How Rijksmuseum drastically changed its performance management system

In a short amount of time Rijksmuseum went from measuring staff performance using standardized surveys and fixed annual performance reviews to a system based on accountability and personal development. Here’s how one of Amsterdam’s biggest museums decided to put their employees in charge of their own development.    The case Rijksmuseum  In over a decade world-famous Rijksmuseum grew from having 420 to an astounding 770 staff members. After a 10-year period of renovation, the museum reopened its doors to the public in 2013 and as a result took on over 350 people. With a bigger variety of new and more assertive staff came the need to develop a different way of monitoring performance.    Employees at Rijksmuseum vary from security personnel to scientists, conservators and highly skilled experts specialized in – let’s say – tin bowls from the 17th century. One single performance system to asses employees working in over 160 wildly different positions? Yep. Challenge accepted. Rijksmuseum HR-advisor Bart Schindeler (36): “Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to look at our challenges from a different perspective.”    VIE People HR-consultant Bonnie Luijten (39) recalls her first meeting with one of the museum’s directors. “He asked me what the newest and best performance management system was.” There is no such thing, Bonnie answered. “Every company would be using it by now if there was.” Instead, looking at the true needs and wishes of the organization and at its current company culture is the way to go.      Ranking and rewarding VIE and the HR department of Rijksmuseum joined forces and got to work. The verdict: members of each layer of the organization found the current performance management system to be unmotivating, routinely, outdated and unpractical.    Performance was graded on a scale from A to D, evaluated by managers by ticking boxes on a survey. Staff attended a mandatory yearly performance review led by their managers – potentially leading to a raise – and one yearly assessment interview. The system was based on ranking and rewarding.    "We found that some managers find it difficult to honestly asses their staff members. When performance was suboptimal, they ended up ticking the ‘average’ box”, Schindeler explains. Research suggests that also in other companies this is often the case when managers are asked to fill out a survey about their employees. Needless to say, this approach rarely leads to improvement. Things had to change. And they did Intensive sessions with directors, managers and employees of the organization followed. More than half a year of research and brainstorms gave rise to a totally different way of doing things. The ranking-system had to go and so did the mandatory performance reviews. Instead, each staff member now automatically gets a raise. No lengthy forms, no ticking boxes, but a personal approach in which the employee takes the lead.    Every team discusses next year’s goals and targets during an annual team meeting. Instead of the team leader, the employee initiates, plans and prepares the one-on-one annual development talk between the manager and employee. A performance review will no longer occur annually, but only when a staff member excels or when things are not going well.    Gradually the museum is changing its’ work culture. An open feedback culture? One bridge too far, for now. Schindeler: “Going from ranking and filling out a form to giving feedback in a face-to-face conversation is a huge step we aren’t ready for yet.” Rijksmuseum staff will slowly ease into the idea by opening up the possibility to give and receive feedback during the one-on-one’s.    Surprising outcome Although the museum is in the middle of its transitional year, the first reactions to the changes have been very positive. So far, almost every department had its first annual team meeting. Guided by a simple form, the board of directors formulate the vision and priorities of the museum, which the department managers translate into team goals for that year. From there on each individual employee decides how he/she will contribute in achieving those targets.     Barbera van Kooij (57), head of the publishing department was surprised by the outcome. Having her team members reflect on and suggest their own targets based on the priorities of the museum allowed staff to break away from their daily work grind. “Questioning their own ambitions and aims and being presented with the vision and goals of the museum as a whole triggered a feeling of belonging. A true team mentality. Also, my team came up with additional ideas and started taking on extra responsibilities because they felt they could contribute to the bigger picture.”   Curious if Rijksmuseum managed to fully turn its system upside down? Changing systems and mindsets takes time. Stay tuned for the evaluation in 2020. 
