“When Rabobank sent staff on a two-day course at Vlerick’s Ghent campus, it opened up new perspectives on management and talent management,” says Ronald van Weegen, Rabobank’s Head of Learning & Development.
Smart management has helped Rabobank become one of the world’s most respected financial institutions. However, management skills have to be constantly honed, which is why the Netherlands-based bank signed up for a two-day Talent Management Master Class in September 2011 at Vlerick’s Ghent campus. “We were looking for a way to get HR people and line management involved in our vision, and to share best practices with other companies – as well as gain an academic point of view – on what is going on in management development,” explains Ronald van Weegen.
The programme gave the participants an academic feel for the latest trends in management development, and connected it to Rabobank. “But we weren’t just listening. One of the main activities was discussing and working on specific assignments. The outcome was a shared language and a shared point of view.”
The programme was particularly suited to Rabobank’s decentralised, cooperative structure, as the Group comprises a network of independent local banks, Rabobank Nederland, Rabobank International and several daughter organisations. “That means it’s very important to invest in your network, know each other and share best practices.”
Fostering the Team
Van Weegen says that one of the insights to emerge from the programme was that every manager should be a talent manager. “It’s not just HR that is the owner of the talent or responsible for talent management. This is about fostering the team and ensuring that everyone should be able to develop in the best way that they can.” This means that the talents – the top performers in the team – are given specific assignments. “They should be earmarked as a talent, and talked to as a talent, and given the opportunity to develop,” he points out, adding that this gives the Group a strong backbone of good performers. While such fast-streaming risks creating two tiers of personnel, those who are favoured and those who aren’t, Van Weegen insists the greater risk is that those who are really gifted leave the company because they miss the opportunity to grow or develop on specific assignments or jobs.
Pressure Cooker Atmosphere
The feedback from the programme, according to Van Weegen, was enthusiastic. “It’s nice to be busy with an interesting subject, to be focused on it during the Master Class with no interruptions from daily work, and work together in an academic environment. We like this sort of pressure cooker atmosphere. And I’ve seen, indirectly, how it gave an extra boost to our management development and internal network.”
Van Weegen: “Vlerick’s hospitality is amazing. They take care of logistics and work with us on a customised programme.” He says one initiative that was particularly exciting was a “safari dinner”, where participants took different courses in different restaurants, discussing management topics with colleagues in each.