My 1 minute of fame in “Intermediair” of April

My 1 minute of fame in “Intermediair” of April

Al lezende kwam ik in ene mijn eigen naam en citaten uit 1 van mijn artikels voor Vodafone tegen. Ik was verbijsterd…maar vooral aangenaam verrast!

Bronvermelding: Het artikel komt dus uit de Intermediair van 3 april 2008.

Lees hieronder het Artikel (in het engels, schuingedrukt gaat over mij):

Intermediair, issue 14 – 3 April 2008

Vodafone’s move ups and downs

What do you do when your boss moves?

Vodafone opens a second head office in Amsterdam. Three hundred jobs move from Maastricht to Amsterdam. Two hundred people are not following their job move. ‘It boiled down to being asked to uproot my family and my life here for a job I’ve already been doing for six years’.

► They had no idea. The senior managers of Vodafone had a training scheduled in Kerkrade that day. But that was cancelled at the last minute: if they could please all be at Kasteel Vaeshartelt, just outside Maastricht, at nine am for an update on the company’s strategy. There, CEO Guy Laurence explains the plans with a few powerpoint slides. Nothing shocking. Until he says that the company with the current efforts as such, will not be able to meet the targets. According to the top management more is needed: a move from Maastricht to Amsterdam.
Quiet and stunned the managers, a large number of whom have been working for the company since the start twelve and a half years ago, listen to Laurence’s arguments. How important it is to be close to the customers, partners and stakeholders, and how much easier it will be to attract new talent when based in Amsterdam, especially people for online, marketing and sales jobs, so difficult to recruit in southern Limburg. And it doesn’t concern the whole of Vodafone, says Laurence, it will be a second head office in Amsterdam. Out of 2800 employees, only 315 jobs will move. It mainly concerns commercial roles. Laurence and six other directors will also move.
When the CEO has finished, the consequences begin to dawn upon the audience. Which roles are impacted? What are the timelines? What happens if you don’t want to move? The top management doesn’t have all the answers; in six weeks there will be clarity on individual job level. Only the move date is clear: 1 September 2008.

Radomir Willé (37), product manager enterprise marketing, would have been celebrating his 10 years at Vodafone this coming September. Now he hopes to have found another job before that date. On 13 December last year he received – like all the others – the final decision: his job will move to Amsterdam. Willé had six weeks to decide: moving or finding another job. ‘It boiled down to being asked to uproot my family and my life here for a job I’ve already been doing for six years. I give up all I have now but my work stays the same; that is not a challenge’.
If Willé had joined just recently or if Amsterdam had meant a promotion, he would have considered moving, but not like this. Willé’s wife also has a job in this region and their 2-year old son – often looked after by his parents and in-laws – they rather see him growing up here than in the Randstad. After the initial scare Willé now sees the move as the final push he needed to take a new step. ‘Ten years at Vodafone is great, now I’m in for something new’. He is looking for a new job within one hour traveling distance from his home. ‘If that doesn’t work I might broaden my scope to cities like Brussels, Leuven or Aachen, but we’ll see’. Willé, with degrees in electrical engineering as well as business administration, estimates his chances for a new job quite positively. ‘And I was not born as a product manager, so I’m also looking at other functions’. He is now orienting himself on ict as well as marketing functions but consultancy could also be an opportunity: ‘I see opportunies in a number of areas’.
Willé is not the only home-loving Vodafone employee: when the six weeks have passed and the numbers are added in February, two hundred of the 315 impacted employees will not be following their job.

‘The future is here’ says a sign on a display with the latest models mobile phones at the Vodafone head office. Not for Jules Nijst (49). His career at Vodafone will end on 1 September. This is the second time that the ‘segment marketing manager prepaid’ has to deal with a move by his employer. When in 2006 his job at that time with Philips is moved to Hongkong, he stays behind and applies for a job with Vodafone. After the news on 10 October, he immediately says to his wife: ‘We are going to Amsterdam. And we are not going with them’. Nijst’s wife is a self employed HR advisor and has a strong network of customers in the region; for her moving was not an option. And Nijst himself had been thinking about a dream for quite some time: becoming a winegrower. ‘Working under the open skies instead of an office ceiling’. He has now joined a vineyard close to the village of Ulestraten, about five kilometers northeast of Maastricht. In that spot he will shortly not only be literally working with his hands, but also handle the marketing and sales of the wine. ‘Especially the diversity of being self employed is what attracts me: you are never finished learning’. For the last two years, the marketeer has been following courses next to his job and spending holidays at vineyards. Even without the move, he would have taken this step, but probably much later in time. ‘As it is, I will be planting grapevines in April’.