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5 hacks to survive a busy summer season at the office

For businesses that have their peak season in summer, the office can quickly become a dreadful place. Staying focused is difficult when your friends are posting photos of palm trees and cocktails and when the beach is calling. Here’s what to do to keep your staff motivated when the temperatures are rising as much as the workload.    Working 40 hours in 4 days If a summer schedule with less working hours feels like too big of a risk, try compressing the 40 hours in 4 days. 10-hour workdays seem long, but if the reward is a 3-day weekend your employees will thank you later.    Freebie Friday Holding special events throughout the summer months helps to keep staff happy after a long week of hard work. Prosecco and oysters after work, a free massage the next week and an Italian ice cream cart the week after. It takes a bit of planning, but the gesture goes a long way.     Relaxed dress code Sitting at a sweltering non-airconditioned office in a button-up shirt and tie can feel claustrophobic. Grooming to perfection takes time too. Cut your employees some slack and allow them some extra sleep or time to themselves in the morning by introducing a relaxed dress code. They’ll be eternally grateful if they can come to work in a breezy-but-not-so-formal summer dress instead of spending those precious morning minutes dolling up for work.    Work from home on any chosen day of the week Show your team some appreciation for their hard work by allowing them to work from home on a day of their choosing. It might feel counterproductive, but the staff will reward your trust with hard work. Outdoors refreshment cart Even at the busiest times taking small breaks clears and resets the mind, leading to a more effective workflow. Providing a refreshment cart in the courtyard of your office is a great way for staff to get some fresh air and break away from the desk. Offer cold drinks, beers or a cool watermelon salad for free or on donation. If you have no garden or courtyard, then having the cart indoors is fine too. Optional is to write a sign encouraging them to take a walk around the block. They’ll come back feeling refreshed and energized. 
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5 hacks to survive a slow summer at the office

Most businesses slow down during the summer season. Employees with kids take their family holidays, clients are out-of-office and the workload lightens. Although it is nice to take a breather from a year’s hard work, this is also a time of opportunity – if managed well. Here’s how to keep your staff motivated during a slow summer.   Brainstorm Monday Use the first hour of every Monday morning to get your team together for a collective brainstorm on the priorities of the next year. Reflect on how to solve problems encountered in the previous year. Urge your staff to think outside the box using brainstorm exercises to come up with creative ideas on what to take on next.    Invest in a personality test Investing in personality testing during a day’s workshop will give your employees a unique insight into their strengths and downfalls, their ambitions and position in the company. Who knows, they might surprise you and bring something new to the table during the next Brainstorm Monday.    Flexible Friday  Boost the productivity of your employees by allowing them to take Fridays off from June to September. Long weekends away, a staycation in the summer sun or more time with family will have your staff coming back to work re-energized. If this feels like too big of a step, try experimenting with half-day Fridays or alternating Friday afternoons off. Important is to keep tracking the results so you can choose the summer-schedule that fits your company.    Update your marketing plan Use the extra time at hand to update your marketing plan. To fuel growth and to keep developing your business, it’s important to carefully evaluate your marketing strategy. Have you been using the same media outlets and templates for years? Maybe it’s time to change it up. Create a content plan, take a social media course, connect with influencers, learn about SEO or update your newsletter template.    Organize a summer event Hire a DJ and throw a rooftop BBQ for employees and clients. Socializing in an informal setting creates a true team spirit and at the same time provides an excellent opportunity to network. Have ice-creams ready for dessert!
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How do I attract my A-player?

