Executive Interviews

Our Executive Interviews feature top leaders from across the disciplines that we specialise in, sharing their career advice and experience with candidates seeking success in those sectors.


Nicolas Passaquin - Senior Director, Head of Sourcing & Supply Chain Centre of Excellence at Telia

Nicolas Passaquin is the Senior Director, Head of Sourcing & Supply Chain Centre of Excellence at Telia in Stockholm. He started his career at Air France in 1998, before working around the world for Numico, Thomson Reuters, and Refinitiv.

EMEA Recruitment is proud to work closely with the international medical charity Operation Smile. What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m relatively easy; I think just a sunny day in Stockholm would be enough and we haven’t had that for a long time!

Jokes aside, I like to mentor and help develop others. I had a lady I’ve been helping in Asia for several years who came back to me recently and said that she got promoted.

That made me happy, because she definitely deserved it, and she was obviously quite happy about the mentoring and coaching. But what made me smile was that she acquired confidence, she’s got expertise, and just needed that boost of mentoring to get to the next stage. When she confirmed she got the role she was expecting, that made me smile and really happy. I’ve always enjoyed trying to help others.

What does it feel like to be the Deputy Chief Procurement & Supply Chain Officer at Telia?

It is an incredibly rewarding role. Being part of the leadership team in Procurement & Supply Chain in Telia brings a lot of challenges, but - at the same time - a real sense of responsibility and excitement.

I’m really proud of leading a team of talented professionals. They play a crucial role in Telia’s success. We have great collaborations with our stakeholders, and we can definitely feel how much we contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of the organisation. That’s something I enjoy very much.

Plus, every day, we have the opportunity to drive innovation, foster supplier partnerships, and contribute to Telia’s success by making sure we have the right delivery model in place. That has been a journey, but I am very proud of where we are today and happy about how much we have done.

I know sustainability is a passion and driver for you, and you are part of a sustainability group. Can you tell us more about that?

That group is really about exchanging, sharing knowledge, and helping each other and building our role towards sustainability; that can take different forms depending on the industry you work in and your maturity level.

It goes back to that mentoring and coaching I mentioned before. It’s about helping each other to reach the next level of expertise so we can bring it into our company’s plans.

In Telia, obviously, there are a lot of discussions about energy, child labour, forced labour, etc., because of what we buy.

We hear from different companies in different sectors and pick up from them, as well. We are moving with science-based target initiatives, and we share that with others. So, that community helps with disseminating that knowledge and making us all more professional in how we approach it.

How will the impact of artificial intelligence and data affect the roles and responsibilities of people in Procurement & Supply Chain in the future?

I think we will be heavily impacted, but in the right way. What’s in front of us is incredibly exciting; the technology will help us automate, enhance decision making, and streamline some of the operations.

We will need people even more than we do today - people to use those data-driven insights, to be able to think strategically, build relationships, and actually use their brain instead of just typing on an Excel sheet. I think that’s going to be a fundamental change that will enhance our Sourcing and Supply Chain Managers’ knowledge, not replace them.

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg right now, but in front of us are massive changes that will make our roles more interesting going forward.

What is one key bit of advice you would give to someone looking to get into Supply Chain or Procurement as a career, knowing these changes are around the corner?

There are several things. First, you have to have a deep understanding of your business. All industries are different, so you need to be interested in the area you are in, along with your stakeholders and what they are expecting.

For me, it’s crucial to have that understanding and view Sourcing, Procurement or Supply Chain as an integral part of a company’s success.

Then, you need to be curious, and that goes back to the conversation about technology, automation, etc. You need to search for information, embrace change, and stay updated on industry trends and technologies.

Also, connect yourself to peers. I’m part of that sustainability group we talked about and I’m a member of other groups, too where we build common knowledge together. You need to do all of that to first enter the career, and then prosper.

Why did you decide to follow a career in Procurement & Supply Chain?

Sourcing and Supply Chain are one of those few areas where you can be in touch with any part of the organisation. So, you get exposure to all of the groups, from Marketing to Product, to R&D, Logistics, etc. It’s one of the few functions that can give you that broader understanding, and that’s what I find fascinating.

Plus, I like the idea of optimising complex systems and processes, and I think you are in the right place to do that if you go into Sourcing and Supply Chain. For me, it’s a unique blend of strategic thinking, operational responsibility, and a chance to make a tangible impact on the organisation. It was that mix that I found extremely interesting.

Over time, I grew passionate about creating value through efficient procurement and supply chains. That’s why it has been an extremely rewarding career, because you have all those touchpoints, and you know how you make a difference in your job every day.

Can you tell us more about the regular newsletter you release on LinkedIn?  Why did you start it and what outcome do you have in mind with it?

I started it for myself to dig into different areas, then converted that into blogs and newsletters afterwards.

Initially, I was picking a subject trying to understand what I knew about it, then researching it and talking to people to see if I was staying up to date. When I was doing all of that, I thought I could start sharing it, because, if it’s useful for me to stay up to date, then it can be useful for the community, as well.

That’s when I started to write some of those articles in my French-English, to share those trends and reach a wider audience. The benefit for me (beyond the work I was already doing) was that it created interactions. I’ve had conversations with a number of people at all levels in P&SC or outside in different industries where we exchanged on different subjects. It has enriched me and at the same time helped others.

So, I think it’s a win-win situation – I get a lot out of it, and others hopefully get something out of it, as well. Also, in that community, they interact with each other, and sometimes I bring people into conversations and say, “Reach out to X, because they have the same challenges.”

Ultimately, it’s about contributing to professionalising our function and knowledge sharing in Supply Chain & Procurement.

How do you manage your time to do all this?

I am actually extremely disciplined and organised, and I publish every two weeks. Generally, I spend the first week while on public transport doing research, reading articles, and consolidating ideas here and there. Then, during the weekend, I will structure that, and then, the following week, I will spend time rereading it and polishing it before publishing.

So, I use transport time when I can’t do anything else to be able to build those articles. But I’m trying to be efficient, and not going on social media, for example, because I want to have time for things that bring something to me.

The key point is that I’m doing it because I love doing it. Initially, I tried to do a YouTube channel, where I was producing videos, but I wasn’t very good at that. It still exists and I spent a lot of time on it, but I lost the pleasure of doing it, so I parked that.

It took me some time to find the right model. Now, I enjoy putting it together and learning something from it. It took me a couple of years to get to that place.

What is one mistake you have made and what did you learn from it?

I’ve got a tendency to be a bit impatient. Once, I have rushed too quickly into a decision. Early in my career – I was a Sourcing Manager at the time – we went through a request for proposal and there was a debate about one supplier versus the other. I just pushed for a decision. We could have done additional due diligence, but I was pressed for time.

The mistake I made was rushing into it, which cost a lot more energy to make the solutions work. It was just the wrong choice. A little bit more time into due diligence would have led to a much better decision. There was no harm done, but it was still an imperfect solution that we struggled with for a little bit of time.

The learning was about just sitting down, thinking about it, and ensuring you have the strategy, the risk assessment, and you collaborate across the teams to get to a point where the decision seems to be the right one – sometimes, a week more isn’t going to change anything. So, I’ve learned to be a little bit more patient now.

