“Getting employees to go from thinking that the job is boring, to feeling motivation and commitment, is my driving force.”
As HR Manager, Leif Klavebäck has successfully handled difficult crises. It has meant tough decisions but having the person in focus has always been the number one for Leif. You must be present and listen to everyone.
It was during his time in the Navy that Leif gained his interest in leadership and HR. A long career at, for example, Elektroskandia and Beijer Byggmaterial has given him a broad experience in managing operations both in success and in crisis. When they had to close-downs companies, it always happened in the best interests of the individuals.
“My first closure was of the PUB department store in Stockholm with almost 800 employees. A change in strategy was the reason for the closure that took place over two years. In an unusually long time, it was important to keep the motivation up for those who had to stay all the way. The next major closure was on the Jiway stock exchange, which was owned by Morgan Stanley and OM. We had 140 employees in Sweden and the UK, and when the stock market crash came in 2000, we had to close the business and terminate all employees. It was a tough experience that has taught me to be there for everyone affected.”
“Motivating the employees is my driving force”
Beijer Byggmaterial had stores in 75 locations and Leif was employed to build and structure the HR function while being deeply involved in both acquisitions and divestments. The vision was changed several times and they had management outside of Sweden: “It became a concern in the organization, and it was difficult to get the employees to understand what happened. It takes a long time to implement a new vision in a large organization. In such a case, it is easy for employees to lose confidence. It is very important to be transparent and clearly communicate what is going on.”
After Beijer Construction Materials, Leif Klavebäck decided to work as interim HR manager and has since been working at Kongsberg Automotiv and Vitamin Well as well as Bäckströms Anläggningar. The assignments have varied from building up an HR function to discontinuing operations.
At an industrial company, via Nordic Interim, the assignment was to close a factory with 130 employees according to all rules. Before Leif came in, the HR function did not work which contributed to the problems in the entire business. During a short period, 7 different HR managers had been hired, there were no routines and wages were not right.
“With the right, people were upset. Being able to come in as an interim within HR and inform and run a closure was a challenge. A large part of the employees at all levels were not Swedish speakers and reaching out with the information was critical. We worked a lot on translating, being on-site and talking to the employees. Many did not know how the Swedish system worked. Talking to them on an individual level was extremely important. Despite the discontinued operations, we succeeded in increasing both job satisfaction and production! The important thing was to meet each person and take the time they needed to move on, strengthened from the crisis they were thrown into.”
An employee said: “It is amazing that the same job can be so boring and you felt bad every day when it was time to get to work and now the same job is fun and motivates me to do my best!”
How do you do to motivate the organization when they know they are facing the closure of the business?
“I show them respect, show that I see them. I show my appreciation. Information is important and in this case, I brought the unions, the Employment Service and the Social Security Council to the factory so that everyone got the information directly from the right source at work time. We also invited various employers from the area who needed labour. My goal was that half of the employees should have jobs before they quit, and we surpassed that well!”
What are your most important lessons?
“It is important that the staff understand why this is happening, which is achieved by talking, explaining and discussing with them. Being accessible – for all shifts (we had 5 shifts) – is necessary. As in all changes, transparency and clarity are the most important, even if it is negative information. We were careful to communicate that everything was done according to the rules and that we and the unions had a common ground in our information. At the same time, it must be ensured that the HR administration works throughout the process, regarding salaries, certificates, grades, governmental contacts, references etc.”