Now you know how to find an A-player for your company, but where do you find your A-players? How do you approach them and how do you spark their interest? In other words: how do you attract your future A-player? Attracting your star employees starts with organizing an event tailored to their needs and interests and getting them to attend it.    Sparking curiosity First of all, making a detailed profile of the type of employee you are looking for helps you to narrow down your search. Define details such as background, personality and interests as accurately as possible. What moves our A-player? What gets him/her up in the morning? Also be aware of the opposite: what does he/she detest?  At VIE People we named our model A-player Daniel. An adventurous explorer, someone who loves helping others and wants to make the world a better place. Daniel is not afraid to make decisions and has a clear no-nonsense attitude. He is ‘brutally honest’ … See how he relates to our core values?    Be visible  To meet Daniel in real life and to create a personal connection we organize a quarterly HR Young meetup. An informal event to inspire young HR professionals by sharing relevant and industry-specific information in an innovative and accessible way. Participants share their experiences and learn from each other.    Connect At VIE People we let our core values guide us when we form relationships. We live by our motto ‘be brutally honest’ by openly sharing our thoughts and feedback with the person in front of us. We ‘collaborate’ by constantly learning from each other. This approach fosters an honest and personal connection and ensures more effective and authentic interactions allowing job candidates to feel safe to speak up and surprise. It creates memorable conversations and Daniel will feel sincerely connected.    How do your core values connect people and how can you use them to your advantage when you meet your potential A-player for the first time? These are questions to think about, but not be overly aware of. Use your intuition to find out what feels good and be yourself. In the end it is your open attitude and personality that will allow a connection to flourish.    Stay tuned for how to keep them inspired once onboard and how to lead your A-player.  
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Five Takeaways from the EO @ Harvard Entrepreneurial Strategy Program

Wendy van Ierschot - angel investor, keynote speaker, entrepreneur and thought leader on the human side of business   Every leader wants to keep learning from the best. And it’s a big plus if you can do that learning in an inspiring environment. That’s why I was delighted to take part recently in “EO with Harvard Business School Executive Education: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Strategy”, which was designed for members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), the only global network exclusively for entrepreneurs. EO helps leading entrepreneurs learn and grow through peer-to-peer learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and connections to experts. The program was so effective, in so many ways, that I decided to try to boil down the plethora of insights I picked up in it to five takeaways and to share these here. I think any manager, entrepreneur or founder can benefit from them in one way or another. So here goes. Takeaway 1: Focus on the speed of learning Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos used one indicator for success in his sources: the speed at which we learn. The faster we can learn, he believes, the better we will be able to meet our clients’ needs, the happier our teams will be, and the higher our brand value. Of course, this is all much easier said than done. Here at VIE People, we’ve decided to make it possible to measure the speed at which we learn. How we will do that we still need to figure out but focussing on fast learning is what we are doing already. Takeaway 2: Develop all the entrepreneurial roles you need in order to scale up your business John Kotter and Abraham Zalaznik have posited four entrepreneurial roles that they say are crucial to success. It’s important to determine who needs to play which roles in your business, and in what sequence. (Everyone will eventually need to master all of them.) In the start-up phase, the Operator/Controller and External-Relationship Builder are crucial. Later on, when your most valuable player flies the coop without warning, the Mentor/Capability Builder and Innovator/Strategist roles will help your company survive and thrive. Kotter & Zalanik’s Four Roles for Business Success   Here at VIE People, we will be focusing each day on building capabilities within the organization, and on its strategy. At the moment, my own time is eaten up by management tasks or by having coffee with nice, friendly and often inspiring people who operate outside my focus areas, so I can try to help them. Just as often, I spend a lot of time also being nice, but not really helping that much at all. Takeaway 3: Look for what is changing in patterns and trends Instead of focusing on what is happening in the world in order to be able to anticipate and understand patterns and trends, the focus should be on what is changing in those patterns and trends?