That came with maturity; I don’t think you can fully change your personality and that’s how I am, but I was 25 then and now I’m 40-something, so I’m definitely more mature.  

Sometimes now, I try to step away and say, “Let’s pause the meeting for two minutes to breathe, have a coffee, and think about it.” It’s better than rushing through. That’s the best technique - step away to get a wider holistic view of the decision you are about to make.

Conversely, what is the best decision you have made?

Investing in building high-performing teams, from attracting, hiring, mentoring, and coaching people. It’s extremely rewarding.

I have a passion for sharing and for people, as well. The best decision I made was to make sure I had the time to share expertise and build the right team. When you build and nurture those teams, you are successful in the end, you leave a legacy, and - at the same time - when you need help and support, you can reach back to people.

That entire people and development aspect is something I’m happy to have invested in and keep learning from, as well.

What process do you have that is efficient and effective to find good people for your business or team?

Try not to recruit a clone of myself. I think we all tend to like people who are like us, but that’s something we should fight against.

You can learn core expertise and skills; I’m never that worried about that piece. I’m more worried about the person and the soft skills: how you interact, build relationships, and learn, and if you are happy to fail, as I think failure is learning, as well.

I don’t like people who say, “I have never made a mistake and I am quite proud of that.” I say, “Well, if you haven’t made any mistakes, maybe you didn’t take any risks.”

Generally, I try to split interviews, where there will be a conversation dedicated to content expertise and what you are going to bring from your past experience, then another that is actually a chat about who you are, and how you will fit within the team.

Usually, you spend much more time on senior hires than junior ones, but - with senior hires - it’s definitely a good investment to spend time to build that profile, not just recruiting clones of yourself, but people who are going to be able to work together and bring something to each other.

If you get into Sourcing, Procurement, or Supply Chain, I think you should have that change management, transformative mind, and eagerness to learn. If you have that in you, you will be able to build the expertise and the experience. It is really more a mindset and a profile than core expertise.

We are not mathematicians; you don’t need core skills that are extremely difficult to acquire. You need common sense and the right attitude.

Thank you to Nicolas for speaking to Paul Toms, our Founder. 

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Göran Mayner - Chief Financial Officer

Göran Mayner is a Finance professional with 25 years’ experience. Most recently, he was the Chief Financial Officer (SE, DK, IS) at DB Schenker in Sweden, where he worked for eight years. He started his career in the banking sector, before moving into Controlling.

Göran first became a CFO in January 2005 when he worked for Willys Hemma & Willys, and has since been CFO at Student Travel Schools, Blomsterlandet, and Gothia Towers.

How did you get to the level you are at? What great decisions do you believe you have made throughout your career and what risks have you had to take?

I have always been curious - curious about people, business, and how we can improve. Curiosity can sometimes be offensive, but, if you are humble, kind, and honest in the way you are asking questions, and trying to honestly improve, it will be noticed by people and management. That is a way to climb the ladder, but also a way of challenging yourself while enjoying the climb.

I have never been shy about speaking up and have almost been naïve in my thoughts and belief that every employee is doing their best for the business and not for self-gaining purposes. 

I always take the risk of saying how things really are and how I want to contribute to the next level. Saying how things are is also sometimes offensive to people, but the honest approach of seeking to improve usually helps.

You need to have a backbone and integrity and have faith in what you believe in.

How do you combat those situations where someone has taken offence?

I immediately confront the person and I share my purpose, my views, and how I see things, and honestly try to get their view. Usually, it’s a misunderstanding and we can work together to find solutions.

Of course, you will encounter people who will see you as a threat, and - no matter what you say over the following days or weeks - they will still see you as a threat.

But don’t focus on them – focus on the 99% of people who you can collaborate with, who want to help and want to see you improve.

How do you surround yourself with the right people?

It’s a matter of getting people to trust you, and that’s not done in 30 seconds. It’s done by being present and walking the talk, listening to understand, and by taking an interest in people and the time to understand them. Usually, they ask questions during conversations and the communication gets better while creating the environment to be vulnerable.

There are a lot of opportunities to do this. For example, having a conversation at the coffee machine, sitting down for lunch in the lunchroom, and having a chat - over time, this dialogue will develop. Take the time to talk to each other. Eventually, you will discuss areas of improvement, and no one will be afraid to share their opinion or be open about mistakes.

We are all trying to improve, but you need to set the context, and that’s not a 30-second job. It is a long-term job, and you must be vulnerable, too - admitting you don’t know everything and owning up to your mistakes.

Is that a mindset you’ve always had?

I always try and be vulnerable, honest, and show interest. But, earlier in my career, I was more stubborn when I met people who didn’t agree with me or saw me as a threat and were trying to push my ideas in a different way. However, with age, I learned that you can’t force it – it’s a concrete wall; find another way around it and move it. The wall won’t be there forever.

We had a situation where someone close to the very global top was saying no and it was totally illogical. We were trying to prove it any way we could, but the door was closed. We prepared the case and did whatever we could to improve without that permission to change – it took a couple of years, but that concrete wall was totally gone. Don’t waste energy on a concrete wall.

How do you take risks when you have those discouraging voices around you?

I still believe everyone wants to improve the business, get better value for the owners, better customer experience, sell more, earn more, and have fun while they’re doing it. Usually, the global management or the board has the same opinion, but - somewhere in the middle - the communication is lost. I still believe that we all have that purpose when we start the work.

Someone once told me I was brave for taking such fights. To me, it might be brave, but it is also a duty and has led to a lot of progress in each company.

My ability to make those decisions and take those risks has contributed to the position I am in. 99.5% of the time there has been a conflict, it has been solved. That will lead to increased progress and development.

Taking those risks is part of developing yourself and the business. If I hadn’t taken those risks, I would have limited myself and developed the business at a slower rate. As a manager, people will come to you with suggestions, and you are supposed to support them, challenge them, and communicate improvements to those higher up. That means you are also standing up and taking risks for others, which leads to trust, because you have their back.

What are your personal motivators?

To see people in my old team taking on new positions and seeing them develop and that fire in their eyes. Highly motivated people, who can be vulnerable and feel confident, proud and have a sense of trust, develop business and help the business become more profitable, all while developing themselves.

During my earlier career, I was more motivated by myself. Now, I am motivated by seeing that drive in people’s eyes. When I meet with my fellow management colleagues and they say, “What a great person you sent yesterday,” and to see the improvement of every KPI team, together with Sales, Procurement and Legal, prompting communication and the building of a network.

That’s important, as – usually - that’s what I’m trying to rebuild in Finance. Traditionally, Finance has been reactive, and I try to make it proactive. The cashflow work has been part of that proactive and communication work, and it’s part of the transformation.

Also, for each company and department, you need to look at the process on a deeper level. If you don’t have the right people, put the right team in place and use the OKR (objectives and key results) method to develop and fulfil the strategies you set, instead of rebuilding the strategy each year.

This is not only related to Finance, but acting as a business partner and being proactive helps the business. That is important to me.

Another highlight would be when I became a CFO. I was able to reduce the team by 40% and improve the outcome, while having fun every day at work. For me, that just shows how transparency and engagement can lead to efficiency and fun, doing a complete - sometimes painful - transformation of a Finance department together as one team.

