We sat down with Renske Valk, Head of Global Learning & Development (L&D), to discuss her first year at intive, what drives her at work, and what’s behind the new Performance Management initiative that she recently introduced.
Hi Renske! At the beginning of this year, you joined us as the Head of Global L&D. Can you tell us a little bit about your intive journey so far?
I would summarize my start at intive as an adventure of adapting and adjusting, for me and for the entire team. Previously, people in the L&D team were used to working locally, but, with intive’s recent growth, we suddenly needed to think about scalability and look at L&D from more of a global perspective. That is not just a change for our team, but also for the managers and employees we work with. It requires adapting and adjustment, but we are up to the challenge!
You recently introduced a Performance Management initiative. What does this entail?
intive’s growth has been thanks to the coming together of various small companies, each with its own approach to running its business and how to hire and develop its team. However, intive is now a 3,000-people company, so we need to ensure that we all share the same vision. Introducing a global Performance Management system helps us to communicate effectively and discuss where we are and where we want to go, what we expect from one another, and how we can keep on developing.
So, that’s why you put such an emphasis on continuous feedback, right?
Exactly! In the traditional approach to Performance Management, major team reflection happens only once a year. However, at intive, projects vary in their time frame - they might be four, six, or even eight months long. Also, neither individual nor team performance is stable throughout any given year. So, in my view, for evaluation to be effective, it’s better to reflect on something that happened recently, not a year ago. Thus, we developed a philosophy that uses shorter cycles. You set the goal, you work, you evaluate, and then you adapt and adjust accordingly.
Is continuous feedback equally important for both managers and employees?
Yes, definitely. The objective of managers is to set goals and to support the team to achieve them and keep moving forward. This role includes gaining an understanding of what people need to feel happy, engaged, and motivated at work. So, for managers, the more feedback they have, the better. When it comes to employees, they want to feel that their work matters, that their role has purpose, and that their actions are appreciated. Frequent checking in with each other helps both parties improve and grow.
What about self-leadership skills? Why are they so crucial for enhancing one’s performance?
If you look at theories around self-leadership, you’ll see that it’s human nature to want to create an impact on our own lives, our jobs, and on the world. We want to go back home and think that we did something that mattered that day. If we feel like nobody cares about what we’re doing, that can be a big demotivating factor. Self-leadership helps us to create that impact by building our confidence, providing intention, and making sure that we feel empowered to achieve what we set out to do.
So, what personally drives and motivates you at work?
Well, my background in industrial and organizational psychology means I’ve always been interested in how companies can be successful and how to optimize people in a working environment. There are so many ways of working and we all have such different perspectives and this makes running a business very complex. It’s this complexity that fascinates me.
What also drives me is how we learn and this is something that is changing over time. Nowadays, there are all kinds of cool new learning techniques and engaging exercises, such as using virtual reality, for example. My team is so excited about this stuff and so am I! Finding innovative new ways to learn and encouraging our employees to get on board too is what motivates me every day.
There are clearly benefits to this initiative. But what about the challenges? What do they look like?
A major challenge is, and this is true universally, that we all do similar things in different ways, so it’s critical to develop a shared language and a united vision of how we want to grow and develop. Our work is about people and not about just a system or a process. At the end, it is about behavior and how we collaborate.
Another challenge has been shifting from a traditional way of thinking to a continuous feedback approach. At first, many felt that frequent conversations were a waste of valuable time but now they’ve come to realize that it’s quite the opposite: repetitive interactions means that meetings are made shorter and more productive. This has been a major mindset shift that has taken time to set in.
Finally, are there any other cool L&D projects or initiatives for intive employees to look out for in 2023?
This year we have mainly focused on figuring out who we are as a team and how we can foster a global outlook and approach. When it comes to 2023, I am hoping to introduce a learning platform that enables easy access to learning and development opportunities for the whole organization. This will help the L&D team to add a different kind of value to our customers by becoming true business partners. So, keep an eye out for that!