Flexmarkt column, May 2023

“Don’t lose sight of people”

Frank van Gool (OTTO Work Force) is aware that running a business is not just about key financial figures. Still, in his column for Flexmarkt, he admits to be curious about OTTO’s position in the Flexmarkt Turnover Ranking (Omzetranglijst) which is about to be published.

Of course, it is great to be ranked high in the Turnover Ranking. Nothing human is alien to us. But, at the same time, I realise that turnover is vanity and profit is wisdom. A company is about profitability, but what is special about our industry is that it is all about people: they are our product and thereby our capital. Hence my statement: Profit is great, but don’t lose sight of people.

As far as I am concerned, business value is the sum of different values, for instance of the profit you make, your contribution to the society, the added value you offer to your customers and, finally, the value you offer to your employees. It is not just about the sum of these values, but primarily about the balance between them, as focusing only on profit leads to cold spreadsheet management, while focusing only on employees is social entrepreneurship. The latter is extraordinarily sympathetic, by the way. I have once read the motto of a social bakery in New York: 'We don't hire staff to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire staff'. In my opinion, it's all about the balance.

Financial values are easier to identify than customer and employee values. You only have to check the figures. That is why OTTO Work Force has launched regular customer and employee satisfaction surveys already years ago. The surveys gave us a good picture of our performance: the financial figures on the one hand, and the figures on satisfaction with our services on the other. Until something felt a bit out of joint. Because what do you really know from the fact that 83.5 per cent are satisfied? You do not get to know people easily in quantitative studies; to get a better picture, qualitative research is important.

And so, we began focusing on the “Happy Employee Journey'” three years ago. It is a company-wide awareness programme into the backgrounds, motives, and ambitions of our employees: where do they come from, what are their aspirations and what do they want to achieve in their lives. Easier said than done, but it does pay off. In addition to our annual surveys, we constantly focus now on our employees' experiences. Scheduling and streamlining the programme structurally, we get relevant data that help us to retain employees longer. The “Happy Employee Journey” has also contributed to understanding that labour migration in the coming years should be mainly circular; that is to say it should not solely be aimed at recruiting people to work in the Netherlands, but - from the outset – also on their eventual return to their home country.

We have initiated the “Happy Employee Journey” - a company-wide awareness programme into the backgrounds, motives, and ambitions of our employees.

Just looking at financial returns and turnover is not enough. “Don't lose sight of people” requires knowing and caring about the company's employees. Having said that, I am going to take a quick look at our position in this year’s Turnover Ranking.”

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