Workforce Realignment Fuels End-to-End Cultural Change

Performance Improvement Case Study


One of the largest manufacturers of escalators and elevators in the world was under pressure in an increasingly competitive market characterized by complex logistics and declining margins. The company, which designs, manufactures, installs, and services escalators and elevators, was facing excessive labor costs—the bulk of the organization’s costs in its service division—due to a specialized, unionized workforce in addition to customer demands for lower bills.

North Highland was enlisted to help improve the quality of preventive maintenance and the effectiveness of workforce planning and talent management. 

At the same time, corporate profitability targets were increasing. With a largely reactive service division driven by customer requests and complaints, the organization needed to improve the quality of preventive maintenance and the effectiveness of workforce planning and talent management. Among its goals were a five-percent reduction in its labor force, expanded levels of supervision in the field, and an improved ability to leverage existing systems and data to optimize service delivery.


The organization turned to North Highland, which worked in partnership with Alfa Consulting to improve day-to-day management of its service operation. The solutions, which were piloted in five districts before being rolled out to more than 60 across the U.S., encompassed changes to organizational structure, operations management, analysis and reporting, processes, and training to improve in three key areas: organizational agility, workforce planning, and culture.

North Highland presented solutions that encompassed improvements to three key areas: organizational agility, workforce planning, and culture.

With labor representing such a large portion of its cost structure, the elevator company needed to be more agile in how it deployed its teams. To help the organization do its work more efficiently, North Highland began by analyzing preventive and corrective maintenance activities in three regions and involved each level of the organization, from technician to area vice president. By looking at team members’ detailed time log files, North Highland was able to evaluate the extent to which activities were completed efficiently. The audit uncovered that functions and responsibilities for superintendents and technicians were not clearly understood or evenly applied. Supervisors were spending little time supervising, with up to 60 percent of their work day often spent on administrative tasks.

Workforce Realignment

To address these findings, North Highland restructured the technician workforce and better aligned individuals to specific activities and routes. Activities were also shifted to newly created roles, which in the case of management allowed supervisors to spend more time in the field coaching technicians and growing the business. Rebalancing and optimizing technician routes, and aligning capabilities with types of equipment and services, enabled callback assignments to take into account technician skillset, geography, and priority due to contract terms.

Data Into Insights

North Highland also helped the elevator company turn data into actionable insights to better manage its workforce and plan for future service calls. A series of models and automated reports that integrated disparate data sets allowed the organization to project callback volume, length of callback, travel time, and preventive maintenance. By determining up-front the skill set that would be needed, the organization could better provide the right person, at the right time. Managers also gained visibility into billing trends and insight into their teams’ activity levels and day-to-day performance on a variety of key dimensions, enabling them to identify issues proactively, mitigate revenue loss, and enhance client-sales discussions. North Highland also changed the performance metrics by which individual team members were judged, aligning them to the values the organization wanted to reinforce.

Culture Change

The team also effected a cultural change throughout the service division, turning it from a reactive organization to one in which teams could work together to improve overall performance. The level of detail afforded by the new reports allowed supervisors to have constructive conversations with technicians to foster behavioral change, rather than just addressing individual issues as they arose. It also empowered team members to understand and track the metrics on which they were being judged, and to make changes on their own. Supervisors played a larger coaching role and team members leaned on each other to deliver a result greater than the sum of its parts. By aligning performance metrics to desired behaviors and developing extensive training modules that were reinforced by ongoing coaching and field ride-alongs, North Highland helped the organization solidify this new culture.


By helping the organization employ its people more nimbly, plan for service needs, and shift its culture, North Highland enabled the organization to realize immediate results and a positive net financial impact of $11 million.

Accurately assessing its labor requirements allowed the elevator manufacturer to reduce its workforce labor costs by more than five percent, saving $8 million, and improvements in time-and-materials billing helped reduce revenue leakage for a net impact of about $3 million. Due to improved operational reporting and efficiency, the organization also realized a 50-percent increase in fulfillment of service contracts, even with an increasing customer base portfolio serviced by fewer technicians.

The improvements to organizational agility, operations management, processes, and training put in place by North Highland helped the elevator company revitalize its business and effect end-to-end change for a more efficient, smarter organization.


A positive net financial impact of $11M: 

  • $8M reduction in labor cost
  • 11% increase in time-and-materials billing, resulting in $3M in increased margin
50% increase in contractual fulfillment

10% increase in mean-time-between-callbacks

10% increase in repair revenues

15-20% increase in technician productivity



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