What is the worst/best interview experience you have ever had?

I have had a few bad interviews and conducted a few myself.

However, I will focus on the good ones, which are experienced through real and honest communication. Sometimes, that means we can agree that a position is not suited to them. For example, one candidate, on the third interview, we agreed the position was not right, but told him he had made an extraordinary impression and we would remember him for future positions.

So, I called him after half-a-year, and I reminded him who I was. We then employed him, and he made a tremendous turnaround on one of our entities. He moved on after four years, but made a turnaround I had never seen.

During the years, I have developed people through different positions. When interviewing, it might be for one position, but that changes. Another example would be when I employed a lady and I said, “I have changed your role, as you would be perfect here instead.” We had a dialogue and she really liked it; she did tremendous work in that position and then went on maternity leave.  

But I called her late on in her maternity leave and said I was going to make another change. Initially, she wasn’t too comfortable with that idea, but then I explained that I needed her skills and expertise to tackle certain challenges. Now, after three years, she has totally reconstructed that area and is moving to a global level.

The pieces in the puzzle must fit in the position, but it could also be like a Swiss army knife that can be reconstructed and fit elsewhere.

Photograph of Goran Mayner with his dogWould you say those relationships have contributed to the development of your career?

Yes, a lot. Finding the talent and identifying the skills these talents don’t know they have or are not using their full potential has helped build relationships. I also try to identify and find talent everywhere in the organisation. When they are in different positions, I try to talk to everyone, maintain relationships and learn about people, their names, families, the names of their dogs, etc.

People come to me asking for other challenges and asking if I’ve seen certain issues, and I listen because it develops me, and it develops the business – this is what I like about being a leader.

If you are building a context of trust, it’s not about being in a higher position - I may just be further along than you and doing different tasks.

I extremely seldom use the CFO title when I’m out in stores, branches, and different departments. I am just the guy in Finance and present myself as Göran. They don’t need to know who I am, as it’s not important. How we can develop is important.

What is your advice to aspiring leaders?

Building on from my last point, don’t use the title, as it will close more doors than open doors. My advice would be to stay authentic, interesting, and curious. Try to develop the business, ask questions, and challenge, while being authentic and honest. When challenged, you get new challenges and attention from leaders. Also, when challenging, try to pinpoint and suggest solutions, otherwise, it’s not challenging - it’s complaining.

Start with how you would like to live your life and have close relations. I am not calling people colleagues; I am calling them friends. Making friends is not a bad thing, but divide friendship and business, because focus is about developing the business.

When you develop a business, you need to face challenges, as it has a lot of old truths, habits and processes - that’s also why it’s good to come from different companies and areas with fresh eyes.

I usually let the numbers speak, and I have a track record of creating better efficiency. If you look at the employee survey index, for five years in a row - despite COVID-19 - we improved. It’s about trust and communication, and you cannot communicate too much.

In the organisation, I have been trying to lift women, as some are not pushing themselves when compared to men, who would push themselves up faster. But, when they are lifted, they have extreme confidence.

Overall, be authentic, kind, curious, present, and be yourself. There is no reason to be anything but kind, and people will remember if your bad day affected them. You need to be curious about people, processes, and the world to further your understanding – and you will have much more fun. Being present in meetings, with people and your family allows you to become more effective; people will tell if your mind is elsewhere.

Do you have any role models?

I have a few. On the religious side, it would be Mahatma Gandhi.

Ingemar Stenmark would be another. A journalist once said to him, “You’re lucky, you are always winning,” and Ingemar replied, “I don’t know anything about luck, but the harder I train, the luckier I get.”

Also, I really admire the humbleness of Nelson Mandela when he was set free from Robben Island. Still no hate in him. The few words he said are still there, “We are one people, and we need to heal.” His body language was calm, and he was trying to heal.

My mum and dad are other people I admire. We had a really close relationship. What they taught me - and what I am passing onto my kids - is being a good, honest person, not lying and trying to help; a kind and authentic person is a good and honest person.

It’s important to be kind to everyone. Another quote from Britian is: Common sense is not that common. My advice to others would be to share what you know and share what you think might be common sense, because it might be unique. Please tell someone, please speak up and challenge, be brave.

What book would you recommend to someone who is looking to follow in your footsteps?

Earlier, I was talking about trying to make Finance proactive. Proactivity is also about having a plan, but everything else is communication. So, I would recommend a book called Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. It’s about selling and communication.

Ideas, thoughts, plans, processes, investments… everything needs to be sold, so communication is essential. Sometimes, you can have the best idea in the world, but you can’t sell it. Finding the common base, expressing it that way and coming to a conclusion, that’s a sell.

Regarding other recommendations, I would say read anything that will keep you humble, authentic and curious.

One book that still influences me is Humanism as an approach to Life by Georg Henrik von Wright that I read when I studied Philosophy at university.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say go abroad and see the world. There is so much opportunity around the world. Believing in improvement fits more in the international world and I made many more friends who could relate to a humble, constructive way of challenging.

You get totally different perspectives when you travel alone, as you interact so much more with others instead of your friends and colleagues.

Some more advice for others would be to learn about culture change and culture shock. That is not worse or better, it is just different.

Most countries are beautiful when you stop and just be present. The interesting part is, when you come home, you see your home in a different way – maybe that lasts a day or a few hours, but use that different perspective to look at your own company and hometown.

What business value have you seen from sustainability improvements?

Firstly, sustainability is close to my heart, and seeing my kids growing up in the current environment with the fires, rain, and pollution is something you need to think about. Everyone can contribute. It’s about making sustainable investments. For example, building sunroofs, and looking at improving energy consumption and trucks, what is the next step in achieving a better ROI [return on investment] using electricity?

If you look at the purpose of taxonomy, you should be comparing companies as much as you compare them with key figures and actually invest money in the future – that will build up and money will go to the good ones, instead of the bad ones. That is the future.

For countries and companies, it’s not a race about winning - it’s about dignity.

It’s totally essential. In the next five, ten, 15 years, it will be either you’re still in business making successful progress or you’re out. I’m looking at the future we can give our kids - we need to improve really fast.

As a consumer, you have power. As a company, you need to adapt to the consumer. But, as a leader, you need to ensure you are doing the best you can businesswise and for the future. 

Looking at the taxonomy, businesses will be judged on different KPIs regarding sustainability. That will benefit or not benefit them.

For me, it’s hot and it’s for the future. We, and a couple of previous generations, have made a mess and we are responsible for cleaning it up as much as possible.

If you are going against sustainability in the short term, you might be profitable, but - in the long term - it would be devastating, and you will be out of business. In every instance, start now. It’s just a matter of how much you can invest and having a plan surrounding every choice and making those sustainable.

I’m shocked that the world doesn’t move faster and it’s disappointing, because all the reports will go through Finance. So, Finance needs to be prepared for this and we need to steer with it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Please develop people, because they deserve it. Have fun during the journey, as it improves the business. You can look at any science report, it will say people develop businesses; if you develop people, they will take care of the job for you.

Thank you to Göran for speaking to Hanna Gibson, Senior Consultant in our Nordics division. 