Not all Vodafone employees are as relaxed about the move as Willé and Nijst. ‘Three tissue boxes were needed to dry my tears. I really mourned’, writes Sarah van Deel on the site, where employees can acquaint themselves with Amsterdam and share their personal ups and downs concerning the move. Van Dee describes how – after five years of traveling between Amsterdam and Maastricht and only two months before the move announcement – the balance finally swung in favour of her love-of-a-lifetime boyfriend and in favour of Vodafone, both in Maastricht. ‘But after 2 months this was abruptly taken away. The weekend before the deadline we tied the knot: we are staying here’. She seems to have embraced the advantages of life in Limburg and wishes her moving colleagues all the best: ‘We will be picknicking in the hills. You at Zandvoort, where you end up after three hours of traffic jams and 20 Euros of parking fees, where you smell your neighbour’s sweat and taste his sun lotion on your sandwich’.
Statistics from the Arbeidsmarkt GedragsOnderzoek AGO (Labourmarket Behaviour Research) show that on average 46 percent of higher educated people and 59 percent of university educated people are willing to move for a job. That percentage is substantially higher when people are new on the labour market. It decreases with the years of job experience. When starting on the labour market 70 percent of higher educated and 81 percent of university graduates are willing to move, but after five years this has declined to only 44 and 59 percent. ‘The average employee at Vodafone has been with the company for some eight years, is in his mid-thirties, has a partner with a job and has strong ties to the region’, says Paul Smits, Vodafone’s human resources director. That the willingness to move is so low amongst his employees, doesn’t surprise him at all. Something else to take into account, according to him, is the fact that life in the Randstad is less comfortable than in Limburg: ‘Housing prices are lower here and there are much less traffic jams’. In the months prior to the announcement, Smit was expecting some 44 percent of impacted people to follow their job move, some of his colleagues thought this would be less. ‘That is why we wanted to give clarity as soon as possible after 10 October’, says Smits: about which roles were impacted, the office location but also the compensation package. ‘So that everyone could use the December holidays to talk it over at home’.
Vodafone offers financial compensations and support in finding a new job. Employees who don’t want to move will lose their job, but not their entitlement for unemployment benefit. For each year employed until 1 September, they receive a gross month salary, multiplied by a correction figure: the final compensation is slightly above the standard ‘court package’ (see separate column).

‘I consider myself as one of the lucky ones’, says web specialist Richard Mes (25), young and without ties. He is looking forward to the move. For him no need for endless conversations at the coffee machine: he expected his job would be moved, or would be ‘impacted’ as the organization calls it. Mes works in the corporate affairs department and scans everything that is being posted on the web about Vodafone: he monitors communities, weblogs and fora and participates in discussions there. In principle this can be done from any location, but in monitoring all these online processes he closely works with partners. And these are all located in the Randstad. ‘Now we often meet halfway, for instance in Den Bosch, otherwise it takes three hours for traveling’. The team he is part of was formed with his help only six months ago and Mes has all kinds of plans for the future.
The same is true for Soraya Cardoze (single, 42) who also intends to keep her job. She has been with the company for over eleven years and has climbed the ranks from management assistant to channel specialist in marketing communications. ‘I’ve thought about whether I would feel lost in such a big city, but fortunately most of my department will be coming as well so we can help each other’. In making up her mind, Cardoze’s personal hobby also played an important part: African percussion. ‘That is so much more popular there’.
Mes is looking for an apartment in the Utrecht region. ‘Amsterdam is too crowded and noisy’ and Cardoze is thinking of buying a house in Watergraafsmeer. Vodafone gives financial compensation: the company pays for the estate agent, the notary, the move and part of the redecoration costs. Anyone who will be living within a diameter of sixty kilometers from the office, receives three months gross salary in net payment and a first class public transport subscription for anyone who leaves his car at home. ‘We wanted to offer people a real choice, and not make it so hard that in fact we would be taking the decision for them’, says Smits who is also moving to Amsterdam himself: ‘I might be in a slightly different price range when looking for a house than the average employee, but for me as well it’s disheartening what I can get in the Amsterdam region’. Cardoze’s new house will not be available until 2009: in the meantime she will be traveling a lot, like many of her colleagues: ‘Let’s find out first what the nice neighbourhoods are before taking any final decisions’. Mes also expects to be spending quite some time still in Maastricht. ‘I now choose for my career, but why can’t I combine that with a social life in Maastricht? I will be coming back in the weekends quite often’.

