Xaar: ‘It all starts with the right mindset’

PUBLISHED: 12:20 23 November 2017

From left are chief human resources director Jim Brault, learning & organisational development advisor Lisa Cowdrey and talent acquisition advisor Indie Gill. Picture: Keith Heppell

From left are chief human resources director Jim Brault, learning & organisational development advisor Lisa Cowdrey and talent acquisition advisor Indie Gill. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

A successful company needs staff with a healthy attitude and a positive values. Meet the trio at the heart of Xaar’s employee engagement programme

Xaar High Laydown ceramics - printing success in new ways.Xaar High Laydown ceramics - printing success in new ways.

“This one is for finance, HR, sales and some laboratories,” says chief human resources officer Jim Brault of the main site. “Then there’s one primarily for R&D, and the third is a combination of IT and labs.”

There are also 300 people in Huntingdon, which is the main manufacturing site, plus six in Nottingham, six in Copenhagen, five in Sweden, 12 in India and 75 in the US, including teams in Texas, California and Vermont.

Jim, a New Yorker, has been in the digital print industry for 14 years, the last two at Xaar.

“When Doug Edwards came into being CEO he gave me a call – it was March 2015,” recalls Jim.

Senior product manager Gerard Winn, left, and senior engineer Nick Jackson with some of the print heads and examples of their 3D printing. Picture: Keith HeppellSenior product manager Gerard Winn, left, and senior engineer Nick Jackson with some of the print heads and examples of their 3D printing. Picture: Keith Heppell

Doug became Xaar’s CEO in January of that year, having been president of digital printing and enterprise at Kodak.

“The reason I got into HR is to help industrial teams and organisations to realise their potential,” says Jim. “What CEOs value is the ability to transform an organisation. We’re at the stage where the business has been very successful in its first 25 years and has grown over time. Right now it’s like we put in the first floor, now we’re putting in a whole new second floor: we’re growing both geographically and in terms of technology, and that means expanding to the Americas, Europe and Asia.”

Xaar is clearly in an expansionary phase of its development.

“Leading a transformation is really different from leading a business, in terms of scope and skill. We’ve launched seven products in the last 12 months. The product launches used to be much more spaced out. We look at the skills we need to get where we need to go and bring people on: we have a very focused effort on developing our staff.”

Xaar's High Laydown ceramics shows how successful its printheads can beXaar's High Laydown ceramics shows how successful its printheads can be

Xaar sets high standards: its staff are expected to thrive in a multiplicity of scenarios.

“It’s a blend of technology, so we ask: ‘What can we invent?’ and ‘How can it be used?’, and then it can be ‘What does this client need and how can we get that to them?’”

Indie Gill is Xaar’s talent acquisition advisor. “We do get graduates out of university,” she says. “We’re very well placed for that, but we also want to explore – we need diversity.”

Things don’t slow down once you’re on the books – quite the contrary, says Lisa Cowdrey, Xaar’s learning and organisational development advisor.

“We have an onboarding programme,” she says, “called XcelProgramme, which has 12 facets, so from the start new employees have a buddy, and that programme runs for three months. Teams have a people leader who suggests tools and techniques people can use for managing change, and being enthused about the challenges ahead, plus another really exciting programme called GATE.”

GATE offers staff the opportunity to get involved at management level. “People are identified through a talent management programme and, for three years, they have access to the management team, there’s worldwide secondments and they get involved with key business projects. It’s all about finding and training future leaders – there’s 19 people on the GATE programme starting in November. It’s our first programme.”

“We also have the Inspired Leaders programme,” adds Jim. “We want our people to have wellbeing overall in their life, and one area we focus on is resilience, we have teams to follow up the programme and embed the skills in their part of the organisation.”

If it sounds methodical then that might be because Jim worked with a US Navy Seal commander of 20 years’ experience to get better results with the teams he works with.

“We teach ways to focus, breath work, nutrition, hydration and mobility,” he says.

“Inspired Leaders is really important, right down to production operators,” says Lisa. “Everyone has the same opportunities to learn. We’ve also just started the Cycle to Work scheme, and offer 10 per cent off gym membership.”

“We learned about the technique from Taylor Vinters. Wellness Warriors can be like a first-aider to point people in the right direction.”

“A lot of growth is happening in 3D printing and in thin film,” adds Jim. “We have growth as one of our stated objectives, so where do we need the talent to be, where are our needs best met? So we partner with Ricoh, we partner with Xerox – part of what we’re doing is working with them to bring products to market, so it’s a combination of working with our own people, acquisitions and partnership.

“It’s not just about the people, though, it’s about the development of a skill set. Strategy and the goals are established, but what sort of models do you need to pull that off?

“It all starts with the right mindset: we establish a vision, and every employee knows what our vision is.”

Did we mention that Xaar is taking on a whole lot of people to get this transformation in top gear for 2018? “You can search for positions at Xaar on LinkedIn, or on the website, and we also advertise our positions. It depends on the role,” concludes Indie.

• This article was published in association with Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy initiative.

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