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Ronald Peereboom - Group Head of People & Culture at The Kingfish Company

Ronald Peereboom is the Group Head of People & Culture at The Kingfish Company in the Netherlands. He started his Human Resources career in 1994, before becoming Global HR Director and Corporate HR Manager at Provimi. He has since worked at Cargill, Nutreco, and Hilton Food Group. 

What excites you about working for your current organisation?

The sustainability part of the scale-up is really exciting and, to be honest, what we are doing is also really awesome. I won’t go into the details, but our product is the beautiful Dutch Yellowtail kingfish (seriola lalandi) and our integrated process runs from (fish) egg to plate in a sustainable manner. We breed our fish on land through RAS (Recirculating Aqua System) techniques, using fresh water from the Ooserschelde. After use, the water is discharged back into the Oosterschelde, filtered and cleaned. Take into mind that the Oosterschelde is a national park, and we really have to undertake a lot of action to ensure a clean water discharge. As such, we have certificates from various aqua organisations that monitor our way of working, of which we are very proud.

I knew from an HR point of view that there was a lot to do or that needed to be done, amongst others: recruitment, retention, leadership and communication, but also day-to-day HR operations. Much needs to happen, and today’s solutions do not fit tomorrow's requirements (start-up to scale-up to maturity level and our further growth/expansion plans abroad), so we have to be flexible and every now and then refigure everything - that's where the challenges are.

On the other hand, there is a lot of freedom to act within Kingfish and we don't want to smother the entrepreneurship. So, upkeeping the entrepreneurship whilst introducing (more) processes and procedures seems to clash from time to time. How fun is it to find the balance!

Another exciting challenge is that the culture is pretty diverse, because the company is continuously changing. A culture change comes in play with about every 30 new employees (within smaller companies, of course). When I joined, we were around 90 people, now almost 150, meaning we’ve organically switched culture a couple of times. Then there are the groups of employees from different countries that do not speak either Dutch or English (Polish, Romanian and Spanish), which in turn creates different pockets of culture, as well.

During the job interview, the CEO indicated that internal communication was lacking and needed a solution. Getting notices and publications to everyone in the company is not a stroll in the park. How to tackle this? After joining, I asked our HR tech-savvy intern to create a Kingfish app that will be downloadable through Google Play and from the Apple Store. The push notifications will come through on the app, and employees will be able to see all internal communications, the invitation for the (alcohol-free) Friday afternoon drinks, the upcoming Town Hall or register for the Kingfish Family Day. These kind of topics also keep my engine running.

You mentioned that retention may be one of your biggest challenges over the next 12 months. Have you started to build strategies to tackle some of those challenges?

As a scale-up, we are constantly on the move. We are learning by doing. The hiring process is being adapted in such a way that we are now focused on the personality of the individual and how he/she/they will fit in the team, rather than the skills. It sounds obvious, I know, however, that was not the case in the beginning, which has led to a high outflux. Over the last months, we are seeing the number of employees that are leaving decreasing. So, a good selection at the gate contributes to a better level of retention.

In November, we ran an employee engagement survey. The engagement survey provided a lot of suggestions for direction, which will contribute to retention. These actions are related to communication, decision making, leadership, culture and values, but also more tangible topics in the area of benefits.

From a retention view, we are introducing job levelling and looking at all the positions across the departments. We will then put salary bands against them, introducing career paths. Originally, we had one level of Operator, but now we have a Junior Operator, an Operator and a Senior Operator. This provides a career path and advancement for those who stand out in the crowd. We also have various departments that require Senior Operators, and we are now moving them around so they are not stuck in one department. A lot of good is coming from that.

Being located in Zeeland has its challenges, as well. Of course, there is talent here, but we see that most of our talent comes from abroad or lives over two hours away. To accommodate these talents, we are renting a number of houses and apartments in the vicinity and making sure there is a soft landing and a good onboarding. And then there can be significant cultural differences. So, some communication, coaching and leadership skills need to be addressed. We are not yet at our final destination for the full 100%, but getting there.

How have you seen HR evolve and do you think developments in technology will change the function in the future?

I’ve been around quite a while and have seen many changes. I do think that AI is going help us tackle certain topics, but is not the golden egg. ChatGPT will be the creator of job profiles and postings, can do some research on HR hot topics, create software and apps for HR needs, and so on. Of course, we will need to look at digitalisation as a connected universe and related privacy laws, and there is no turning back. AI will mostly free up time, as some of the operational and admin stuff will be AI-ed. Due to the use of AI, roles will disappear and new (digital and data-driven) roles will surface. But that has also been the case since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

So, the future of HR will for sure integrate with AI. Initial interviews will be taken through AI, directly linked to simplified online assessments that will generate questions and match the hiring team. This approach will be used for almost all roles, due to cost effectiveness, including those roles that we normally do not provide assessments for.

I recall working with an assessment organisation in Paris - they do a lot for a large beer manufacturer - and, once a year, this beer manufacturer initiates a large, global management trainee program. They get over 5,000 applicants for five trainee slots! Can you imagine the time that will be saved when AI performs all these interviews, in combination with assessments?

Looking back over your career, is there anything that stands out as one of the proudest achievements so far?

The most energy I got was when working at Provimi. I joined the company in 1998 and, at that moment in time, there were 4,000 employees within 11 standalone operating companies in nine countries. However, until then, there had not been any HR structures, processes or procedures in place. No HR at all! Some of the OpCos [operating companies] had a local HR administrator or payroll person, others had secretaries taking care of HR. Starting from scratch, and with no experience in an international setting, I started putting HR topics in place: comp & ben [compensation & benefits], performance management, succession management, fleet management, expat management, L&D [learning & development] and much more, and loved every minute of it!

Throughout the Provimi years, we were de-listed from the French Stock Exchange, we prepared for an IPO [initial public offering], but - before going public - there was a hostile takeover by Fiat, then sold off to CVC/PAI (private equity), then sold to another private equity company (Permira), and ultimately to Cargill. Quite a fantastic ride with continuous change of ownership and the HR agenda.

It was a quantum leap in my own personal and professional development. And I believe that one should take bigger steps than what you think you should be taking – of course, being realistically bold. I would say that these were my proudest years.

If you had not taken the HR route, is there a different career path that you might have explored?

If it wasn’t HR, then it would be something totally different. I really like being creative and I tend to think that I would have gone into Architecture or something else with a creative aspect.

At Provimi, I approached the COO [Chief Operational Officer], requesting if I could join his team or be his assistant, because I really liked what he was doing from a day-to-day and from a strategic perspective. HR is very broad insights of many aspects of the company, but as COO he knew even more, and I'm probably too curious for my own good.

Are there any people in your life that you particularly admire?

Yes! I was running HR on my own for the Provimi Group and, in my opinion, doing a pretty good job. When Permira acquired Provimi in 2007, a new leadership structure was put in place, including the introduction of the position of CHRO. Stijn Steendijk, coming from Unilever, became the CHRO within Provimi.

I had done five years of pioneering in HR and I felt I knew what HR was. And I wasn’t happy that someone from outside was coming in. But the way that he worked, how he communicated, and how driven and hungry to achieve things he was, and probably still is; it was like he was running a marathon while I was still at training camp. So yes, I learned really a lot from him.

Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts that you enjoy that you could recommend to people?

