many directions and decisions staff have been applied much more effectively to the benefit of
were not made as quickly as he would like. Meanwhile, his the company. The newly appointed directors have been more
employees did not have the autonomy to support him effectively. motivated and have driven the development of the company.
Andy admits: “For any fast growing small company, there is a Each Director has been challenged to present strategy
tipping point when the way you interact with your people, at all papers setting out their plans for their parts of the business.
levels, needs to change to reflect new business requirements Meanwhile, the rest of the staff have been closer to these new
and future ambitions. We reached our tipping point when we decision makers, so have been able to better understand and
reached 15 – 16 employees, and it was my responsibility to contribute to the direction of the business.
oversee this re-organisation, and bring my people with me.” Further, since Andy has had more time to focus on strategic
activity, he was able to push ahead with a company goal of
The Solution – re-organising for success acquiring a new office in Manchester.
Andy joined the LEAD programme at Lancaster University Ultimately, the business has now been organised to ensure that
in October 2008. The course helped him understand how people feel consistently engaged with the management team
his leadership role within the business, as well as the staff and they all understand and are focused on business goals. The
structure itself, needed to evolve. more balanced structure has also shattered the artificial ceiling
His first step was to appoint his six most senior employees on company growth, allowing for the forming of ambitious plans.
to directors in October 2008. This was to give them decision Andy plans to double company size over the next three years.
making responsibility and ownership for different areas of the Despite the difficult year the industry has gone through, staff
soon to be restructured company. morale and motivation has remained high throughout 2009.
His second step was to ensure that the business was structured Critically, despite significant changes within the business, staff
in such a way that responsibility could be shared effectively, and turnover has remained very low. When, in fact, one person did
was primed for future growth. Andy was clear that everyone else leave they returned to Westlakes Engineering within six months.
within the business needed to understand why such significant The company and management has been recognised externally
changes were being made, otherwise he wouldn’t have their by independent awards with Andy being shortlisted for
support to make it work. “Businessman of the Year” and Westlakes Engineering winning
Rather than make the decision about reorganisation the “Training and Development” Award at the CN Group
autonomously, Andy organised and led a series of employee Business Awards 2009.
workshops in November 2008, for shop floor workers and
managers. During these workshops he was able to explain and
Advice for others
answer questions on why the employee structure was going to Andy says: “If I have one piece of advice for other employers,
be reorganised. He also asked their viewpoints on how these of any size, it is that your people are always much smarter and
changes should be shaped. As a result, employees felt engaged better than you already think they are. It’s up to employers to
with the new business structure, while feeling valued and harness and unleash that talent. And in times of recession,
trusted by their employers. relying on your team has never been more important.”