“The stories of street children put everyday events in perspective” quotes Stefaan Deneef from Coca Cola European Partners in Ghent. Together with his colleagues Nicolas Vaninbroukx and Steven Vanderstraeten, he mentions their StreetwiZe programme.
Coca Cola’s European Partners management in Ghent completed the StreetwiZe programme in 1 1/2 years’ time. Stefaan Deneef is its HR Business Partner/HE Business Partner End to End Supply Chain Belux. Our appointment takes place in Stefaan’s office within the perimeter of the 165.446 m2 large site in Zwijnaarde. I receive a yellow vest from security and have to cross the parking. The yellow-green-red limited path brings me to the office past mere turning-gates. I cannot miss the red entrance. Inside, Deneef welcomes me smiling. Our appointment has been postponed a number of times. What I would learn is that, within production surroundings, this has absolute priority. The first thing Deneef mentions is that “Steven Vanderstraeten cant be present, such a pity.... He could explain a lot, since he became volunteer at StreetwiZe”.
Coca Cola European Partners (CCEP) in Ghent produces 198 million liters of soft drink a year. Coca Cola, Fanta, Nalu, Minute Maid, Sprite, Appletiser, Finley, Aquarius, Fuze Tea, Nordic Mist, Poms, ....... 69 % of the production go to the Belux-market. Why would such a well-oiled machine want to contract a training partner like StreetwiZe? “We have a great deal of internal trainings” is Stefaan Deneef’s answer. “But in order to be able to assist management with the important change project of the past two years, we did not have the appropriate training...”
This important change project encompasses the Horizon project. In 2015, the bottle producing factory of Coca Cola European Partners in Ghent had to make capital decisions. The plant was outdated. 75 million were to be invested in two hypermodern bottling lines, one for cans and one for glass, the fastest bottling lines in the world. The reverse was that the company, thanks to this recent technology, could perform more with less people.
Stefaan Deneef : “As a matter of fact, employees discovered in 2015 that they would have to leave the company in 2018; this departure turned into a reality. Part of the management would also have to quit the firm within 2 1/2 years’ time. Beside that, an important flexibility agenda was introduced...”
Nicolas Vaninbroukx joins the discussion. He is responsible for every investment project on site in Ghent. “Until recently, my role was that of a production manager for the brick drinks and for the preparation of drinks in the syrup room.” he says. He completes Stefaan. “At a certain moment, we had a rather strong combination of people, challenging every manager. There was a group of employees who could go on and were more than happy, part of them had to leave and felt sad and some had to quit and did not mind. As for collaboration, this entails new dynamics, that none of us were familiar with... How to motivate a team to perform at their utmost in order to achieve goals?”
“Our question to StreetwiZe was to coach the management so that this entire transformation could be completed successfully” says Stefaan Deneef. “Can you help us, as a management team, to keep everyone motivated?”
The complete management team of Coca Cola partners in Ghent completed the StreetwiZe programme. About 20 people are concerned. “Our programme was somehow atypical” claims Stefaan Deneef. “We started with a limited core group, to discover one another, to search for our proper identity and to learn to collaborate as a team. The initial group was extended and we went through the same exercise, since all participants were fairly new. Then, we all stepped out of our comfortzone for four days and worked with with young people in a youth detention center. One group was present in the closed youth detention center for boys in Ruiselede, whilst another at the closed youth detention center for girls in Beernem. After all this, the different modules of the four Street Skills were completed.”
During the four day stay in the juvenile institutions, limited mixed teams developed new games for the mobile school. Stefaan Deneef : “Two or three people worked together with two or three youngsters. At the end of the week, each group presented its game. Should you have informed us on our achievements after a few days together with the young people, we would never have believed you. During the whole period, our connection with coaches Bart and Hans was outstanding. They told us honestly “The creation of ten new games doesn’t imply that they will be part of our library. I secretly hope anyway that my game will finish in the Mobile School library.”
“We also demanded a great deal of flexibility of our coaches” continues Nicolas Vaninbroukx. “In our production, a lot can go wrong within the hour. And production has absolute priority, on any agenda. During the 1 1/2 years our project lasted, changes came about, resulting in five people of the group leaving the company.” Everyday routine offered little possibilities to discuss the topic with colleagues. We didn’t really know if people wanted to talk about it at all. The sessions did creat the necessary space to discuss the departures, to put words on feelings. This came as an unexpected extra, but it did everyone well.”
“The lessons of street children helped us to put our own lives in perspective, summarises Stefaan De Neef. “The stories of street children and their positive focus, is what we retain most of all. The positive focus helps you in the way to ask questions. In case something occurs, it is typical to gaze at the problem and try to solve it. Starting from the positive focus, one considers what is not the problem, identifying what can be built on in a positive sense.... To put things very clearly: “What is not the problem?” can be quite liberating... Previously, absence rates were important. Nowadays, they turned into presence rates. Last year, in full transformation, we reached the highest presence rates ever, thanks to the teamleaders.”
“I notice that it personally changed me” says Steven Vanderstraeten who just joined us. A short while ago, Steven took over Nicolas’ role as a manager of the production of soft drinks and the syrup room. Not so long ago, Steven’s responsibility covered all of the glass filling lines, meaning the bottling of all soft drinks. In the meantime, Steven joined StreetwiZe as a volunteer. “One thing makes this programme unique, namely its starting point : the streetchild, the building upon strenghts. I learnt that people shouldnt be trained for something they lack talent for. You ought to bet on the talent people already have. The training provides you with reflexion. I used to think that as an individual, I cannot make a difference. Nowadays, I am pleased to be a drop on a hot plate. I know now that here, around the church tower, you can mean a lot to people in a less favourable position.”
“Most trainings make you return to your former habits. You try very hard not to forget. Well, this training makes me try even harder not to forget”, says Nicolas Vaninbroukx.
“Stories as well as images of street children remain in my thoughts. The story and the coaches are also very authentic. Our last session took place some weeks ago. And I notice that I keep going through the resumes spontaneously, so as not to forget any of them.”
"Having been in HR the past thirty years, this is the best training I experienced. Whenever the training is mentioned, my friends are very impressed” says Stefaan Deneef. “Has the turning point been reached yet?” I ask. “The hardest part is over, but our people have to be taken care of” answers Deneef. The offshoots of the financial investment are active. Peace has returned, but the pace of change is considerable. All of us have a different job, including a new site manager.”