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Private Sector

Agrihealth

Half a century of successful growth

Starting out in 1966 as a veterinary service for the poultry industry, Agrihealth has since expanded its reach into animal health and equipment wholesaling, animal identification and laboratory and veterinary services.

Its customers include retailers, large and small animal veterinary practices, pharmacies, food manufacturers, saddleries and tack shops, as well as poultry growers and pig farmers. 

The company now employs over 100 people across its Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland sites, and has recently been successfully expanding into the English and Scottish markets.

The discovery

We were first introduced to the company by a personal referral, to help deal with a potentially contentious employee relations issue, which we helped bring to a successful conclusion. But our consultant took a broader view and realised that the root causes of the issue went much deeper.

To an extent the company was a victim of its own success. It had grown quickly, at the same time successfully retaining a large number of key long-serving individuals, and promoting them to line management roles from within. But this had created a skills gap. Whilst highly skilled and knowledgable in their own technical areas, they didn't have people management experience, in some cases hadn't been trained and so didn't have the skills and competence to manage their teams effectively.

And in addition, because of the company's rapid growth, it didn't have the necessary structures, policies and procedures in place to allow effective management of people related issues in a company of its scale. There was also the added complexity of its operating across dual jurisdictions.

 

Developing the individual, developing the team, developing the organisation

Addressing the skills issue, we developed the capability and the confidence of the existing line managers through individual performance coaching and through training and development workshops. We continue to support them on an ongoing basis by acting as a first point of contact for any queries they have about procedure or best practice.

We also managed the recruitment of various senior roles within the company, carefully targeting outside candidates with particular skills to help build a comprehensive set of capabilities within the senior team.

Equally importantly, we provided a solid policy framework within which managers can operate. We reviewed and updated the company's policies and procedures for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and created and rolled out revised employee handbooks. We delivered training on the new handbooks to give line managers the knowledge and confidence they needed to operate the new policies.

 

A top-down change in management culture

At a practical level, the changes in Agrihealth have been fairly direct. The company now has the right people with the right capabilities in the right roles. As providers of HR support, we see the effect, as many more employee relations issues are being dealt with quickly and effectively by line managers, without being escalated to us. 

But the more fundamental change, which we think will have a longer term impact, is a change of culture. Based on the impact of her work with line managers, our consultant was able to adopt a style of influence that resonated with the senior team, who could see results of the coaching. She was pragmatic, commercial and honest and developed a relationship of trust with them.

The result has been that senior leadership style has evolved into a more considered and people-focused approach, which has become infectious throughout the management team. HR is a key stakeholder and influencer, which is reflected by a much more proactive approach. The Managing Director recently asked us to carry out an employee engagement project to establish current levels of staff engagement, and we supported the senior team in building a people plan to ensure a proactive and planned approach is taken in future.

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