21 Dec 2020

An extraordinary year in many, many ways

By: Manola van Diest

Set all sails and don’t wait for things to happen


For all of us, the year 2020 was a year we will not lightly forget. In this interview, I asked Frank Gielen - Managing Partner and a.o. responsible for People and Culture at Talent Peaks -to look back.

Keep focus and do what you do best

“For all of us, I think the impact of the coronavirus was one thing we didn’t see coming early 2020. But from the very first moment, we were clear on one thing: we set all sails and didn’t wait for things to happen. Luckily, we already were front runners when it came to digitization, so we could rather easily shift gears. So - already a week before the official lockdown - our complete team worked remotely. We took control of the situation and created an environment in which we could continue our business in the best and safest way possible.

Focus and transparency is key in these sorts of situations. Our first priority was to personally sit down with customers and employees and discuss how we could best proceed. For some customers this meant they had to postpone a project, others decided to bring forward digitization projects or go about it in a different way. Same goes for our employees. When the lock down was announced, we immediately started the dialogue about how we could continue making impact while working from home. For example, young parents needed some extra time and flexibility from our part to be able to handle the new situation. And many needed extra equipment or advice to be able to work as efficient as possible from home.”

“Our motto always is: Stay personal and find creative ways to move along with what the situation requires. And that works out quite well.”

Unusual circumstances

“Suddenly, our consultants couldn’t work on site in projects. Most of the time this meant doing workshops and implementations from home. Not always easy to make an impact there, especially if you have to combine taking care of and even educating your children during the day. Or having conference calls in your car because your house is under construction :-). And let’s be honest: we are all social animals, so we miss being around each other and personally meet our customers a lot.”

Breaking new grounds

“The new situation triggered us to adopt new technologies and find ways to successfully manage projects, even when we can not work with the project teams face to face. We found powerful ways to effectively facilitate virtual workshops. And we discovered some amazing tools, like Jamboard or Mural, tools that allow us to creatively and interactively collaborate.

It’s in our DNA: we are constantly looking for ways to maintain the fun factor in everything we do. With social distancing, this requires extra awareness. In our own working space, we introduced the Slack Donut App in which Talent Peakers are randomly connected to a colleague for a nice, informal virtual coffee break.”

Significant impact for our customers

“When COVID-19 hit us, we saw two types of companies. The ones that had to hit the breaks, consolidate or scale down and the ones that could seize the moment to pull forward digitization projects or even invest anticyclical to optimize processes. Luckily for us, many customers were in the second category. While working mainly remotely, we more than ever realize how crucial it is to keep our relationships warm and personal. And how important it is that - as entrepreneurs - we learn from each other.

Inspire each other

"This is why, together with Salesforce, we hosted an online panel discussion in which C-level business leaders talked about how they handled the new reality. I found this very inspiring. You can see this development continue. We have participated in many inspiration sessions, in which we share our vision, best practices and industry insights with prospects and customers in online sessions, webinars or virtual events. And what I find particularly rewarding, is that many of our customers are willing to share their experiences and results with the world. These kinds of references are a wonderful recognition of our relationship.” 

Happy @work, working @ home

“At Talent Peaks, we have strong values that we believe are crucial for our success. Having fun, making impact and being a guide truly is what makes us thrive. We noticed that some of our colleagues truly had a hard time coping with the new situation. The lack of personal encounters, the sliding work / home boundaries, the challenges of guiding customers from home. It really did something with our feeling of well-being and job satisfaction. That is why this year, we introduced Peaks & Valleys, a special programme in which we support and guide each other in keeping up a healthy work/life balance.

Plus, we took an extra effort in keeping our employees close. We intensified coaching and checked in regularly with everybody. Essential, because when you don’t physically see each other, you run the risk of missing crucial signs, especially with the more introverted people. To nurture the Fun-Factor we organized many fun and bonding online activities together.

Someone initiated a digital wine tasting with sommelier, another hosted a brain cracking pub quiz, and yet two colleagues composed a family box with wonderful presents for a fun Sunday afternoon. Next to that, we asked experts from the company Happyholics to advise us and carry out a zero measurement on employee satisfaction. And guess what. Talent Peaks turned out to be the very first company that is fully Happyholics Proof."

Surprise box as an alternative for our yearly Talent Peaks Family Day get-together

Remote onboarding and offboarding

“As Managing Partners, we decided to be open and transparent to our colleagues about the financial situation, the actions taken and our way forward. Still, it was an unparalleled year. Several valued colleagues decided to leave the company. And however we understand their considerations, it feels surreal not to be able to physically say goodbye to them as a team. Same goes for onboarding new team members. In the past year, we welcomed no less than 9 (!) new colleagues, most of them in a remote working reality. Some of them we actually onboarded completely remotely. I’m proud to say that this worked out quite all right. Although - of course - nothing beats a good old personal encounter.”

Starting a new job in the 1.5 meter society ...

Starting a new job in the 1.5 meter society ...

We help people grow

“This year, we invested more time than ever in knowledge gaining of our consultants. I’m proud to say that this year we more than doubled our amount of Salesforce certifications. Thanks to the new situation, we embraced new ways to learn, share and secure our knowledge within the organization. In the past, we got together for expertise meetings and workshops, but this year we did every session remotely and recorded the sessions. So now everyone can watch them on demand, and our new arrivals can catch up any time they want. And thanks to this ever growing expertise, we can make even more impact for our customers to help them grow as well.”

Byner, the missing link on the Salesforce Platform

“In the past year, as a Salesforce Gold Consulting Partner we broadened our horizon as well. For the first time, we implemented the new Byner App for customers. For Staffing & Consultancy companies, Byner is a unique App on the Salesforce Platform which creates synergy between marketing, sales, recruitment and delivery on one side and back office and finance on the other. This allows companies to powerfully manage their core processes with regards to customers and professionals from lead to invoice.”

Impactful integrations

“This is a trend we signal in the market as a whole: companies have an increasing ambition to get a 360° grip on their business and all related data. No patchwork of different separate systems but one powerful platform with smooth integrations with best of breed solutions for example for Back Office. With the coming of Salesforce Integration expert Vincent Boots in our team, we now have the expertise to develop ready-to-use integrations of Salesforce Apps with third party solutions. We are looking forward to further expanding on this in the coming year.”

Lessons learnt

“I found it really amazing that the Dutch Government acted so adequately to support companies like ours. Looking back, we hardly needed the financial support offered, but at the time, it gave us the space and opportunity to create a constructive strategy and offer security to our employees. Even the new colleagues we already recruited could still be onboarded.

The past months made us realize that working remotely does have its advantages. It allows us to work efficiently in different projects with many stakeholders. Plus, less traveling saves a lot of time and makes us greener. I think the main things that are reaffirmed this year is the importance of keeping focus. Do what you do best, take control, and never lose sight of the impact of personal relationships.”