22 november 2019

A mission, a vision and ambition: what else could a great HR strategy need? Yet this isn’t what makes Raf Lamberts’ (CHRO and member of the board, Vanderlande) strategy so appealing. But what makes it so successful?

Changing by staying the same

If you’ve ordered a package from Zalando or waited for your luggage at Schiphol you’ve already benefited from Vanderlande, without even knowing it. Vanderlande improves the competitiveness of its customers through value-added logistics operations. In Raf’s words: ‘Vanderlande delivers what matters to you.’ 

Vanderlande wants to take this ambition to a global level, but Raf faced one challenge. Vanderlande’s people strategy isn’t global. And a global strategy with local flexibility is necessary: what works in the Netherlands doesn’t necessarily work for Asia Pacific and the United States. Vanderlande wants to globalise, while also staying true to its core values. Wherever Vanderlande is, it should be:

'all about building a long term relation with the customers. Extreme customer centricity and extreme employee centricity are the two elements that define our culture and I strongly believe that our rapid growth and healthy financial results are a consequence of those two', says Raf. 

So, 'how do you preserve the cultural values that make you unique while globalising and internationalising the company?' How do you grow by staying the same?

Changing inside by looking outside 

Raf’s first step: convincing the organisation to understand the external context with an outside-in perspective. The world around us is rapidly changing and Vanderlande wants to embrace these changes as opportunities for growth. To understand the business context, Raf joined forces with business leaders, rather than forcing his colleagues to adopt an HR strategy, invented in his office. 

Deliberately, he went against the principle of ‘if you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself’ and said: ‘‘If you want to do something right, you have to do it together.’ With the business, Raf created a people strategy that revolves around the theme: ‘In a world of technology, a belief in people.’

Taking risk by playing safe 

The growth engine for Vanderlande’s strategy is represented in a strategic triangle with three dimensions: customers, solutions and geography. The key to sustainable profitable growth is to always keep two angles stable: 

  1. ‘We can only introduce a new solution to an existing customer in an existing geography.’ 
  2. ‘We can only move to a new geography with an existing customer and an existing solution.’
  3. ‘We can only work together with a new customer with an existing solution in an existing geography.’ 

But what does this mean for Vanderlande’s employees? Raf didn’t develop an HR strategy. Het developed a people strategy because the strategy is owned by the business and enabled by HR. Raf’s people strategy is designed to drive growth and internationalisation in Vanderlande and has 4 key pillars to accomplish that:

  1. Talent acquisition
  2. Capability building
  3. Leadership 
  4. Engagement 

So, what’s the approach for building a great strategy? A mission? A vision? Yes, but there’s more. The board challenged Raf to develop a story to help people understand why it is so important to embark on this journey. They challenged Raf to tell this story on a few pages, in clear language. The key to a great HR strategy is to keep it: simple.

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Great & exciting journey what Raf told us. Very well articulated, strong visuals & to the point, it was a pleasure to listen to this great (People) Strategy 'in action'!

02 december 2019 by Els Dierckx

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Written by

Maxim Schelstraete

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

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