June 16, 2021

The pandemic has caused significant upheavals for Vestergaard’s customers and for our own production. Thus, it has also greatly impacted Vestergaard as a workplace. Our employees in production have especially experienced a year of many changes and uncertainty about the future. It has required an extraordinary readjustment and effort from everyone.

Not least Magnus Hartvig Andersen, Vestergaard’s director of production, and Per Gregers Jensen, the joint union representative in production, have been busy with crisis management. They have both been deeply involved in planning and managing the situation at a strategic and operational level. Both say it has been a turbulent and challenging year and that the word which best describes the past year is ‘unpredictability’’.

Magnus elaborates: ”It has been unpredictable. It has been difficult to know what the future holds and plan accordingly – not only in relation to our staff but also in relation to suppliers and customers”.

Immediately after the national lockdown in spring 2020, an internal working group was set up consisting of the joint union representative and representatives from Vestergaard’s management.

The director of production says: “We had to handle the situation. The key issue was how we could best get through this with respect for the individual employee. The success criteria were to keep redundancies to a minimum, and in case of redundancies things had to be handled in a manner that meant that people would return to Vestergaard”.

However, getting through 2020 without redundancies turned out to be impossible for Vestergaard being a manufacturing company in a hard-pressed industry. The joint union representative and the director of production to the redundancies in June 2020 as clearly the most significant upheaval and challenge. As the director of production puts it:

“ It has been a contrasting experience because how do we terminate the employment in a good way? We had a desire to help people well on their way onwards from Vestergaard. Therefore, we collaborated with the consulting firm AS3 to better equip the managers to handle the redundancies and to develop an outplacement process for our production staff to ensure that they quickly got on well in their working lives. This is quite unique for a manufacturing company!”

As an additional measure to help dismissed employees, a job bank consisting of two advertising columns was erected in one of the production halls. Here, job postings were displayed from other companies looking for skilled workers. This made a big impression both internally and on several people from the outside who visited the company during the period, showing that an extraordinary effort was made to help employees move on, says the joint union representative.

The joint union representative emphasizes that he has really appreciated the sparring in the working group with the different stakeholders.

The past year has primarily been characterized by the fact that there have never before been so many rules for people to become familiar with and to navigate by in the planning.

The director of production adds: “We have managed to minimize the number of redundancies with the handling of the situation combined with the available elements we have brought into play. That we have taken advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves and that our people have confidence in those solutions. When we find solutions that benefit our employees, this also benefits our company”.

Employees at Vestergaard have appreciated the solutions that have been implemented to get through the crisis. Martin, and employee at Vestergaard, can attest to this. He is trained as a metalworker and has been employed by Vestergaard for 23 years. He has thus experienced both ups and downs in the industry:

“ The company has done well! Solutions have been worked on to reduce redundancies. It’s good to know that the company has spent time and energy to save colleagues from redundancy. It might have been you. You had no way of knowing.”

The solutions have been centered around the mantra ‘respect for the individual’. This has meant continuous openness and clear communication to employees about decisions in the process during the past year. Martin further explains that the tremendous support for and loyalty to the company of many Vestergaard employees is partly due to the unique solidarity at Vestergaard. This has been built over many years:

“You want to be involved when things move in the right direction again, and, at some point, they will. Many have been employed here for many years – up to 20-25 years. You invest something of yourself when you have been here for so long and built strong social relationships, and you also want to invest time and money and show flexibility in a situation like the present. It pays off in the long run”.

The feeling of community and the unique spirit at Vestergaard are things that employees and many of our customers have noticed over the years. Martin tries to put it into words:

“It is the way we treat each other and the way that we are being treated. You are part of the whole company, and so you also feel responsible for it all. It makes it a more personal affair, and you want to do a little extra. You can’t buy the spirit and knowledge that is gathered here”.

Martin thinks that it is probably not all companies that would have gone as far in finding solutions to retain employees as Vestergaard has done in a time of crisis.

With Vestergaard’s specialized products to meet customers’ needs, it is paramount to have the right know-how in the company. This also means that we will go to great lengths to retain the right skills and resources among employees!