—?not quite the same thing. Indeed, it’s not the same thing at all. In human resources (HR), for instance, looking at what is happening now means, among other things, being aware of, and having a solid grasp of, the new HR technologies that are being or will be developed. By contrast, understanding what is changing in the underlying HR patterns and trends means being able to see that more and more developers and tech people are focusing their attention on this domain, which has historically been run and supported primarily by psychologists and administrative staff. This new focus on ongoing change promises to bring about a major shift that will increase acceptance of HR as a general matter. Takeaway 4: Top-notch learning makes all the difference Top-notch learning is crucial both to me and to my staff. When I worked for Shell, I enjoyed the Young Managers Program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. And in a way, the Harvard Program was a continuation of this journey. I’ve also realized that learning from the best is making a real difference to the ways in which VIE People is growing and developing. It can be a big investment?—?but it’s well worth it. Takeaway 5: Inclusiveness is a resource opportunity The value of inclusiveness may not be so evident to many entrepreneurs. But one area in which it has proven its value is in decision-making. Consider, for instance, two mini-scenarios: You’re a project manager, and you think the daily stand-up should focus more intently on the backlog of unresolved issues. You kick off the stand-up one Monday by saying as much, and everyone nods and not much changes. You think the stand-up should focus on the backlog, so you say so, but you also add, “So what does everyone think? Am I missing something? Is there another approach we could be taking? Any and all ideas are welcome.” And after a brief but intense discussion that turns into a mini-brainstorming session (so the stand-up runs over), it turns out that, while focusing on the backlog is all well and good, what’s needed is much greater clarity around ownership of tasks, and a tighter focus on deadlines. The team acts on its own insights and a lot changes for the better. When you agree on that, again ask: who sees a different angle to this challenge In mini-scenario 2, it’s not that the focus on the backlog, which you more or less gavelled through all on your own in 1, was entirely wrong?—?it’s that it was woefully incomplete. And this meant that it remained unclear what the fixes were, and how they could be best be implemented. At VIE People, we now make sure that inclusiveness is a watchword at meetings, both internal and customer-facing. And let’s be clear: it’s not (just) about being nice?—?it’s also about making meetings more effective in identifying feasible solutions. Oh, and one more thing, in addition to the five takeaways above: A program such as EO with Harvard can be counted on to offer a plethora of insights. Insights encourage reflection?—?but what counts is what you do next. Follow-up?—?crafting and implementing effective solutions?—?is key. Watch this space for more on that score. In the meantime?—?and in the spirit of inclusiveness?—?we’d love to hear from you with your own insights, whether these have been prompted in part by any of the above takeaways or are based on your own experiences or both. In closing, I’d like to acknowledge, and thank, the following members of the Harvard faculty whose insights formed the basis for the above takeaways. The links will take you to each professor’s page at Harvard Business School, so you can find out more about the work they do. Lynda M. Applegate, Professor of Business Administration. Lynda’s research and publications focus on the challenges of building new ventures and leading radical business innovations in the face of significant industry, technological, capital market, and regulatory turbulence. William R. Kerr, Professor of Business Administration. William’s research focuses on how companies and economies explore new opportunities to generate growth. Frances Frei, Professor of Technology and Operations Management. Her research investigates how leaders create the conditions for organizations and individuals to thrive by designing for excellence in strategy, operations, and culture. Shikhar Ghosh, Professor of Management Practice, and successful entrepreneur for the last 20 years. Shikhar has been the founder and CEO or Chairman of eight technology-based businesses. Business Week has named him one of the best entrepreneurs in the US, Forbes has called him one of the ‘Masters of the Internet Universe’, and he’s been featured in Fortune as the CEO of one of the 10 most innovative companies in the United States. Wendy van IerschotAngel investor, keynote speaker, entrepreneur and thought leader on the human side of business Wendy is one of Europe’s most prolific angel investors in HR start-ups. She believes that all companies can achieve a success culture at the crossroads of Adaptive HR, HR Tech tools, and personal development. She brings this vision to life as an entrepreneur with her various companies and shares her insights in her keynotes. wendy@viepeople.com
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How a smartwatch inspired to innovate the HR industry

