Talent management at Abovo Maxlead

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'Everyone is perfect in the right setting'

Happy cows give more milk.

This is a well-known saying that Kristin Mellink from Abovo Maxlead often uses, and it holds a lot of truth. But how do you ensure that your employees are satisfied and productive? Human Capital Coach Mellink and COO Erik Jan Reijenga share their insights.

Kristin Mellink has been with the online marketing agency Maxlead for sixteen years (now officially Abovo Maxlead following its acquisition by media agency Abovo Media in 2019), and she has spent the past eight years serving as a Human Capital Coach. Mellink remarks, "Having an in-house coach has become one of our key selling points."

Erik Jan Reijenga concurs, stating, "I believe that talent management is not yet a top priority for many companies. However, it's widely understood now that people are no longer solely motivated by salary; rather, it's about how they feel and what they need to thrive. Creating an environment where people genuinely want to be is essential."

Clarity for All

Maxlead has been utilizing the TMA Method for four years now. "To be honest, I was familiar with the method for some time and had already gleaned some valuable insights from it," explains Mellink. "I found the concept of motivations and competencies incredibly inspiring, to the extent that I once created an evaluation form for our employees based on these principles. However, I soon realized that if we wanted to implement talent management effectively in our company, we needed to approach it in an official and professional manner."

All Maxlead employees have now completed an assessment, and the reports generated are used for personalized development discussions. These reports also aid in matching employees with job profiles that have been developed with specific competencies tailored to each position. "Previously, we didn't have clearly defined job profiles," notes Mellink. "Now, it's crystal clear for everyone: this is what is expected of you. By identifying each individual's natural strengths and areas of drain, we can better align roles with their abilities."


No Holy Grail

Everyone is perfect, but only in the right setting. "Conducting conversations has become easier now that they are approached from the positive psychology of TMA," says Mellink. "If someone wants to advance to a managerial position, but it's not their forte, we can now better substantiate that in a conversation. At the same time, it's not a holy grail. If you really want it, we'll say: your drive is there, so go for it, even if it takes a lot of energy."

People also find it easier to give each other feedback and discuss what they excel at and what may be less their forte, observes Mellink. "There is much more tolerance for the uniqueness of each individual. Team sessions and the 360 Degree Feedback - aimed at extracting development suggestions for oneself - have played a significant role in this. For instance, a manager, who finds planning and organizing draining, recently asked his team who enjoys doing these tasks. Now, a colleague supports him in this regard."

The Common Thread

In addition to gaining more insight into each other's motivations and competencies, TMA is also utilized in the recruitment process between the first and second interview. COO Reijenga explains, "The candidate journey begins with recruitment and, as far as we're concerned, only ends when someone leaves. TMA serves as the common thread throughout. As a result, we can select better and consequently hire the right people more often. With insight into the candidates, we can then better match them to roles."

Although talent management, with TMA as a tool, is fully integrated into Maxlead's corporate strategy, it was not familiar at Abovo Media. Mellink and Reijenga quickly convinced the company that acquired them of the importance of looking at their people in this way. Almost all Abovo Media employees have now undergone TMA Talent Analyses. "They weren't used to it," says Mellink. "But now they see the added value of putting people first."

Valued and Engaged

For Mellink, it's an additional challenge, as she was previously the Human Capital Coach for 80 people and now handles 220. She previously received assistance from Reijenga, who, like her, is a TMA Professional, and now collaborates with another certified colleague. "Of course, I could still do my job without a tool like TMA, but it certainly makes me much more effective. It helps me understand why someone has a specific question. Thanks to the instrument, people also know themselves better, making it easier to have conversations about talents and areas for development."

Reijenga refers to TMA as "the right tool to achieve my goal." "I see it as my goal to have and retain this group of 220 people - people who want to work for our company. For that, you need to give trust and create a corporate culture where people dare to be vulnerable and give feedback. You can only build a good organization with people who bring out the best in themselves. When people feel valued and engaged, they are loyal."

Success Rests on Three Pillars

They don't have hard numbers because the acquisition and the COVID-19 pandemic have brought about various changes in the past two years. "Our sick leave is as low as ever, and revenue has increased, but I can't say with certainty that this is due to our talent management," says Reijenga. "However, I dare say that we see it reflected in productivity. Thanks to TMA, we get people up to speed faster because we hire the right people and better leverage talents that align well with the job. The benefit also lies in the fact that we hardly incur recruitment costs because it's rare for people to leave quickly due to mismatched roles. And we have become better at building customer relationships and retaining them."

Mellink observes: fewer conflicts, more enthusiasm, people who collaborate more pleasantly and are open to feedback, and a better work atmosphere. And she receives feedback that people believe there is genuine attention to the development of employees. "Our way of thinking and working is embraced," she says. "The success of our organization rests on three pillars. Do we have fun and new clients, do we have enough knowledge, and do we take care of our people? If you neglect the latter, you won't have enough knowledge in-house and no clients. From that perspective, you could say that TMA is partly responsible for our success."