I’m not ashamed to say that I hardly read anymore. I watch vlogs [video blogs] or listen to podcasts. For example, to Ben Tigchelaar, who does a lot on leadership, behaviour and management. I do this on Friday afternoons, taking an hour, sometimes two, to cruise the internet for interesting TED talks or LinkedIn learnings about what’s new and happening in the HR world or on leadership.

My team is not to have any meetings before nine, after four or between 12 and one. They need time to get to the office, to start up and have coffee corner and hallway talks. If you have a meeting from four to five and someone needs to leave at five sharp, he/she is looking at the clock and is not participating anymore. Also, enjoy the lunch break, go for a walk, or do something not work related and relaxing.

I recommend to all my HR team members to do the same. Take a Friday afternoon - if you don’t work on Fridays, take Thursday afternoon - and make sure that you hear what’s happening in the outside world within the HR arena. You don’t have to apply what you hear; it is to educate yourself as a professional and expand your knowledge. And, who knows, you might hear something that could be a value add for your company!

Thank you to Ronald for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our Human Resources recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Thijs Glasz - People Vice President EMEA & APAC at Össur

Thijs Glasz is the People Vice President EMEA & APAC at Össur in the Netherlands. He started his career in Law, before moving into the Human Resources function with LeasePlan. He specialised in Compensation & Benefits before moving to Össur in 2018.

What are the key drivers to success at Össur and what do you, as a business, watch the most?

We're a global company, originally founded in Iceland over 50 years ago. We develop, manufacture, and sell prosthetics and bracing and supports to medical professionals. Additionally, we operate patient care facilities around the world, which service those in need of mobility solutions. Prosthetics are basically for somebody who has lost either a hand, a finger, a knee, or a foot and most of our clients in that segment are elderly people who have diabetes or other related illnesses.

It's less trauma-related; trauma is about 15% of our business. Most of our patients and end-users are elderly people who suffer from cardiovascular issues. For some of them, it means that one day they wake up and have a toe that is black - it's horrible to say, but that's kind of what it looks like. People ageing in general is beneficial for our business, because they’re the people most in need of our products.

The real cool stuff is bionic hands - you put them on your hand and then you can grab and pick up things.

The other line of business is bracing products. Braces can be applied to the neck, elbow, hand, knee, or hip, or anything that you need help with - that's more for support. It is very much for people who are ill, who've had a sickness and are recovering, or it's people who are elderly and need support. For example, if you still want to play tennis when you're 75, then it’s great to have some support with your elbow.

We sell those two lines of business mostly B2B . We’re acquiring the clinics where patients and end-users come for their prosthesis or their braces - and we're not the only ones doing it; our competitors are doing the same thing. One of the strategic reasons that we’re doing it is to make sure that we gain market share and this way can provide best-in-class services to patients and end-users.

This is what our clinics’ employees do every day. It is healthcare and we need to make sure that the care of the patients is our first priority. 

Again, we’re not the only ones involved in forward integration. If you look at the people perspective, we need to hire clinicians, and physiotherapists, technically skilled people - different skills and competencies come into the business. It is our job to think about the best way how to develop our employees, how to reward them and keep them engaged, how to provide services to employees, how to train them - those are all things that are on our agenda, and we want to adopt one way of doing it, but differentiate where we need to, as well. That is a challenge. It's a good one to have, but it’s not always that easy.

Was that always the plan for the business or was it because of the competition going down that route that was the catalyst to move into that space?

It's a bit of both. We've been thinking about this for a while and some of those acquisitions we have done for over a decade in countries like Australia and in Nordic countries. We've owned many of those clinics for a while. 

This means that, as an organisation, we must continue to be flexible and agile, and make sure that the different groups of employees collaborate well with each other and determine which HR services we provide to our employees globally. 

In the existing product business that we have, in our Americas, EMEA and APAC markets, we have a high-touch HR model. This means that we have a good number of HR people supporting with recruitment, learning, organisational development, business partnering, and related services.

In the clinics, it's slightly different - it's a bit like in other industries where you typically have one HR Business Partner for a large group of employees (approx. 500) and many services come from a shared service centre. The support from HR business partners relates mostly to certain annual cycles like performance management, talent reviews, training and onboarding, etc. Our challenge is bringing these two models closer together and this requires thoughtful resource planning and managing expectations.

How far are you on that journey?

For our function, it's fairly at the beginning and that also has to do with the organisational structure we have in the clinics. It’s still very much intact the way it has been and, although it is part of our organisation, some of them operate as a standalone in some ways. There’s a drive to find synergies and work towards one operating model. Commercially and also in Marketing. For instance, in the Netherlands, we have a fair number of people working in Marketing. That can be marketing communications, product marketing, upstream, downstream marketing, etc.

If you look at the clinics, the Marketing function is embedded in the Sales organisation and we do not have separate Marketing teams in the clinics. We have it centralised in our product business, so the question is, how we bring those closer together, who has the mandate to do what, and where do you find each other?

We're in the identification phase right now, which is good to be in, and at the same time in some operations - like in Australia - they’re already operating as one unit and have been for quite a while. In that sense, we can probably learn from that.

It would be good to understand your approach to Diversity & Inclusion. How can leaders create a nurturing environment that is inclusive?

DE&I [Diversity, Equity & Inclusion] is big on our agenda, and it started becoming more apparent in our American business a few years ago, so they’re a bit further ahead when it comes to governance around DE&I, involving business leaders, etc.

Also, reporting wise, you have other requirements in the US than you may have in Europe, specifically when it comes to diverse groups. Diversity obviously is key, but what we try to focus on is foremost inclusion. If you focus on inclusion first, we believe that diversity will somehow follow.

We aim to have a diverse workforce in many ways. Diversity of thought is very big for us and we approach this as part of team development. We make sure, when leaders are looking for new people, that we have a diverse team of people working together in a high-performance format.

In some markets, DE&I can be tough. In healthcare, for instance, in some larger countries in Europe, our workforce is male-dominated, and we want to get away from that somehow. In that sense, I think there's still a lot to do.

Where I work in Eindhoven, we're very lucky to have over 20 nationalities in our distribution centre and our shared functions; we have a lot of diversity, which is fantastic, and we're creating structures around it that are inclusive in nature.

One tool we have used is Develop Diverse, a Danish software tool. It's a tool you can use to make your communication language more diverse; that can be on job advertisements, marketing materials, reports - whatever you have out there. Some words may be non-inclusive or maybe exclusive for specific groups, which can be women, the elderly, but also people who are physically disabled or neurodivergent. Our communications become more diverse in nature, so in the end we attract more people.  

For example, you can consider using an alternative to a requirement like “excellent communication skills,” as there may be people who do not master English as a first language. You can alternatively say “professional language skills,” which is appropriate, but slightly different. This way your pool of talent becomes much bigger and hopefully also more diverse. You have more to choose from, specifically in a world where it's tough to get good people for your jobs.

One other thing that is interesting, and somebody taught me this, is job descriptions. The old-fashioned way of setting job descriptions is very much, “These are the requirements. A certain university diploma is required; we require having excellent skills in different areas”. These are often listed in bullet points. Doing it this way some potential candidates may feel that they do not tick all those boxes, so they will not apply. If you describe the requirements in a different manner, e.g. in a paragraph, and say, “These are skills you need to have…,” candidates may think that they may not tick all the boxes, but overall the role fits their skills and expertise, and they believe they are the right person for the job. If you put it down in bullet points, you may miss some good candidates. These are just simple things where you think, why didn’t I think about this before?

