MAXIMA GRUPĖ: after the events in Latvia, we had to change, and the change is already in full swing
MAXIMA GRUPĖ, controlling the retail companies in the Baltic countries, Poland and Bulgaria, during the last year reviewed its key business processes and principles. After the disaster that occurred on 21 November last year in Riga, the company has specifically focused on the safety of consumers and personnel, and on making other necessary changes in the company Maxima Latvija.
"The tragedy in Zolitūdė was the biggest shock in the history of the Company. Today we understand that over the past year we grew too rapidly, and were too focused on our development and activity results, thus did not paid enough attention to all the important aspects of the Company's activity. This was a painful lesson which encouraged change that we began at the beginning of the year. One of our priorities was and remains change in the Company, which we are determined to continue, in order to win back the confidence of the Latvian society and ensure that such a tragedy never happens again", said Neringa Janavičiūtė, general manager of MAXIMA GRUPĖ.
According to her, changes that began in the beginning of the year in retail companies are well under way and will be continued. Particular attention is paid to changes in Latvia, where the special Change Program is implemented. It covers three main areas: assurance of employees and customers safety, improving of working conditions and provision of support for victims. So far, 11 million EUR were spent for the Change Program in Latvia.
Employee and customer safety
In order to ensure the safety of employees and customers, immediately after the disaster the extraordinary inspection of building structures was performed in all shops in all countries where MAXIMA GRUPĖ operates – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland. First, the visual inspection was conducted and later construction drawings, technical documentation, and real condition of buildings were inspected. The inspection was carried out by certified engineers, who concluded that the buildings are safe to operate.
Fire protection systems were also checked. It was decided to modernize some of them, and this work has already been completed. Additional theoretical and practical fire safety training was organised for Latvian employees, and it will be held regularly in the future. More than 4 million EUR is spent in the Baltic states this year to guarantee the building safety, security assurance, inspections, repairs, and modernization of fire protection systems. In addition, MAXIMA GRUPĖ has strengthened the control of all new constructions.
Focus on working conditions
"Events in Riga have inspired us to review our values and priorities, and focus on one of the most important assets – our employees. We strive to tighten the link between the management and workers. We talk to our team, listen to their comments and expectations concerning the working conditions, and have prepared the guidelines to improve working conditions", said N.Janavičiūtė.
According to the situation in each country, measures were taken to improve working conditions. This year, the Wage fund alone increased by over 5,2 million EUR in Latvia, 8,1 million EUR in Lithuania, and over 1,4 million EUR in Estonia.
Employee workload was also reviewed. The number of working hours was reduced, and a simpler mechanism was envisaged for organizing daily activities. Salespersons were supplied with new working uniforms, cashiers in Latvia – with comfortable chairs, and other work equipment was also upgraded. In addition, all countries launched a complex project with the main objective to optimize workload and improve working conditions. In the frame of this project the management of product range, storage, transportation, product arrangement on shelves, product integration in campaigns is being reviewed. These are long-term changes.
Changes of corporate culture
Over the past year, MAXIMA GRUPĖ has paid much attention to corporate and internal changes in the companies and in the group. "First of all, we attempted to increase the competence of companies on relevant issues of corporate management, and reviewed their internal structure. Furthermore, it became obvious that the relationship between the administration and the shop employees should change, and the companies in the countries should become more open", said N.Janavičiūtė.
In order for the administrative staff to understand the main problems of the shops, have a good understanding of their business processes, the management began visiting the shopping centres: communicating with employees, they listen to their comments and expectations concerning working conditions, and measures.
In order to build a better link between the shops and the company's management, the program "One team" was launched. Its participants – managers and administrative staff – regularly go to work in the shops. This allows to better understand and assess the business processes, and to find opportunities to improve them.
In addition, more attention is paid to the communication of the companies of the group and exchange of information within businesses. The company started consistent efforts in preparation for crisis management and communication.
Change Program in Latvia: assistance to victims
"One of the key parts of the Change Program being carried out in Latvia, is providing support for the disaster's victims. Today we can say that Maxima Latvija has kept the promises given to the victims on its own initiative", - says N.Janavičiūtė. According to her, Maxima Latvija has always worked in close cooperation with Latvian Government institutions in providing support to both those who suffered injuries, and to the families of those who lost their lives that day.
Immediately after the disaster in Riga, Maxima Latvija at its own initiative began providing compensation to children who have lost one or both parents, by paying them monthly payments. Furthermore, in order to take care of these children, Maxima Latvija has signed a contract with the State Welfare Agency, which will oversee and pay benefits until the children reach the age of 18 years. The support totalling the average monthly salary will be paid to 23 children every month. Children who have lost both parents will receive a double payment.
The amount of assistance to victims of disaster and those who lost their close relatives amounts to over 2,1 million EUR. Of this, the support for children who have lost parents totals 1,8 million EUR while lump sums for the relatives of victims totalled 260 thousand EUR and the funds for treatment and rehabilitation of individuals injured during the tragedy totalled 62 thousand EUR.

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