Business transformation through strategic HR: Fibreline’s success story

When growth stalled and employee engagement began to fall at this successful, family-owned manufacturing business, the leadership team recognised that they needed help. Working side by side with expert People Directors from People Puzzles, Fibreline’s success story demonstrates a significant business transformation and the power of a strategically aligned people plan delivered in strong partnership.

Established in 1982, Fibreline has grown to become a leading manufacturer of premium cushion fillings, employing over 200 people and operating from a 90,000sq ft facility in Keighley, West Yorkshire. In recent years, however, Managing Director Richard Prudhoe recognised that growth had stalled and the business was facing unfamiliar challenges.

“We had grown the family business consistently over the previous five years, with a long-serving, loyal senior management team,” he says. “We came out of COVID with a further surge in demand, a recruitment and retention challenge and a feeling that the business had hit a ceiling. We were struggling as a team to break through to take advantage of the opportunities we could see.”

Acting on recommendations from a group of industry peers, he contacted People Puzzles in early 2022, and together, the business transformation began.

Helping Fibreline to achieve the company vision


Fibreline’s overarching ambition was to become the greatest cushion filling supplier in the UK.

Alongside this vision, the other three key drivers for change were to:

  • Increase turnover to a defined goal by 2027 using the 4 key pillars: Product, Process, Performance and People
  • Recruit great people and retain them long term;
  • Build a great culture, strong leadership and develop a People Plan to help them succeed

Defining challenges and creating a strategic people plan

The first step was an in-depth “Discovery” session: a multi-day audit by People Puzzles HR Director, Lynn Morrison, to pinpoint where the business was, what Fibreline wanted to achieve, and develop a strategic and operational plan to deliver change.

Lynn conducted in-depth interviews with just over 10% of the workforce to get a real sense of what was going on. This revealed a number of focus areas for improvement, including:

  • Defining the business strategy for clearer goals and direction
  • Establishing a strong Senior Leadership Team to support MD/CEO in delivering business goals
  • Cultural focus to increase engagement and address rising absenteeism
  • Talent attraction, development and retention
  • Communicating a better organisational structure to avoid overstretched teams and a lack of on-the-ground leadership
  • Improvement to HR processes to add tangible value to the HR function across the business
  • Leadership and performance management, to promote personal accountability and ensure shop floor was a respectful and inclusive environment

“I found that their involvement helped us initially define our strategic goals and then helped identify, articulate and implement the changes we needed to move us forward again.” Richard Prudhoe, Managing Director, Fibreline.

The 3 Step Plan for Success

From the Discovery phase, a three-part plan was developed in partnership with Fibreline. A second People Director, Conal Scholes, was brought in to help implement this business-wide plan, which comprised three distinct stage:

  1. Quick wins. These included changes to the clocking-in process and shop floor lunch breaks; line manager support in driving performance management; drawing up the org chart; senior managers walking the floor more regularly; systematising day-to-day HR needs to save senior leaders time and effort; placing immediate focus on cultural challenges to show people they were being heard.
  2. Transformational change. A deeper dive into the business culture, operating model, commercial planning and leadership development capability to set up the foundations for significant and sustainable change. Led by Conal, this was a comprehensive change programme focusing on both structure and leadership behaviours, delivered alongside Richard and the SLT to ensure everyone was bought in and understood what it meant for them. There was no easy path, but the results speak for themselves.
  3. Transactional change. Delivering real change, incorporating a new pay review process, a clear skills development process to provide career opportunities, a comprehensive revamp of all HR processes to support a company aiming to delivery a consistently excellent employee experience and hands-on supervisory and leadership development to better manage productivity, bring engagement up and make Fibreline a great place to work.

Key Initiatives and Outputs:

1. Leadership Development: Team and individual coaching in leadership development across the business; implemented Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) framework to align vision with structure and refine key responsibilities and processes to drive organisational performance.

Output: Delivery of key results, objectives, and key indicators in the EOS framework ensured clarity and alignment throughout the organisation, with more personal accountability and better-equipped managers at all level.

2. Process Optimisation: Conal worked with the business to introduce 6S Lean Systems, a methodology focused on improving efficiency, reducing waste, and increasing productivity. Training and implementation of 6S Lean Systems were provided to 34 key managers and supervisors.

Output: Implementation of 6S Lean Systems resulted in improved productivity and streamlined operations across key sites, with output increasing by 30%.

3. Employee Engagement Enhancement: Thorough employee engagement assessments were conducted to identify areas of improvement. They implemented initiatives aimed at enhancing communication, recognition, and career development opportunities.

Output: The initiatives led to a remarkable 67% reduction in labour turnover, indicating higher employee satisfaction and retention.

4. Recruitment Strategy: Conal collaborated with Fibreline’s HR team to develop an effective recruitment strategy. This included refining the company’s employer brand, improving job descriptions, and implementing targeted recruitment campaigns.

Output: The new recruitment strategy resulted in attracting and retaining qualified talent, ensuring a skilled workforce for future growth.

The commercial and cultural results really do speak for themselves and highlight the significance of a well-developed people plan at the heart of the business strategy.

Client conclusion:

Richard says that, “Working with People Puzzles on a part-time basis and having the ability to tap into the skills of a number of experienced HR professionals, like Conal, has helped me, my team and the wider business to get to the root causes of issues and get clarity to focus on what’s important around structures, culture and engagement. They have been an essential part of the people team and the wider operational excellence programme and bring an extra dimension to things when we turn to them for advice and guidance.”

Success through partnership

The success of the initiatives at Fibreline are testament to the power of a collaborative partnership. While People Puzzles strategic HR Directors are skilled in a great many areas, it requires responsiveness and openness on the part of the client too.

As Conal says, “Fibreline gets things done quicker than most businesses I’ve ever worked with. Their top team has a real mix of skills and approaches, and they have all been in the business for over 15+ years. They consistently astound me with their “can do” attitude and fuss free approach to making change happen.

Once we had addressed the “difficult stuff” around people and culture it was a revelation to see how well the whole team responded to the introduction of new structures, ways of working and Lean approaches to get the business growing and achieving the organsiation’s strategic plans.”

With support from People Puzzles, Fibreline successfully addressed its most immediate issues and has laid solid foundations to sustain its current trajectory of success in a highly competitive industry.  The work isn’t done, with next steps including a continuous development of “soft skills,” implementing a carefully designed ESG programme, aligning HR systems with the wider ERP system and continuing to grow as a values-driven business.

“We realised people were our greatest asset, and when we believed and invested in them, we could make our strategy happen.” Richard Prudhoe, Managing Director, Fibreline.

If you would like to explore how a part-time strategic HR Director could help transform your business, please get in touch to arrange your complimentary 30 minute consultation. Call People Puzzles on 0345 646 5201 and find out how a part-time People Director can help you take your business to the next level.

People Director, Conal Scholes
People Director, Conal Scholes

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