The municipality of Zwolle uses TMA for a new team culture: The value of TMA lies mainly with the teams

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In recent years, the Municipality of Zwolle has shaped the social neighborhood teams with five parent organizations. TMA turned out to be a great instrument for forming a new team culture.

The new approach is a consequence of the decentralization of government tasks in the social domain to municipalities. "When we were preparing for this, we utilized TMA," says HR advisor and team coach Karin van der Veer, who is closely involved in the formation of social district teams.

In these teams, the municipality collaborates with various care and welfare institutions to effectively carry out the care tasks.


Enthusiasm and nervousness

"The employees couldn't envision what a social district team would be like at all. After all, it was a completely new concept. There was a lot of talk about it, but what team members would actually need to do wasn't clear. The social district teams were to be organically formed. You could see that employees approached this differently; there was a lot of enthusiasm, but also nervousness. Because the work was shifting, and it wasn't entirely clear what was expected."

The TMA Method helped the municipality identify who would be a good match for the new organization. "We compared the profiles for generalists with our own profiles. The HR departments of external organizations, such as Youth Care and Travers, MEE, and Kern, were also included in the TMA, with the idea that it's a great tool to gain insight into your talents and it's helpful to provide that to your employees."

More dynamic environment

"At the municipality, the vision on talent management, parallel to decentralization, has also evolved over the last two to three years," adds Head of HR Marcella Rijkschroeff. "The environment is more dynamic. The question is not 'Which position suits someone?' but 'How do you best utilize their talent?' This can also occur in various contexts. We aim to connect with the city, to collaborate with organizations within the municipality. However, we found that various assessments did not align with the needs we had in this regard. With TMA, we started focusing more on talents. We believe that people can fit into different roles or assignments. Then the conversation about talent becomes easier. Therefore, we first created competency profiles for the neighborhood teams."

Van der Veer mentions that the reorganization of the social neighborhood teams was a very intense time. "Suddenly, we had to shape the social neighborhood teams with five organizations. That requires a lot of creativity and commitment from everyone involved. With the TMAs in hand, we had very good discussions within the municipality. You could see that people gained insight into their own talents and motivations and could make a good assessment of whether the upcoming period suited them."

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Discuss TMA in teams

A few years after the reorganization, the municipality of Zwolle is increasingly evolving into a network organization. Is the TMA Method still being used? "Yes, in all parts of the organization," says Rijkschroeff. "I think about 600 out of the approximately 1000 employees have completed a TMA Talent Analysis."

"We have adjusted the approach," adds Van der Veer. "We have developed a training to discuss the TMAs in teams, about 25 people each. We still prefer a personal explanation, followed by additional training. Discussing talents in the whole team allows everyone to gain insight into the talents present. Moreover, what is happening in the team often falls into place. There is a lot of laughter in these group sessions. For me, the value of the TMA lies in the teams. It is a wonderful tool for building teams and establishing a culture. Especially in composite cultures: organizations that collaborate but differ in hierarchy, adherence to agreements, cross-team tasks, and where the employer delegates responsibility."

Talents versus behavior

Van der Veer harks back to the social district teams. "Everyone who joins us now undergoes a talent analysis. In the team training sessions, we then explore the connection between motivations and competencies because we want to foster an atmosphere where people know it's okay if you can't do something. When you know each other's talents, you can ensure that tasks are assigned to those who enjoy them. We don't want people to burn out because they already put in so much effort."

Van der Veer and Rijkschroeff agree that it's important to clarify that TMA isn't about what you can do or what you do, but about what you enjoy and what energizes you. "We notice that confusion is lurking, and that's a danger because it quickly leads to a value judgment," says Van der Veer. "After I did the TMA myself, I understood exactly how it works: I can plan well, but it exhausts me because it's not within my talents." "You need to separate talents and motivations from behavior," says Rijkschroeff. "That's why we don't just hand people their report to work on themselves, but we discuss it personally, in teams, or both. The risk of confusion is too great. With a Talent Compass in Raet's Performance Management software, I think working with TMA will be much simpler, and it will come back much faster in discussions."

“With the TMAs in hand, we have had very good discussions within the Municipality of Zwolle”

Rijkscrewf, Municipality of Zwolle

Common language

"When I have conversations with employees, I always refer to the TMA," Rijkschroeff continues. "It needs to become a shared language, which takes time. You have to handle it consciously to embed it in the organization. That's why we now have team coaches in-house and facilitators for peer coaching sessions. After the experiment, we are now in a phase of consolidation. It takes time, it requires effort."

"I see that in the district teams as well," Van der Veer adds. "You constantly need to create time and space to integrate the TMA into the team culture. Keep talking about it. That guidance and attention are still very much needed." Rijkschroeff agrees. "The TMA is great; many employees really see it as a gift, but the challenge lies in working with it. After the team processes, we are now using it to find perspectives for individual persons in the new organization. Employees who already work with us take the TMA voluntarily. Sometimes they are unaware of it, and it comes up in a conversation with their manager, especially when discussing the new Strategic Personnel Plan (SPP) and it becomes apparent that the employee is facing a challenge. It is also widely used in our career center to support various trajectories."

In the initial years, the TMA experts were mainly responsible for conducting the assessments, but now the municipality wants the managers to take over.
"They need to be familiar with the TMA Method, of course," says the head of HR. "For newly appointed managers, we have developed a profile. They need to be true people managers: focused on development, capable of fostering connections and instilling trust in the team. They should demonstrate exemplary behavior and, of course, be able to conduct discussions. On one hand, we expect them to inspire their team, and on the other hand, to motivate people to achieve results."

Vision for the Future

The SPP (Strategic Personnel Plan) is the next step in shaping Zwolle as a network organization. "The organization is more compact; we're doing it with fewer people compared to three years ago. As a result, we're also more agile," explains Rijkschroeff. "We aim to become a partner in the region. The SPP is a management tool to steer the organization in that direction. We set a point on the horizon, looking three years ahead. The management is very focused on: What do we want to have achieved? What talent do we have? What do we need? The TMA is a way to determine, also for other partner organizations, where we should invest our resources."

The four possibilities are:

  1. You excel in your work and have what's needed for the next three years.
  2. You excel, but there's a developmental issue.
  3. You're capable, but it's not aligned with your talents. Then there's a career issue.
  4. You don't have the talents needed to achieve the organization's goals.

Rijkschroeff adds, "So, this means that the TMA is also a tool for the conversation at the time of departure. A employee might not initially see it as a gift, especially not at the beginning. But later on, when new perspectives are found, they might."

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