I also think it's incredibly valuable to ask younger people what they think. If I read materials, I try to look at it from what my kids would think. Younger employees tend to look at this completely different and of course they are our future leaders. There is nothing against having a young group of people reviewing some of those materials once in a while. Why not use your younger workforce to help you draft your communication material?

Do you think there are things that Össur does particularly well to create an inclusive environment?

It starts with your vision and how you are going out in the market. As I said before, we're not that well known in all our markets. We need to have eye-catching branding materials to say, “This is the company I want to work for,” and I think we're doing that extremely well. The branding materials that we have in place are really spot-on and we have a great product to sell, as well.

The purpose of our company is really clear: the tagline Life Without Limitations is attracting a lot of people, which is really positive. But then, of course, you need to make sure that people really are warming up to your company.

What we're trying to do with hiring managers is encouraging them to use inclusive language in the questions they ask. It's not just me as an HR professional thinking, they need to do this; it is the hiring manager who is sitting down with candidates and should ask the right questions and use the right approach. We must make sure that the language they use or the way they appear and behave is inclusive, as well. We are focusing on that.

We've also done a really good job in upgrading our facilities. This building where I am right now is a state-of-the-art building from 2017 and, if we get people in here, they really want to work here. It's a fantastic, open space with a lot of glass, with inviting meeting rooms and common spaces. A lot of people feel it has a positive vibe. It’s sometimes hard to describe, but that usually helps a lot with bringing people in. In COVID times, for the first time in my life, I hired a lot of people online, which worked out well. Apart from that, we have done impactful renovations to offices in most parts of the world.

How did it impact the business during COVID when we were all remote for a period of time?

It helped us commercially and internally. Commercially, we're now doing way more with our customers online. You need to make sure they have the right equipment to collaborate with you. We're doing that in all of our markets, which I think is really positive. We also apply this internally when hiring people, and in many other meetings.

Apart from the people who really need to be on site, we're extremely flexible to working remotely; we have a guideline of being in the office two to three days a week. Some people who live a bit further away from the office are here a few days a week which works for us.

“Be here when you need to be here.” Some people love to be on site; they may live around the corner, they come every day, or their house is too small, or they don't want to work in a home environment. That's fine and everyone's welcome.

I live more than 50 miles away from the office, so I do not commute to work every day. Luckily, in my role, I can do this. I'm connecting with individuals all over the world and I am in the office when I need to be here and when I think it's really key to be eye to eye with people, or we have certain meetings or events.  We're very flexible in that sense, not just here in this office in the Netherlands, but also in other offices in other regions.

I’m hearing more companies starting to ask people to come back in five days.

I think the jury is out on that. Personally, I think we are at a point of no return. Hybrid working is absolutely there to stay and you can fight it, but I think you can better facilitate it and - maybe it's the wrong word, but - lure people back into the office for a good reason. Make it an attractive place to be and then people will likely come by themselves.

What helped us in the COVID times is, when recruiting, you focus for talent within a radius of 20 miles around the office - it's now 50 or 60 miles - so, some of the people we hired in Amsterdam or in The Hague commute to Eindhoven a few days a week, which is still quite a drive. Are you now going to say, “You need to be in the office five days?” If you do, then they're gone. I don't think that's the way to go. I like that we are able to attract a wider workforce. In these times, it's extremely difficult to find people and this policy of flexibility helps us find the right people and have a bigger pool to work from.

I think from a diversity perspective, as well, it's about doing everything you can to attract as wide an audience as possible.

It does require a different style of leadership and management; you need to be really clear about that and what it means. As a leader, you’d likely need to sit down with your team and say, “We're going to do more hybrid work, let's agree on some moments that we’re all together and how we're going to collaborate.” That means, if you're working from home, you can be reached at certain times, while respecting that people are also doing some stuff at home once in a while. You should be very clear about that.

Also, I think it's important when you are managing people that people who come to the office more are not getting more attention and thus receive higher performance ratings: “I’ve seen you more, I know what you can do,” and - on the other hand – “It’s okay, but I don’t really see you enough.” Then you’re going to disadvantage people – specifically, groups who may have circumstances why they cannot come to the office as often. I don't think that is fair.

I'd love to get your insight into where you think the profession's going. What you think it might look like going forward?

One trend in our time right now is that many companies are not just customer-focused anymore, but are very much employee-focused, as well. That has to do with the fact that it's hard to find people and I think everybody understands how relevant the right skills are in an organisation. In many Sales and Marketing organisations, it was always customers first. I believe we're moving away from that and are giving more value to employees. The question is: how are you going to make that work?

To make employees more valued and retain them better, you probably need different goals in your business models and make sure that managers and people in the company understand that. I think that's a key thing that organisations need to think about – think more employee centric, instead of only customer centric. Obviously, customers do come first, but create a better balance with your employee base. 

The other thing is pay equity/transparency, which is incredibly important. I come from a hard HR background, I was in Comp & Ben [Compensation & Benefits] roles before, and I see pay moving towards internal equity. It comes back to DE&I, which we talked about.

Previously, many companies thought, “I just want to make sure we are paying people to market and the local benchmark.” Well, the benchmark was always outside and related to other companies. But it should not only be about other companies, but about internal relations. Are you paying Kate the same as you do Brian? That becomes more important, and you should be transparent about it. There are many laws changing in this field, as well. There is an EU directive coming up and, as of 2024, pay transparency is going to be big on the list for many companies in Europe.

It means we need to be more transparent about how we pay our people internally and how to go about finding people and putting salary ranges in adverts. You are not to ask candidates about their salary expectations anymore in interviews. Instead, you need to set yourself up differently when it comes to pay and, if you don't do that, you're going to lose out on talent. That's a big trend.

And digitalisation is very important. For our business, because we do many things in a digital manner, our products, our systems, but in HR, as well. For us, data analytics is key; we've got various analytics teams at work and we will likely increase that in the future due to business requirements. Technology will continue to drive our decision making and forecasting. So, automation, robots are the future… we should think about own roles and how those match these new innovations. I do think that analytics and our systems are going to have a huge impact on how we do our business going forward.

We are forced to align ourselves with new technology and trends and should not resist it somehow. I talked about younger people earlier on - how younger generations are thinking about these things. It's fantastic how younger team members connect basic systems more and quicker to each other than people of older generations. That's helping us, as well. We have teams in place which are diverse and are proactive in suggesting new ideas themselves and how they can best execute on it.

Was there anything else that you wanted to comment upon?  

Coming back to what I told you earlier about this clinics business and product business. We're basically moving from a product organisation to a healthcare company and with that comes social responsibility, and that's branded in our DNA, as well. It also comes back to how we’re branding ourselves so we attract customers and end users to our clinics.  

Branding is really key. Not just branding our products, but the overall employer brand and how we put this out to the market. We are mid-sized and in many places not well known in the market, so we need to continue promoting ourselves in the markets we operate in. We have many brands out there, and they differ because of the fact that we acquired many companies in the past. We have, for instance, sites in Africa, Europe and in South America, and if you go to one of those sites they may still call themselves by the brand name that we acquired some years ago. It would be good to have some uniformity when it comes to how you do things and how you brand yourself, while ensuring that we are locally competitive.  

