Nothing beats information straight from the source. Hear what Lafarge employees have to say!
Testimonial 1 : Magdalene, Kenyan, Safety coordinator in Eastern Africa
Magdalene is in charge of the safety programs in Kenya and Uganda. She explains her job’s challenges.
"I am a civil engineer by qualification, with additional qualifications in HR, and will be completing my Masters of Science in Occupational Health and Safety this year.
I joined Lafarge 3 years ago and am responsible for health and safety in Kenya and Uganda.
It is a very challenging area in terms of influencing individuals to make a "hearts and minds" commitment to safety, when they have previously worked all their lives in various places without any mention of personal injury prevention. The problem is also made more complex by a cultural belief that "Ajali haina kinga", "Accidents cannot be prevented, they are bad luck"!
With commitment from senior management, hard work and passion, we have been able to overcome that cultural myth even in such a fragile context.
The challenge was to remain excellent in our own right, to promote a safe internal culture and not to support external culture.
We engaged and lobbied for government support through the Ministry of Transport. I believe that people who fail are those who do not try! We got overwhelming support by first being appointed as stakeholders to the National Road Safety Council on policies. This partnership was confirmed in December 2009 when the Minister of Transport came to launch our Road Safety Campaign trail.
Immediately after that the Kenyan police launched a similar campaign which followed on from ours until the end of the year, with significant positive results.
Through our hard work we have realized we can change cultural myths - basically, achieve the impossible today!
Within Lafarge, we have teamed up with Ecuador and Pakistan, who had similar challenges. We shared with them our action plans and how we succeeded in overcoming the challenges. Achieving 2 years without a fatal accident in Kenya - compared with an average of 6 fatalities in 2005 and before - has massively increased my drive and passion for safety and for working for Lafarge.
Lafarge's firm commitment to "zero accidents" in its operations has pushed us to go that extra mile and achieve results we thought were impossible in our kind of environment."
Testimonial 2 : Vidia, Mauritian, Group Health Director
Vidia is the Group's Health Director and worked on the implementation of a health strategy that can be applied throughout the world
"I studied medicine in the United Kingdom and worked as a surgeon in a Scottish hospital. We used to get a lot of patients from the oil drilling platforms in the North Sea, and many of these people were suffering from pathologies linked to their work environment. I decided that prevention would be better than cure...
So after specializing in occupational health, I became a consultant in the oil industry, moved on to the electricity sector and then worked for a steel producer. These industries have a long tradition of preventing work-related illnesses because they present significant hazards. They were the first to raise health to the level of corporate priorities.
What struck me when I arrived at Lafarge was the strength of the Group's commitment to improve health. It now remains to put it into practice! So when I joined the Group in February 2009, putting the Group's commitment into action was the first target I have set myself.
For that to happen, there has to be a shared understanding of what the key challenges of health are. It is generally accepted that there are 3 basic pillars: preventing risks relating to the company's business, bringing people back to work following illness or injury, and public health, i.e. promoting the healthiest possible lifestyle. Today, these 3 aspects are treated unevenly from one country to another.
The initiatives to fight HIV/Aids and malaria conducted by sub-Saharan countries are excellent examples with regard to public health. In Europe and the United States, our sites tend to be more concerned about preventing work-related illnesses linked to noise, dust emissions and chemical products. We also are very effective when it comes to remodeling people's workstations following a period of sick leave. What we now have to do is bring all that together in a common strategy and define action plans to be adapted at a regional level according to the local situation with regard to public health.
Over the years, health has become more than a socially responsible commitment; it is now seen as an economic necessity, an indicator taken into consideration by all our stakeholders. And it's not a figment of our imagination: every year, there are people who die and become disabled because of their work and in many cases this could be prevented. So let's prevent it!"
Testimonial 3 : Edgardo, Filipino, HR manager in China
Edgardo is a human resources manager in China. He explains the challenges associated with recruitment in this country.
"Our objective is to support the development of the Business in China, where we are planning to double cement and clinker output between 2007 and 2010.