A smartwatch has led Reindert Kriek (37) to his current position, Head of VIE People’s brand-new Rotterdam branch. “I was using analytics as a tool to improve my own wellbeing but the biggest revelation in my working life was when I started linking this insight to the HR industry.”   Freedom to guide a new officeReindert Kriek’s voice radiates with boyish excitement when speaking about the freedom he has been given to lead the Rotterdam office of VIE People, which has its opening party on September 4th. His task will be to guide the new branch to become an autonomous office while sharing the core values of its significant other in Amsterdam. No unnecessary bureaucracy, no reporting to managers, no staff departments. An HR-consultancy firm without an HR-department? Exactly.    Using the A12 to divide and conquer the country's fast-growing enterprises, the Amsterdam office will continue to take on clients north of the highway. The brand-new Rotterdam branch will assist entrepreneurs with their HR challenges in the south. “We needed to keep true ownership of the tasks, our clients and the products we develop. By splitting the company early on, our targets are becoming much more attainable.”    3,5 to 4 hours of sleep a dayAdopting a growth-mindset was key in obtaining his current position, Reindert admits. Guided by a simple piece of technology he started on a journey of self-discovery. “I began to track my every move with my new smartwatch. My sleeping pattern, my food intake, my calories. Soon I found out I only slept for about 3,5 to 4 hours a day.” That realization led him to subtly tweak patterns and experiment with forming new habits. Instead of his occasional runs Reindert took up CrossFit. Being physically exhausted by burning more than twice as much energy increased the quality of his sleep. “I was using analytics as a tool to improve my own wellbeing but the biggest revelation in my working life was when I started linking this insight to the HR industry.”   Proving the effectiveness of HRQuantifying the added value of HR products, trainings and tools is what Reindert aims to do in Rotterdam. “HR is often frowned upon and not viewed as cost-effective, but entrepreneurs should look at the bigger picture.” Tracking and combining employee and revenue data and tweaking HR strategy accordingly can be a huge money-saver. “We want to start using data to predict the effects of introducing a company culture based on vulnerability, psychological safety and having clear targets on employee engagement and revenue.” This analytical approach to HR gives entrepreneurs the chance to lead by facts instead of only gut feeling. Solid sleep guaranteed, even without a smartwatch.
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How do I find an A-player for my company?

It is everyone’s dream: to attract the most competent people. To form a strong team that surprises and excels. You can attract those 'A-people' by using your company’s core values. Here's how.    Some candidates do not only rise to their role. They exceed expectations, surprising their colleagues and boss with new and unexpected ideas, whilst complying with the core values of your company. Those 'A-players' come up with smart solutions, execute projects excellently and, for example, attract new clients - even if they do not work in sales. So as an entrepreneur the first question you need to ask yourself when forming a team is ‘How do I find an A-player that would fit my business?’ To answer that question you need to have a clear overview of your companies’ core values. Ask yourself if you recruit accordingly. If so, how do you do that?   VIE Peoples’ core values are ‘collaborate’, ‘improve’ and ‘be brutally honest’. These core values mean a lot to us, as we always aim to develop and improve our products, services, client relations, ourselves and each other. So we use them to select and recruit staff too. To a potential candidate we might ask: Is personal development important to you? Can you receive feedback constructively? Do you enjoy giving feedback in order to improve your direct environment and the people in it? Someone who is defensive, doesn’t handle feedback well and who focuses mainly on him or herself would not be a good fit for us.    In our case, giving ‘brutally honest’ feedback about how we perceive a potential candidate during a job interview is a way of using our core values as selection criteria. By closely observing the candidates’ reaction we can gage if he/she would be a good fit to our team. We ask interviewees to reflect on feedback they have received in the past and on whether or not they used it to improve themselves. The answer to this question helps us to determine if the person in front of us is or could become an A-player in our team.    No worriesIt is a process of trial and error. Don’t expect to get it right the first time, but start using your companies’ core values as a tool to attract A-players. Evaluate where you have made mistakes and celebrate the times you have nailed it. Learn from experience. That’s what works best.    Stay tuned for how to attract, keep and lead your A-player.
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Doing what works when scaling up

Experienced in advising even the most rigid CEO's of leading Dutch scale-ups, VIE-founder Wendy van Ierschot gives her take on effective HR in companies that are growing fast. "Forcing entrepreneurs to be someone they are not and blindly following HR-trends such as increasing diversity in the workspace is not the way forward." Watch the interview here (unfortunately only in Dutch).     
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