All in all, many good challenges to have and a dynamic, successful, and fun company to work for.

Thank you to Thijs for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our Human Resources recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Erwin Rengers - Global Chief Human Resources and Marketing & Communications Officer at Hyva

Erwin Rengers is the Global Chief Human Resources and Marketing & Communications Officer at Hyva in the Netherlands. He previously spent over 20 years in FMCG with Kraft Heinz, becoming VP HR for Continental Europe, Russia and European R&D. He was also Global HR Director at discount retailer Steinhoff International and has acted as an HR consultant.

What excites you about Hyva and the mission that attracted you to the business?

Initially, I had never heard of Hyva, although it was founded by Jaap Vaandrager in the Netherlands, 44 years ago. Nevertheless, what was interesting was that I was approached by an executive search company, and I had a couple of conversations with Alex Tan, the CEO of Hyva.

From these conversations, I realised that Hyva had experienced strong organic growth over the past four decades. Reflecting on our discussions and looking at the business, it became clear what the company’s future journey needed to be, moving into the next stage of the business lifecycle and change.

This realisation was a very personal reason for my decision to join the company. I like to leave a legacy - not just for the sake of leaving a legacy - but to add value to an organisation; that’s where I get my energy. Looking back at my career, I've worked with mid-sized companies like Heinz to big corporations like Steinhoff, with a turnover of 20 billion and 130,000 employees.

But it’s not about the numbers; it was the complexity and opportunities ahead that were my main drivers for joining. I loved the product - I like concrete products. I had previously worked with products like Heinz ketchup, for example, and now I'm dealing with cranes and cylinders. These products aren't rocket science, but it’s very interesting to see where you can add value both from an HR perspective and for the organisation.

Two years ago, in July, I joined Hyva. After about a year and ongoing discussions with Alex, it became clear that changes were necessary. Factors like the impact of COVID-19 and the global supply chain issues - our cost price is for a large extent based on steel prices – meant our past strengths became our weaknesses, which was magnified due to COVID.

The organisational structure did not have many professional processes across various functions, such as HR, Finance, Business Operations, IT, and SOP processes – it was like “spaghetti” trying to manage that globally. This prompted us to consider a shift in the company to create focus for both the business and people.

We have five LOBs , but they were merged in how they were managed globally. The nature of the products - either route to market (selling) and production are different; some products are for different markets and totally different customers, some with tailor-made or specific specifications and requirements, which is very project based, and others standardized and made to stock.

So, we needed to change and enhance focus, accountability, and clarity within the business, which will create a lot of value in the long run. We initiated a project, called “Project Rainbow”, which was inspired by a rainbow I saw on a rainy November morning while driving to the office, and it symbolises a transition into brightness, aligning with our goal.

We recognised the importance of external support to make transformation happen – to be successful, you need to make sure your execution of such a big transformation is successful. So, we collaborated with McKinsey, drawing from their expertise. This partnership extended over six months - the first month with the management team and finally the entire organisation.

Mid-July, we unveiled the new structure, consisting of three vertically integrated business units: Components (core of the business), Cranes, and Recycling (Container Handling & Waste Handling). We still have some regional structure, as well.

This shift includes the globalisation of HR, IT, and Finance functions, using a matrix organisation. So, the full HR community will report to me, and someone else will take this responsibility for Finance, IT, etc.

The next step is working on processes, clear accountabilities, and data. The processes are fundamental for the new organisation. We have a clear strategy and vision, but we need to execute that and look at processes and other elements like culture to gain a holistic view to change the organisation.

For example, HR will invest in HR systems for global management and employee self-service, as well as digitising processes to support locations without HR support. Overall, really driving functional excellence.

The transformation is a natural progression, mirroring the evolution observed in many companies after decades of growth; adapting to a new professional structure is an organic evolution in its journey.

How do you define what you want that culture to be like in Hyva as a business?

As I am responsible for Marketing as well, we recognise our strong brand in the market, consistently recognised in the industry. The brand strength translates globally, evident from our surveys and high net promoter scores, consistently ranging from six to seven. We should leverage that for our employer brand; so, we'll start focusing on various efforts, such as LinkedIn posts, social media engagement, and updating our career website, combined with internal and external communications.

But, before that, we want to reshape our values. When I joined, we had seven values - best practice is three to four. Entrepreneurship and customer relationships remain central. Fundamentally, I want to create a purpose. The “why” is crucial for attracting and retaining talent, especially among the younger generation. Sustainability is also becoming much more important.

We need to align the vision, mission, purpose, and strategy. While the strategy might change in detail, this structure remains. Simultaneously, reshaping our structure, processes, and culture to elevate our business. A lot of work still needs to be done.

Currently, we have a purpose, but we are not clear on that. We need to make it explicit. Our waste handling, for example, yields impactful solutions, a prime example being China, where we orchestrate comprehensive waste management for governments. Beginning with street collection, we transport waste to dedicated stations. These solutions contribute to a healthier world, particularly in countries like India, where the streets remain cluttered with garbage. India's government emphasises not only infrastructure development, but also an improved quality of life. Having personally witnessed this during my recent visit, the potential is there.

This is a perfect fit for us, as well, with growth opportunities. It's a mutually beneficial scenario, benefiting governments, collaborating businesses, people, and our own business. At Hyva, it's not just about products - it's much more.

Sustainability is clearly something that businesses are focusing on so much more now than they perhaps have in the past.

Recently, while visiting our Pune factory, which is about 160 kilometres from Mumbai, I gained a fresh perspective. We essentially serve as bodybuilders, modifying trucks and the body, and we build upon that by incorporating cylinders where necessary. However, this process consumes significant energy, for example, welding and other tasks generate a lot of heat within the factory. It's clear that we need to drive change and see what we can do differently in our processes to reduce our environmental impact as an organisation.

To address this, we've started investing in solar panels. This initiative is gaining momentum; even the Pune factory now has solar panels. The business has picked this up more over the past one to two years.

Is there anything that stands out to you as being a defining moment or maybe a risk that you've taken that has helped you reach that leadership role?

Having spent two decades at Heinz, I grew with the business and progressed through various roles. Then, the business was taken over by Warren Buffet and 3G Capital, and almost the top 200s needed to leave, including myself. I then moved to Steinhoff in a strategic role and decentralised organisation, which was totally different from Heinz.

Thin margins, managing quantity, having logistics right, and having Sales staff fully dedicated to do the best for the customer – a very interesting period.

I tried self-employment and did some project-based work at TE Connectivity in a Business Partner role, but found myself needing more challenges and to be able to leave a legacy. So, I put myself on the market. I reconnected with e-llis, a 4PL [fourth party logistics] organisation, a family-owned business. I worked temporarily on the company's purpose and market development as Business Development Director, but as I said, I wanted to leave my legacy and have more responsibility as a CHRO.

Finally, I was approached by an executive search company. I shared my limited industry-specific experience, emphasising competence over industry knowledge, as he was saying Hyva was looking for industry experience.