To do this, we will be recruiting new employees over the next 2 years and training them to Lafarge standards. We are planning to increase the workforce by 25-75% by hiring engineers (plant, site and field engineers) and manufacturing and maintenance technicians, among others.
The challenge is twofold. Not only do we have to respond to growing demands for human resources, we have to compete with local and international companies who wish to recruit the same employees. We have, therefore, implemented an extremely proactive recruitment process which targets key audiences and provides accelerated training.
We are looking for candidates with experience in the building materials industry. Since most jobs are in the field, knowledge of Mandarin is important for all candidates, whatever their nationality. The hiring process in China is fairly standard: recruitment is done through colleges, the internet or specialized agencies. Candidates are first interviewed over the phone and then in a face-to-face meeting.
Most young recruits are engineers. They follow a specially-designed integration and development program before they are sent into the field or to a plant. Young graduates from outside China are also welcome, particularly if they have training in strategy, marketing, industrial ecology or safety.
Among the 8,000 employees working in China in 2007, only 44 are expatriates. Most of them work in our Technical Center but we also have expatriate staff working to share Lafarge best practices, integrate new production sites and develop skills and training, to give just a few examples."
Testimonial 4 : Marc Sinclair, Cameroonian in France , manager in a technical center
Since November 2006, Marc has been working in France at the Technical Center Europe and Africa (TCEA).
I am a process engineer with a degree from the School of Advanced Studies in Agro-Industrial Science in Cameroon. I joined Lafarge's Cement Business in Cameroon in 2005. In March 2006, I was appointed Pozzolan Quarry & Laboratory Process Manager for the Bonaberi plant.
At present, I'm working in France at the TCEA (Technical Center Europe and Africa) in the Process and Quality Department. This department tracks, assesses and optimizes plant performance in the Western Europe and Africa regions.
I joined the team in November 2006 and will spend my assignment on rotation in the combustion, grinding, raw mix, geology and quality departments. We work closely with local teams to make sure equipment is used under the best possible conditions and that products meet Lafarge quality standards.
I benefited from the skills development program which has been launched in the Cement Business in Cameroon. Working abroad is an opportunity to grow professionally and will allow me to take on more challenging roles when I return to my Business Unit.
The most surprising thing about working here is finding out that people's attitude to time is very rigid. Arrangements are tightly scheduled, which means there is little room for improvisation and human relationships. People are also far more independent in their daily work. For me, sorting out administrative tasks such as expense reports or booking trips is a totally new experience!
I am very touched to be working at Le Teil, the Group's original plant. I am also enjoying working with the most qualified experts in the area and meeting managers whose paths are stimulating and motivating.
As regards my private life, I know that the concessions I'm making will be worth the effort. My wife and I know that this is an investment in our future. Expatriation has always been an integral part of my career plan.
Testimonial 5 : Christine, American, Director of a cement plant in South Africa
Christine is the Director of the Lichtenburg cement plant in South Africa
" I began working for Lafarge in 1992 as an engineer at the Alpena plant in Michigan in the United States. I was a plant manager in Canada from 2001 to 2004 and was appointed to manage the Lichtenburg plant in South Africa in March 2004.
Ever since I joined Lafarge in 1992, I've been working towards an international career. For example, I've taken advantage of individual evaluation meetings to express my desire to live abroad.
Before leaving for Lichtenburg, I took a cultural training program which allowed me to become operational very quickly. From the outset, I was confronted by the challenges associated with managing a team of employees who have very different origins, cultural backgrounds and qualifications. I had to adapt my approach to human resources management. Things that I took for granted in my previous location took on a new dimension in South Africa.
For example, educating employees about H.I.V. is critical. The Business Unit has implemented an excellent program on H.I.V./Aids awareness as well as voluntary counseling, testing and treatment. Another example is access to transport. In North America, one assumes that all employees have access to transportation. In South Africa, organizing transportation for all plant employees is much more complex.
