The Sky’s the Limit! People planning to fire up CAV Systems for growth

Consett-based aerospace company CAV Systems was faced with a formidable task – to double its sales revenues within four years. People Director June Kelly from People Puzzles was brought in to create a people strategy and engage staff with a new vision and values that will help them reach those ambitious targets.

The Client

CAV Systems is a global provider of aerospace ice protection and drag reduction technology to manufacturers of civilian and military aircraft.

With two subsidiary companies, CAV Ice Protection and CAV Advanced Technologies, the company has just over 120 employees in its manufacturing and research and development base in County Durham, with a smaller office in Kansas, USA, to handle its sizeable US client base.

The company has seen major changes in recent years, having been acquired by private equity backers Baird Capital in June 2017 and a new CEO, Mike Richards, joining in early 2018.

The Challenge

The business had been set a very ambitious target to double sales revenues within four years. This had led to a top-down review of how the whole business worked and one of the first actions taken was to integrate both subsidiary companies to streamline operations.

In October 2018, Mike brought in June Kelly from People Puzzles to help manage the people aspects of these changes. A robust strategy was needed to energise the team so it could ‘fire on all cylinders’ and believe that the sales revenue goal was achievable. There also needed to be more communication and support between the teams to facilitate a more collaborative approach.

The Solution

Establishing vision and values

After an initial assessment of what was needed, June, alongside CAV’s VP for Business Services and Improvement, kicked-off a series of employee engagement workshops to establish a new vision and set of values for the business. ‘We involved over 60% of the workforce in the initial workshops to discuss and agree what behaviours were important on our journey,’ she explains. The office in Kansas took part via Skype. ‘Because so many people were involved, in particular the senior leadership team, they didn’t feel that the values were being imposed on them,’ June adds.

Once the new vision and values were agreed, June worked with the marketing manager to roll them out in the new company branding. She then worked with the teams to bring those values to life. The Works Council was involved to discuss ideas on how this could happen and they meet monthly to progress ideas. An example of “living the values” is a senior leadership monthly meeting which focuses on new product and process opportunities bringing alive CAV’s, ‘Lead with Innovation’ value. ‘They’re continually looking at how to do things better and be more efficient,’ explains June. ‘This is a big part of the drive for growth.’

Strategic people planning

As CAV’s growth is anticipated to come from several new but complex projects with long lead times and multiple planning stages, a flexible recruitment plan was needed. Using a People Puzzles workforce planning model, June worked with CAV’s VP for Business Services and Improvement to help visualise what people would be required and when. ‘We identified how many specialists we’d need to deliver against specific projects as and when they came through,’ June explains. The company has also utilised its apprenticeship levy to recruit more apprentices and upskill current staff, in anticipation of growth.

Recruitment costs were driven down by more innovative practices. ‘Historically, the business had depended on a recruitment agency,’ says June. ‘Now, we utilise LinkedIn, social media, the CAV Systems career webpage, and other sites such as Universal Jobs. And of course, we encourage word of mouth and referrals from family and friends.’

Enhanced performance management and communication

June introduced a new review process with more regular check-ins, performance conversations and quarterly reviews. She facilitated workshops with CAV’s managers to help them understand the benefits of a more dynamic approach to performance and development that would ultimately help them further embed the new values and drive growth.

Staff are now recruited and reviewed against the new values as well as their job spec. ‘This is important to make sure we have people with the right fit and the belief that they are going to add value to that team,’ June explains.

Finally, to promote greater communication and openness within the business, Mike updates the workforce with progress against the business objectives and future growth plans in quarterly ‘State of the Nation’ presentations. And at the suggestion of the Work Council, this talk is now structured around each of the company’s five values.

The Conclusion

The new vision and values engagement processes and increased communication have helped to get staff on board to work towards the ambitious goal that they’ve been set. ‘They are in a great place to move on and really make a difference,’ says June. ‘They’re anticipating change in the future and feeling good about it.

‘The culture is changing,’ she continues. ‘People are more challenged and more informed about the business – the level of accountability is very different. Mike can’t do it all on his own; he needs everyone to step up to the plate, to focus on the goal and agree the building blocks to get there. I would say that everyone now knows exactly where they’re going and what they need to do to get there. We’ve brought that belief to the business so that we can all row together.’

‘Working with People Puzzles has been both enlightening and rewarding’ says Mike. ‘June’s engaging and challenging style helps us achieve solutions that we may well not have reached by ourselves. I’m really pleased with the enhanced vision and values that we have created and I truly believe that this will assist us greatly in delivering our ambitious goals.’


Please do contact us if you would like to discuss any of these areas within your business, on 0808 164 5826

June Kelly

June Kelly, People Director

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