After that, there was a period of not hearing anything, but I held onto my belief that industry experience reaches a point of relevance, while competence holds more importance in a certain organisational context.

Suddenly, I was approached by another consultant from the same executive search company - someone I knew ten years ago at Heinz - and she put me forward again for the role at Hyva. She explained they couldn’t find the right candidates, but she said I would be a fit candidate from her perspective. The following day, I spoke with Alex (Tan) and, after three interviews, they hired me.

What struck me was the challenge, but also being at the top and being able to influence within the organisation.

If you didn’t choose HR, were there any other professions you’d like to explore?

In my youth, I was interested in many jobs, like a vet, architect or - like many - a professional soccer player. I also wanted to be a pilot; I even did some tests for the Royal Air Force. I had never even heard of HR. A good friend, who was studying HR, suggested that it might suit me. I joined him at school one day, and the combination of economics, philosophy, social studies, and psychology that HR offered was interesting. So, I decided to pursue it once I finished my secondary education. I went on to earn a degree in Business Administration, as well, achieving university-level education.

While at university, I worked for a food company for three years and, after, I worked at Heinz for the next 20 years - although I hadn't originally planned to become an HR Director or CHRO. My career within the company evolved gradually. I began as a factory HR Manager and the company expanded across the UK, Europe and Russia.

At one point, Heinz faced a decision about consolidating its European production. With government incentives, the Netherlands-based subsidiary was selected. During my time there, I worked on innovative projects, introducing concepts like lean production and flexible labour solutions to adapt to seasonal demands.

Throughout my career, there has always been a point of improvement, being innovative and looking for change. I never aimed for the next step up; instead, I focused on adding value and generating energy in whatever I did. As my career progressed, I took on roles of increasing responsibility and worked on diverse projects.

For this role, I wanted to be responsible and contribute to the organisation at the highest level. I find fulfilment in being close to the top where the communication is direct and I can influence decisions.

Was there anything else that you wanted to share about your own personal story or Hyva itself?

I can tell you about my personal life. I'm married and have a 12-year-old daughter, along with a golden retriever. I've always tried to balance my life, even though I make long working hours. When I do have free time, I focus on quality. Alex, the CEO, often tells me that, too. In fact, we recently went out for dinner, and I push him as well to also enjoy life outside of work.

For me, it's not the number of hours, but the quality of those hours spent. Maintaining the right balance is important in my life.

I believe in running the extra mile and driving passion and energy in everything you do. I always say there’s always a solution to a problem and don’t make things overcomplicated. After all, we are just selling cylinders and cranes - or ketchup, as I experienced at Heinz.

Be open and honest, respect others, and treat others as you want to be treated, as my grandmother always used to say – simple values in life. As the CHRO and Alex the CEO, we remain very humble, and I see that gap of perception some may have about our role, but we don’t feel that.

We want to serve the business and do the best for the business and for our people and grow further. We are accountable for 4,000 employees and their families. The ultimate goal is to be successful for our employees and customers – that’s it.

Thank you to Erwin for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our Human Resources recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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Aidzil Subohi - Director of Finance for the North & Western Europe Region at Greif

Aidzil Subohi has spent the last 22 years growing her career within Greif, a global supplier and manufacturer of industrial packaging products and services in the Netherlands. Currently Director of Finance for the North & Western Europe Region, Aidzil shares fascinating insights into her career path, management style and personal development philosophy.

Greif has ambitious sustainability targets – specifically, to reduce scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28% by the end of the decade. What are the challenges the company faces in its bid to achieve this goal?

The target is a challenge in itself! And rightly so – because it’s hugely important and we need to take it seriously. By setting the bar high and having a clear mission, I believe we’re far more likely to push ourselves and reach our goals by 2030 than if we set the threshold lower.

We’re committed to reducing our energy usage for every production unit, as well as delivering products and services in a more sustainable way – promoting a circular economy wherever possible.

Doing all that at the same time as offering the best value and customer service is a tall order, so our sustainability initiatives must be smart. For example, we’re seeking new opportunities in renewable energy, looking at new ways to recycle raw materials and manage waste or byproducts, and investing in green initiatives across all our locations – like solar panels and water pumps, right down to increasing greenery in our locations and finding ways to minimise paper usage in office environments. It’s about every team and every department doing their bit.

What are the successes and opportunities that have kept you at Greif for almost 22 years?

Since I started at Greif, there have been significant advancements in technology, business landscape, infrastructure and environmental perspectives, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to experience and contribute in the company’s continual development and growth.

To keep myself on the front foot, I’ve had to develop myself, keep learning new topics and not be afraid to step outside my comfort zone. I also think that when you’re genuinely passionate about the work you do, your career progression increases naturally.

I’m good at connecting and working with people from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and disciplines, and my management approach is people-first. I encourage critical thinking in my teams and keep an open mind when it comes to communicating and implementing business strategies, because information and new ways of working will always be interpreted diversely by different people. You have to stay aware of that, recognise the sensitivities of each individual and adapt your way of communicating accordingly.

Did you always have your career path planned out from the beginning or has it happened organically?

I graduated with a Law degree, so - in the early days of my career - I assumed I’d follow a fairly standard path, though I still had a high interest in Finance!

There was high demand for Finance professionals at the time, hence I specialised in this area and completed an MBA, thereafter started as a Finance Controller at Greif. It was an exciting time – full of challenges and opportunities to learn. I trained to become a Certified Management Accountant in the mid-2000s and, as the business grew, I became involved in projects such as business acquisitions and reviewing major capital investments.

I always had an awareness that, if I wanted to continue being involved in complex tasks like these, I needed to keep developing myself and taking on new responsibilities – even if they felt overwhelming at the time.

I still use skills I learned in my Law studies on a daily basis, i.e., analysis, critical thinking and problem solving, to name just three. No degree or textbook, though, can give you the learning curve you get from on-the-job experiences. It’s the knowledge base you build from these small steps that ultimately keeps you climbing higher in the structure of an organisation.

I’ve also had a lot of support at home during the most challenging times, from my parents in those early days and, later on, from my husband. You can’t underestimate the peace-of-mind that brings.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever been given?

That I am reliable and connect with people from various levels and disciplines. Also being described as a leader with emphatic values. I am able to connect to each individual according to their respective skills, as well as encouraging my team to problem solve independently, while at the same time guiding and supporting them along the way.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?

It would be to keep learning and developing yourself, both professionally and personally. Formal education, professional qualifications and on-the-job training are all important, but I give equal weight to softer skills, such as communication and presentation skills, and having the self-awareness to know when coaching will improve your way of thinking or approach to challenges.

I also believe career progression doesn’t have to be vertical. The best experiences and learning curves often come from moving sideways in an organisation.

Outside of work, what does relaxation look like for you?

I love spending time with family, reading and watching concert performances. I also love doing long-distance running and practising karate. Both sport activities increase my focus and sharpen my thinking. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to come up with ideas or find the solution to a problem at work while I’m out on a long run!

Karate, in particular, teaches self-awareness, discipline and anticipation, working out your competitor’s moves in advance, and those skills transfer over into my professional life. There are so many benefits, I could go on and on!

Thank you to Aidzil for speaking to our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team in the Netherlands, led by Hannah Mallia and David Harper.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment

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