Delta Holdings, Greece: Training, development, and flexible working practices
The company started in 1952 as a family business (called Daskalopoulos) distributing milk and yogurt. In 1962, it established a milk pasteurising plant and later expanded into the fruit juice market. In the 1990s, it expanded geographically into the Balkans and western Europe, and developed new product lines, such as ice cream and frozen foods. Delta became a holding company in 1999 and, since then, has expanded into pastry-making, cheese and catering, opening new dairy plants and a fast food chain. It was listed on the Athens stock exchange in 2002.
Delta Holdings employs 6,614 people, about 70% of them in Greece. The education levels of the workers are as follows:
- 18% – primary school;
- 58% – secondary school;
- 10% – technical college;
- 14% – university.
Length of service with the company is as follows:
- 66% – 1–10 years;
- 27% – 10–20 years;
- 7% – more than 20 years.
Some 57% of workers are administrative, the rest are technical. Training is extensive and is open to all ages. A gender breakdown of the workforce is not available but some units, e.g. dairy products, employ more women.
The company has an equal opportunities policy, which might account for the non-recording of employees’ age and sex. The human resources (HR) department developed the policy based on methods, practices and procedures that facilitate teamwork, entrepreneurship and employee integrity, and the policy particularly emphasises training.
The company is active in the Hellenic Network for Corporate Social Responsibility. The HR department, with the trade unions and each production unit’s works council, manages the social dialogue.
Summary of the original initiative
The low staff turnover in 1996 illustrates the importance of job security and employee development policies in this family business. Older workers are encouraged to identify with the company’s success. Delta continued its founder’s policy of hiring and promoting on ability rather than on age, with no age limits or gender preferences in recruitment.
Since then, the company policy continues to emphasise employee education and training. HR management systems maintain the corporate culture that values older workers. The company’s rapid expansion and the introduction of new technologies have necessitated changes in the workforce, with the recruitment of more technical, management and administrative workers. This has led the HR department to focus on ways of making the administrative and executive staff more effective. New, variable reward systems for executives are results-based and do not discriminate on age. Indeed, experienced, long-term employees are likely to do well under this system.
The company introduced flexible working in the form of cyclical work practices, which allow older workers to have a break from tiring work positions.
The company’s commitment to its older workers is expressed through training and long-term employment. The measures to train older workers, enabling them to stay productive and giving opportunities for career advancement, are transferable to other companies.
Good practice today
Delta’s HR policy has broadened in recent times although it is based on the corporate culture that values older workers. The loyalty, involvement, long-term service, and commitment that such a culture seeks to promote can be passed on only through older workers. The company continues to invest in training for all workers, regardless of age, to develop their abilities and skills, and to keep older workers effective and productive. The HR department develops the training programmes but the workers contribute to their design, and the experience of older workers’ gives them a significant role in this. The company has created an internal training centre that links company and departmental needs to workers’ development.
Delta has implemented a new, objective system to evaluate productivity within the framework of a long-term, equal opportunities policy. This includes job profiles and job descriptions that clarify the roles and skills necessary for effective performance. The policy encourages participation in training and represents part of a life-course approach to developing workers’ skills. The company does not evaluate the effects on older workers as a special category.
The continuation of the founder’s policies, combined with modern management techniques, form the basis of the company’s strategic goals. A management-for-value policy, which was recently implemented, links rewards and bonuses to the achievement of annual targets. All workers contribute to discussions as to how to achieve quality standards, increase productivity and make rapid decisions. Older workers, with their long experience, are particularly valued in both setting achievable targets and devising ways of improving productivity.
The substantial capital invested in training reflects quantitatively the importance of employee development. The training programme includes the provision of specialised training for older external collaborators, e.g. representatives and merchandise partners, including many self-employed people, who want to upgrade their roles in relation to the company.
The company introduced flexible working practices in agreement with the trade unions and in line with modern management methods. At Delta, these take the form of cyclical work, where workers systematically move through work stations that have different physical requirements. Delta’s production lines involve continuous physical movements, e.g. in the bottling and packaging units, people have to repeatedly stand, sit, reach out, lift, etc. To relieve the strain and boredom of these tasks, workers periodically change work stations throughout the day. This helps older workers who might not be able to perform some tasks continuously, e.g. those that require standing for eight hours. They can now participate fully in production because no task has to be done for long.
Delta considers that inter-departmental cooperation and the flexible organisation of work teams are essential to creating effective teamwork. Older workers often act as a link between work teams and with younger workers, and provide support.
The HR department regularly assesses and redefines the wage/salary and benefits system, both to help those who are lower paid and to make the system more transparent. This measure benefits mainly older production workers, particularly older women, who have lower education levels than newer recruits have. Administration procedures for all staff are being redesigned to allow an objective evaluation. However, the company still rewards long-term employment.
Although the Greek labour market currently provides many suitably trained and qualified workers, Delta continues to recruit older workers for some jobs, both highly specialised and lower skilled.
The company’s emphasis on workers’ health and well-being is evident in the special life insurance programmes it supports for all employees. It also provides medical and hospital care benefits, which help all employees, but particularly older workers.
Delta aims to double its current size by expanding its activities in Europe and worldwide. The target for the next three years is an emphasis on organic and external growth, which will protect the jobs of older employees, and layoffs are not expected.
Contact: Dr Ioannis Plevrakis, Quality and training manager, email@example.com
Angeliki Economou, Administration director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 210 3494815, Fax: 210 3494809
Company website: www.delta.gr
Delta Holdings S.A. Annual report 2003