Employees First to become the best partner to our customers

Hiab stories | 24 november 2021 11:28 AM | Ghita Jansson-Kiuru, Vice President HR, Hiab

At Hiab we have started a journey to run the company from an Employees First perspective with the vision to become the number one partner in smart and sustainable load handling solutions. Our products have proven their worth for over 75 years, but great products alone, will not be enough to be the partner of choice.

What will set us apart is industry leading customer experience. To do that we also need to provide the best possible work experience where everyone has the best possible work and development opportunities at Hiab. For us to be the best possible workplace is to foster dialogue and transparency so we can get solutions from all of our employees to better serve our customers. 

The job we do is essential to keep everyday life moving, and the better we serve our customers, the better everyday life will work for everyone. Every day our customers operate Hiab equipment to supply supermarkets and hospitals, remove household waste, or deliver building materials to construction projects, to mention only a few of the many applications to which we offer solutions. 

Keeping everyday life moving during a pandemic
The importance of Hiab has perhaps never been clearer than when the pandemic hit us in 2020. Suddenly governments decided who was an essential worker and thereby exempt from lockdowns. Before any vaccine was available, Hiab employees working in services and warehouse logistics were exempt from lockdown in order to support truck drivers and their vehicles in delivering goods to critical businesses such as supermarkets and hospitals.  

Being an international company and part of Cargotec, Hiab had a great technological platform and equipment to manage working from home, but new work and social challenges affected our colleagues differently. One way to take the pulse of the organisation was through bi-weekly surveys, where stress was one of the topics being measured, which would become the starting point for our new initiative for a Balanced Work Environment

This was not the starting point but rather proof of our commitment to establishing an Employee First culture, inspired by one of our largest key account customers in the USA - ABC Supply - and Vineet Nayar’s book from 2010, Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down.

Defining Hiab’s Employees First culture 
The work began in 2019, but was halted by the COVID pandemic. The surveys we did during the pandemic, and continue to do, had provided us with a great amount of quantitative data. However, we needed a new approach to defining a Hiab Employees First culture.  

In a nutshell, it can be compared with the instruction you get on an airplane before takeoff, "Before you assist others, always put your oxygen mask on first.” You need to help yourself before you help others. Our situation is luckily less dramatic, but the same principle applies if you are doing well, it is easier to help others. Putting our employees first will also create better outcomes for our customers. 

To ask 3,400 people what a great place to work looks like may give you just as many answers, so to find the common denominators we started a series of focus workshops with employees from around Hiab to better understand what makes an organisation a great place to work. We asked how it feels to work for Hiab today, what an Employees First culture should look and feel like as well as looking at what behaviours it entails from the leaders and all of us. 

The outcome of these interesting discussions was the 3E approach to help us think, act and behave Employees First and define what every employee should experience every day:

Easiness enables everyone to do a great job every day by providing the right tools, aligning processes internationally and encouraging dialogue and managerial support. 

Empowerment makes sure everyone is entrusted to be confident to make the right decisions. This is why Hiab works to promote equal opportunity and well-being, support employee development and reward collaboration and new ways of thinking.

Excellence is being motivated to constantly improve. This is why Hiab works to recognise performance, celebrate achievements and encourages feedback for continuous improvement. 

Common for all is that although Hiab should do its utmost to provide the right resources and processes, we depend on each of us to set targets, provide feedback and to constantly strive for continuous improvement in our ways of working. 

Our new operating model and Hiab Business System supports Employees First
To further support and empower employees, we moved to a decentralised operating model in January of this year and for example, central functions are now called Global Support Functions to reflect that they are there to empower employees to feel confident in making the right decisions.  

As part of the process, we have also mapped out the complete employee experience lifecycle to understand what it feels like to be a new starter or having worked in Hiab for a year or more. Each step along the journey has individual challenges that need to be addressed. 

Most importantly, Employees First, for us, is improving communication and transparency throughout Hiab. As an international multi-brand operator, we have many great teams that do not frequently speak to each other, yet our ambition is to work and communicate like ONE team with the same targets and dreams. It is our hope that everyone is inspired to feel part of the continued Hiab success story.

We are now in the process of identifying best practices and creating harmonised work processes called the Hiab Business System. The aim is to create a culture where people feel that Hiab is a company that is easy and fun to work for, and provides the opportunity to grow and develop. We are also encouraging all employees to be in the driver’s seat for their areas of responsibility, facilitated by managers and documented processes. We recognise that the best ideas often come from the people working directly with customers, manufacturing or other roles, not from management meetings or consultants. That’s why we put so much effort on empowering employees and making them feel like the heroes that they really are.  

A good example: At our multi-assembly unit in Brazil, they have started an ideas programme and the inaugural winner, Erni Gomes found a solution for creating a hydraulic oil filter to reduce environmental impact, improve ergonomics and reduce cost all in one sweep. Ideas like this contributes to a good work culture and makes a difference in everyday life.  

Our products are considered the best load handling equipment around. Now, we will create the same industry leading customer experience by putting our Employees First. It will not happen overnight, but it will become a reality when we work as one team with one dream - building a better tomorrow for our customers and ourselves.

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