Industrial problems, on the other hand, are fairly similar to those we encounter in North America. I was able to apply the best practices developed in my original Business Unit to my South African plant. Knowledge transfer makes it possible to obtain improvements more rapidly and at a lower cost. We encourage plant employees to look to the Group when trying to solve problems. The South African teams discovered that the solutions to their problems can often be found in other Group plants and that they don't have to start from scratch every time. "
Testimonial 6 : Yotham, Zambian, Human Resources manager for a cement plant
Yotham is Human Resources manager of the Chilanga cement plant in Zambia, his native country.
" The Chilanga cement plant has not been spared by the H.I.V./Aids pandemic. A study carried out by Lafarge in 2003 revealed that rates of H.I.V. among employees were above the national average, which stands at 20%!
Something had to be done. Alongside this terrible human tragedy, the plant was suffering from high levels of absenteeism and a decline in productivity. With help from the Lafarge Group and Afya Mzuri, a N.G.O. formerly known as Z.H.A.B.S., we set up a prevention program with a team of 44 peer educators. That's a ratio of 1 educator to every 10 employees. I am proud to belong to this team. Employees from all categories are represented and we meet every 15 days during working hours.
Our actions, which are partly financed by Lafarge, consist of informing our colleagues and their families about H.I.V./Aids and opportunistic infections and distributing free condoms. We also encourage employees and family members to undertake voluntary counseling and testing and to take advantage of the measures Lafarge has implemented to facilitate access to anti-retroviral treatments.
Women play a key role in our intervention program. We quickly understood that successful preventive action could only be achieved if we involved employees' wives and family members. With help from Lafarge, we gave training in H.I.V./Aids prevention to 30 women from the Chilanga community where our employees live. They have since been sharing their knowledge with numerous other women and families in the area.
These efforts have paid off. The health of our employees has improved and the number of sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.Ds.) has fallen sharply. Absenteeism has also declined so the plant can now operate normally. We plan to extend these programs to other communities near the plant. Aids is no longer taboo and the fact that people are willing to speak openly about it is helping to change high-risk behavior. The role of a peer educator can be difficult and demanding but if I can convince just one employee to protect himself or herself against H.I.V./Aids then I will feel that I have fulfilled my mission. "
Testimonial 7 : Sébastien, Romanian, managing Director of a business unit
Sébastien is managing Director of the Gypsum Business in his native country, Romania.
" The Group works in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, an N.G.O. which helps needy families build decent homes.
Since 2002, Lafarge Romania has been supporting the local branch of Habitat for Humanity by donating building materials. Employees can also volunteer to work on the construction sites and are always highly motivated by this new teambuilding experience.
This is an important project because, with more than 15 industrial sites in Romania, Lafarge has economic and social responsibilities here. Our goal is to introduce Habitat for Humanity projects to as many local communities as possible in the areas where we operate.
It was for this reason that, in 2003, Lafarge Gips donated $3,000-worth of plaster and other gypsum materials and that 10 of us helped to build apartments in Beius. I took part in the project because, for me, sustainable development should be practical.
With hindsight, it was very satisfying to devote time to a project without expecting anything in return and to help build decent and affordable homes for needy families. This humanitarian partnership is particularly motivating because all of Lafarge's business units in Romania are equally involved. "
Testimonial 8 : Martin, Czech, Director of a cement plant in the U.S.A.
Martin is based in the United States and is the Director of the Ravena cement plant
" Before coming to Ravena, I worked in my home country, the Czech Republic, then in Serbia, Montenegro and at Davenport in the United States.
I believe that professional mobility can help boost the performance of a plant or business unit. If you are transferred to another country, you have to immerse yourself in the new situation to ensure you understand every last detail. Being able to take a fresh look at an existing system is often a great way to work out what is and isn't working.
Professional mobility offers another incontestable advantage in that it is possible to draw on best practices used elsewhere to solve problems in your new environment. The fact that a given solution has already proven its worth in other contexts reassures the work teams and helps speed its implementation. "