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Allseas is heading towards people-oriented culture

3 April 2023

Since 2020 Allseas has been working together with Allied Forces on the development of leadership and culture within the organisation. Historically the company scores high as an innovative employer that provides chances and dares to reward, now it is building more consciously on a people oriented culture based on trust. CEO Pieter Heerema: “As a family organisation we are very agile, we like having all employees change with us in this process.”

Pieter Heerema, appointed CEO in September 2022: “Historically we never really used to do anything with leadership development.” That is somewhat exaggerated, but we didn’t really consider it as an art in itself. You would normally become a leader because you were the best in your trade, subsequently we would let people work things out by themselves too much.

I love leaders who turn to ‘their’ people to explain policy and to put it into practice. So not like: ‘They’ from the board have decided something, but: ‘we’ are going to do this, for this reason. Of course you want managers to speak up when they don’t agree with the policy, please do, but then you are going to execute it with your team. That for me is the core of ownership.”

Marieke Plas (partner at Allied Forces and intensively involved in the programmes): “Allseas was ready for a culture change, space now appeared for it. At every level the urgency was felt. We formulated a future state, to which several subjects came to light and which were weighted. We have introduced this working method, and it has been subsequently embraced by the organisation. Colleagues put it in practice themselves and develop a shared language to get to high performance.”

Pieter: “That idea resonated well with us. There immediately was a connection with Allied Forces’ support team. To be able to count on each other, is what we recognise, because we have to perform under high pressure. Leaders have an important exemplary role to play: How do you deal with each other, what can you expect from one another? To find out you have to consult with yourself first, to face your qualities and your challenges. Who are you exactly?

To investigate these issues, we went on a trip with the first group of leaders. That’s where we really ran into each other for the first time. We carried out assignments which had an enormous impact, because they presented us with the reality. Confronting and especially very informative because of the real time feedback. Meanwhile several groups have already followed and the programme is still running.”

Frank Simons has an international HR career and started at Allseas in January 2021 at HR, now holding final responsibility. “A turbulent time because of economic developments and of course Covid. In the meantime we have reached other waters and the order intake is growing. A positive fervour.”

When Frank took office, the leadership programme had already started, so he boarded a moving train. “On one of the training days for management I experienced that there was a great match with Allied Forces. Based on the concept and on the people, what definitely is as important. We speak the same no nonsense language and work from drive, courage and positivity.”

Pieter remembers his visit to a multi-day offsite training of the first group of participants. “A long ride to the east of the country, beautiful weather, everyone was busy outside working on an assignment. Wooden blocks had to get sorted out. When I arrived everyone was working extremely focused, my arrival was hardly noticed. That seemed like a good sign to me. Then I noticed how open everyone was about personal points of development, which stimulated me to also open up. Very content driven technical specialists had strong ideas for the culture and identity of Allseas. Real complete solutions, ready to be used. People realised they take up a beautiful position within the company, where it is valuable to speak your mind. Extremely inspiring.”

Pieter adds: “As a leader you have influence. On the one hand you influence the policy, on the other hand the execution. You have to be very aware of how you stand in front of a group. In the past leaders at our company would sometimes think that they mainly had to be the best in their trade. Now the insight is growing that you should really let others excel.

When the management team and department heads come together, in a large group of about 49 people, a lot of initiative comes to the surface. During Covid we sent out some internal messages, which didn’t land well. Unintentionally, but also unfortunate. Now somebody from the group suggested reviewing messages first from now on. That looks like a small step, but it is particularly important to get closer to your people.”

Marieke explains the working method: “Change always encounters resistance. As far as leadership is concerned, it is therefore really powerful that management leads and leads by example. That strengthens the team’s confidence. Experiential learning is at the centre of our working method. Experiencing that you need each other in a team, that that’s why you need to know yourself and others really well. This is how connection at a deeper level comes about. Connecting that insight to result driven goals: to accomplish a mission together. That makes it really concrete. And we stay in contact, to see whether the new behaviour is rooting. A point of no return will come, when old behaviour is no longer an option.”

