TE Connectivity Belgium: The ‘human-centred’ approach of a 5-star factory

TE Connectivity Belgium: The ‘human-centred’ approach of a 5-star factory

TE Connectivity in Oostkamp prioritizes maximum involvement of all employees in the daily operation of the factory. 550 employees were actively involved in the “Vision 2022: What does our factory look like in 2022?” exercise.


All 700 employees at TE Connectivity Belgium BVBA in Oostkamp develop and produce connectors and inductive components for the automotive industry. An explicit continuous improvement programme (TEOA, TE Operating Advantage) combined with technological and social innovation (Go for Brilliance) ensured the Oostkamp site received the highest possible rating of 5-star factory in 2017. This company has been hailed as an example since then.

TE Connectivity in Oostkamp does not see the nomination as a 5-star factory as the end goal! The company is investing on three cornerstones: innovative end-to-end processes, customer-focussed operation and employee-focused operation.


Shortly after the downturn in 2008, TE Connectivity in Oostkamp started the relaunch of a continuous improvement programme called ‘TEOA’ (TE Operating Advantage). The first activity consisted of the broad and explicit implementation of lean manufacturing principles on the production floor. In 2014, TE Connectivity was awarded the fourth star for this.

The continuous implementation of improvements makes it harder and harder to implement improvements. Involving all employees in daily improvements and decisions, therefore, becomes essential to continue to improve. A value-driven organization with autonomous teams with maximum authority with regard to their process becomes the logical option.

In 2014, the “Go for Brilliance” slogan was the starting signal for a process of cultural change where employees are at the core of the company and are involved in the daily operations of the factory to create a brilliant organization that shines brightly in every possible direction.

The main challenge is to let go of the traditional command-and-control style and to allow employees to become autonomous step-by-step. The “STOEV” acronym originated at a few workshops. It is the Dutch language acronym for the following:

  • Cooperation works
  • Team knows why
  • Environment that stimulates growth and thriving
  • Energy, positive and solution-focused
  • Trust

These behavioural principles should eventually lead to a STOEV culture of trust, self-development, autonomy and solution-focused collaboration. STOEV is currently the leit motiv of nearly all activities.

The company invested significantly in education and coaching to ensure both management and employees are ready for the future.

Success followed! The commitment, motivation and work satisfaction of employees increased every year and this led to the “world class performance” for which the 5th┬ástar was awarded in 2017.

Many employees raised the logical question: What comes after these 5 stars? What should we work on now? What is our next goal? In the old hierarchical culture, this would have been discussed by the management team and the newly formulated goals would be communicated top-down.

But following from the T, Team knows why, in our new STOEV culture we need to raise the question and discuss it with all our employees. We can, however, not invite all employees to Flander Expo for a vision workshop day. The question was raised how to discuss the issue but keep the production losses to a minimum when the production system is operating 24 hours a day.


The TE Connectivity human-centred approach is based on three cornerstones:

  • Ensuring employees commit whole-heartedly
  • Ensuring everyone in the organization is pulling in the same direction
  • Talent and team development

In January 2018, all employees were officially invited to the Vision 2022: What does our factory look like in 2022? exercise.

550 employees accepted the invitation. 19 sessions were organized to ensure employees of all shifts could attend. 20 to 25 people created their vision at a time working on a dream and vision board. The various ideas were collected on to a single vision board and converted into focus areas. The site leadership team further elaborated these outlines into a vision during a 2-day workshop.

The STOEV culture was elaborated further into STOEV behaviour indicators. The employees are involved in various related activities (recruiting, branding, vision, labour organization, etc.) and promote the STOEV principles within and outside the company.

Various mini factories were launched to align the organization. A mini factory is a small SME within the factory and consists of about 80 employees. The leadership profile for the Ideal mini factory leader is essential to the self-organizing abilities of the mini factories. To ensure success, it is relevant that the leader sets an example of the coaching approach for the team. The coaches are selected based on this profile characteristic.

Based on the Talent and team development cornerstone, the organization reselected the coaches and the new coaches participated in solution-focused coaching method training courses. Talent development currently focuses on the training course options for the leadership profile of the coach and training courses and methods that help employees to collaborate well. The DISC method is a useful tool.

Project highlights

This is the final summary as a single coordinating vision board.


550 people accepted the invitation voluntarily, which indicates the commitment of our employees. We have received a large volume of positive feedback regarding the organization and work method, even from trade union partners. The fact that the management team as a whole led the sessions, even during weekend and night shifts, was greatly appreciated.


The following challenge is maximum conversion and involving employees in this process. A few elements have already been implemented (e.g. creating a quiet area) or are currently being implemented (e.g. ironing service, digitisation, autonomous teams, etc.). A few topics need further research, which has already been started.

The site leaders have further elaborated the vision outline. The conversion of this vision is currently being drafted into the new Vision 2022 guideline.