Greetje de Haan, head of People & Culture Pieter Pot: ‘The organization and our employees share the same passion and mission’

Pieter Pot is also looking for new employees, for example an HR director. He must primarily focus on ‘the basics’, explains Greetje de Haan. “HR is the hygiene part. The chairs, roof over your head, etc. should be fine. The real game starts around that. Then you start talking about why someone actually comes to work here. It is a psychological contract that you agree with each other. It is more important than the employment contract. It is about trust and mutual expectations. It’s the employee experience, and you have to keep measuring it.”

‘It is a psychological contract that you then agree on. It is more important than the employment contract’

Everyone smiles at home after work and sees the same people smiling again the next day. That is her goal with Pieter Pot. “So that people really want to work here. Of course, they are always free to go where they want. But if you do it right as a business, they stay with you for a long time and you can let them do inspiring things. It also means that they deliver what they have to deliver. When they succeed, they are so proud that it is also inspiring. As an organization, we have thought carefully about why we exist. We share that passion and mission with our employees.”
That mission is concrete and simple: ‘Make waste-free fast-moving consumer goods available to everyone’. “We just want less plastic packaging in the world. We are really working on something very useful.”

Ongoing feedback

De Haan distinguishes between two types of employees at Pieter Pot. The gooders who are already vegans or vegetarians don’t drive cars and buy used clothes. Because of their idealism, they feel completely at home with a company that produces packaging-free groceries. Then there are specialists who choose to use their professional knowledge for a company that does something good for the world. They might as well work elsewhere, perhaps for a higher salary, but believe Pieter Pot’s story. Greetje de Haan places herself in the second category.

“We are strongly committed to the mission that we have implemented throughout the HR strategy. In this way, we can also hold people accountable, retain people and be competitive. Sometimes we can pay less for talent than companies without a clear mission statement. On the other hand, if the flame is low, start filtering.”

‘We measure how people feel about it in an informal and formal way’

She and her HR staff keep a close eye on this through continuous feedback. This creates a culture of communication about the company’s function and employee motivation. “We measure how people feel about it in an informal and formal way. We put the thermometer in a team. How are you, where do you need help? It can be done digitally and sometimes we shoot someone in the hallway, we ask questions via forms and we have a bar where people can click their state of mind with smileys, in different languages.”

Transparency culture

The well-known company drink is Friday afternoon. And the following Monday, the employees already receive a questionnaire about what they liked and didn’t like about the drink. It is also the weekly moment when the management tells how the company is doing, and at the same time the employees are stimulated. “About 80 percent is told, and 20 percent of the time is spent asking questions. It works well. There is a culture of transparency: you can know everything and you can ask anything.”
The employee experience is monitored critically. The next step is to make this a ‘people’s strategy’. “We do this on the basis of the analysis of the employee journey and always determine where the biggest problem, and thus the priority, lies. It was until recently recruitment. So it is discussed earlier than, for example, learning and development. This means that the HR strategy fits seamlessly into the business strategy.”

“Based on the analysis of the employee journey, we decide where the priority lies. The HR strategy therefore fits seamlessly with the business strategy’

At that time, Greetje de Haan has often seen things go wrong elsewhere. “Then HR encounters misunderstandings at the top and becomes a cost item. Conversely, HR does not understand the business. We have done it differently. We know what is going on in the business and adapt the HR strategy accordingly. It is very dynamic because it requires regular testing with the owners and the different business disciplines.”

Transition to structured process

Jouri Schoemaker and Martijn Bijmolt, two enthusiastic former students from TU Delft, started in 2019 with Pieter Pot. A carefully prepared start with a modest crowdfunding. The real growth started from the summer of 2021 after serious money became available. Big investors saw it and raised nine million euros.
Greetje de Haan came in November 2021 and got a challenging job. There was a pot of money, the ambitions were sky high and now it just keeps growing. How do you quickly grow from fifty to a hundred employees? “We went to see what type of employee suited this phase and quickly posted vacancies on the website. In this way, we worked really well with the department heads to know exactly what they needed in terms of personnel.”
It was still the ‘just do it’ phase. Gradually, the period began with experience, more data and building a process. With scorecard, role distribution, optimization and questionnaires. “It was the transition from the basics to a structured process.”

Critical questions

The careful coordination between business and HR also ensures that adjusted forecasts are immediately translated into HR policy. The goal of rapid growth and international expansion has been abandoned for the time being due to the uncertain international investment climate. “We are now focusing on qualitative growth in the Netherlands and Belgium.” As for the HR strategy, there is also a shift. “We have now resolved recruitment. We will now tackle performance and retention.”
The experiences of the past year have given Greetje de Haan a clear insight. “Every organization really needs to ask themselves why their people are with the company and why they stay. We ask these crucial questions time and again, to employees and to ourselves. If you can’t answer them properly, there’s work to be done.”

You can work anywhere, but why in your organization?

As a company, you have to give people a reason to go home with a smile every day. And hope they come back the next day. You can work anywhere, so you need to make sure they continue to choose your organization. People are mostly driven by their inner motivation. Does their job match their core values? How will they develop and can you offer it? Why do they want to stay or go? Greetje de Haan explains during HR DAY 2022 how Pieter Pot takes a critical look at the employee experience and creates a People Strategy for this. A strategy based on constant data that actually helps the business move forward. A strategy aimed at creating a true alliance for employee and employer, leading to longer retention of people.

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