Allseas is a family business. Pieter: “We are free to choose our own course. Maybe that’s what’s making us somewhat opinionated. We want to pioneer, find answers to questions customers might ask us tomorrow. It is innovative, technical work, which can completely absorb us. However it should not lead to us losing sight of the human side. The bar is set high, but the passion can not be blinding.”

Therefore a culture programme named ‘Bridge’ has also been launched alongside the leadership programme. From the culture survey Allied Forces provided, it appeared there is a need for a more people oriented way of working. That means among others: better (mutual) communication. We organised workshops about behaviour and culture. We want to be more open between ourselves, in valuation as well as in feedback. Celebrate all successes, feel one with the organisation. We already have a great job, now we would also like to become the greatest workplace: bring the result driven more in balance with the people oriented.

Armand van Velzen (managing partner Allied Forces): “Late 2021 we monitored the whole onshore organisation with our Human Performance Analysis. With this tool we validly measure how big the difference is between the current cultural situation and the desired one. It became clear the organisation wanted to become more people oriented and structure oriented, while maintaining the strong focus on innovation and result. The interviews with a cross section of the organisation confirmed this picture. It was remarkable to see that the desired culture move was shared in all the departments and levels. In consultation with Allied Forces Allseas has put together a concrete plan for change, which we are currently executing.”

Sanne Cransberg started working for Allseas in October 2019, now working as Unit Head Learning & Development, and responsible for L&D within Allseas. Sanne knew about Allied Forces from a previous client and introduced the company at the time to participate in the tender for the current leadership activities.

Sanne: “What I really appreciate in the cooperation is the sincere interest. There is time and space to ask questions, to challenge ideas and to grow together. We really make the training programmes together. As we both invest in the relationship, you can truly speak of a partnership.”

“Economically Allseas is doing really well at the moment,” Pieter says. “Also the contentment of our employees is growing. Because small groups are consistently following the leadership programme, it takes a while before a real change is noticeable, but the signs are good. We want to get the same results with an even better culture. As a family business we are very agile, now we are developing a culture in which people can adapt easily. People who are strict, dare to be critical and in particular: communicate in all directions.”

Frank: “Because we specifically wanted to work on the company culture, we conducted a survey involving all employees. We already knew there was a need for a more people oriented organisation. But that this was felt so broadly within every department, was a surprise. These results shaped the start of the Bridge culture programme. We know the bridge of a ship all too well, but we also mean building bridges, between people and departments.

Sanne: “Allied Forces has advised us on possible interventions to be able to grow towards the desired culture. We are now executing these Bridge initiatives with a group of ambassadors (colleagues).”

“We also noticed that a lot of business assignments from the Leadership programme are about cooperation and ‘understanding’. Beautiful, because that really comes from the employees and meets the Bridge initiatives well. These groups are put together with widely diverse people, so contact is being formed between people from different departments. And that contact remains.”

Frank: “The future state is when all leaders demonstrate leadership and promote the strategy with verve, also cross-disciplinary. That they contribute to shaping the policy, with critical acumen, to then execute it with strong conviction. Therefore we want to give them the necessary luggage. Everyone has something to learn, that’s why we offer a wide range of training programmes. We are not there yet, but we will get there.”

Sanne: “The Leadership programme is extremely valuable. It contains a lot of energy, people really get to know themselves and each other, the bond immediately is really deep. The link between group assignments with individual coaching and immediate feedback, makes it powerful. You are presented with the reality you will never forget. During the presentations of the business assignments, which we also attend, this attachment is really visible. It is the moment the group presents their findings to the Management. It’s great to watch this. For the correct tie-off there is a “triangular meeting” afterwards between the participant, the manager and Allied Forces.”

Frank: “The importance of our partnership with Allied Forces can be expressed in just one word: impact. We notice the behavioural change in the workplace. That is what it is about when you peel everything off. And at the same time that is the most difficult thing to accomplish. We have entered into a relationship for the long term. This also means: solicited and unsolicited sparring about the cooperation, about the programme and about each other.”

Sanne: “The job Allied Forces does, is essentially different to what I know from the market.

It is challenging, but also personal. It goes deep, but it is not soft or woolly. In short, it really suits us. And more importantly: It has an effect. I am convinced that Allseas has become a more enjoyable employer, because of the path we have chosen with the assistance of Allied Forces’!”