Shortlisted team for easycando Award for e-learning: Personnel Today Awards 2000


Two years ago Astron was a traditional printing and warehouse operation. But through a radical change operation, driven and supported by an extensive training and development programme, the company has taken itself to the cutting edge of information logistics.

Today, the Internet is the focus for all operations: customers can order across the Net, information management is delivered over the network and web-based performance improvement databases are maintained to keep the company on track. To achieve this dramatic change in business, Astron undertook the task of training all employees in e-business skills, a programme conducted via information technology and the world wide web.

Having decided to move the organisation towards “e-working”, the change management project began with dedicated sessions of process mapping – an activity which began within the management team, but spread to allow input from everyone in the company. As a result, it was decided to completely reshape the organisation, redesigning the sales platform and treating customers as collaborators.

Group operations director Kathy Woodward was adamant the training and development delivered had to be based purely on the new business requirements and should support the company in achieving a cycle of continuous improvement. The firm recruited four skilled software engineers and, rather than limiting them to only one area of the company, they were given free range to have an impact across the business. As they developed the new network they were also able to pass on their knowledge and relevant skills to other parts of the company.

Web use slowly increased throughout the organisation and every new project brought with it a learning opportunity. A cross-organisational development programme was instigated, analysing requirements, allocating resources and delivering training and coaching to each division of the company. Alongside this, a new relations programme was developed to ensure communication and consultation strategies as well as performance management methods would support the new culture and values of the organisation.

An IT training centre was established at the heart of the company’s warehouse, creating an environment where learning and working existed side by side. Astron brought in full-time coaches to help individuals adapt to the new working environment and a partnership arrangement was established with a lecturer from Harlow College. This lecturer was seconded from the college to deliver bespoke training to the company. The external education resources gave additional encouragement to everyone working in the business – from customer service to the warehouse – to become e-literate.


Company fact file

Team Astron, Change Management Team

Team leader Kathy Woodward, group operations director

Number in HR team Three

Number of employees responsible for 400

Main achievements 24 employees with no previous qualifications completed NVQs in IT. Turnover increased from £14m to £30m and profits rose from £600,000 to £2m. Customer survey shows 98 per cent satisfaction

Priorities for next 12 months To continue supporting and managing the changes within the company

Judge’s Comment “This is an excellent HR project which has helped transform Astron into a true e-business and a showpiece in the printing industry. There is a fantastic team spirit at the company and significant results for both the company and for individuals”


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