Where the new Vodafone head office will open its doors in 2010, is now still a building site. Until that time a solution is found with an office building near the Sloterdijk train station. But first, the organization has to compensate the loss of two hundred employees. On top of that there are another fifty long time vacancies to fill. To succeed in this everything is geared up to the max. Next to the building site, in the old Post CS building adjacent to the Central Station, a special Vodafone recruitment center has been installed.
Marieke Linders is heading the team there. Besides controllers, legal people and administrative personnel there is a need for marketing and sales people, pricing specialists and online specialists. The most important vacancies, ten senior management positions, have been filled by internal promotions from other Vodafone countries. The thirty middle management positions are expected to be filled in May, according to Linders. Much effort is also put into filling all other vacancies. Recruiting in southern Limburg is not the same as recruiting in the Randstad, notices Linders: ‘In Limburg Vodafone is an A-brand. Here, candidates are comfortable with several applications in parallel.’ The new labourmarket campaign is aimed at the more bold type of Randstad employee, with lines like ‘Sales specialists: why don’t you start writing your resignation’ and ‘Management controllers: why don’t you start packing your things’. Linders: ‘In Maastricht Vodafone can afford longer recruitment processes, but the competition in the Randstads asks for speedy decisions. A job interview at Schiphol, in between flights is not a problem and Maastricht based managers regularly come to Amsterdam to conduct interviews with potential candidates.’
In the meantime, in Maastricht the move is being prepared. Where possible, current employees train their successors. To avoid a loss of knowledge which is in two hundred people’s heads, the programme management department has been engaged. Smits: ‘They talk to the managers of each individual department and map the critical knowledge areas.’ The greater part of that knowledge is being captured in so called knowledge management systems.

The move is taking its toll on the organization, employees are under pressure and the journey to Amsterdam is not only costing Vodafone millions of Euros, but above all many good and loyal employees. It is all worth it? Smits thinks it is. ‘Limburg is beautiful, but at the same time the most outer part of the Netherlands’. In his view Maastricht is simply too far away from the Randstad. In many ways. ‘The mobile market develops fast. In the early days we earned our living with simply calling and texting, nowadays we also focus on internet and enterprise solutions. Vodafone often develops new products in cooperation with customers and a quick face to face meeting to discuss is difficult at present’. Vodafone is also a long way removed from certain societal trends in which mobile products could play a part, such as the traffic congestion issue, says Smits. And the Randstad area is in his view a trail blazer in consumer trends: ‘Amsterdam is a true media and internet city and that works as a magnet to attract new talent: The young generation, the internet generation, who know what the latest gadgets and phones can do, those are the ones I am looking for.’
All he has to do is find them. Before 1 September. ◄

Separate columns:

Working in Limburg
‘In southern Limburg it is more difficult for a highly educated person to find a job than in the Randstad’, says Michel van Smoorenburg of the CWI Netherlands South-East. In southern Limburg there are according to the CWI website ( 1207 vacancies for people with a higher education degree and 172 for people with a university degree. Around Amsterdam these numbers are respectively 1935 and 287 according to the CWI statistics.
The opportunities in the region have improved drastically compared to for instance three years ago, although CWI cannot substantiate that with hard figures. ‘With the right education, experience and attitude highly educated people should be able to make it’. They might have to be more flexible, regarding the type of function one is looking for, as well as the location of a new employer. The more specialized a function is, the smaller the supply. And of course it doesn’t help that the people staying here will become each other’s main competitors on the labour market. Van Smoorenburg doesn’t rule out the possibility that part of the Vodafone workforce will have to look across the border, Belgium or Germany, a few kilometers further down the road.

Mandatory move
When an employer forces his workforce to move, we speak of a ‘one-sided change in an employment contract’. An employer needs to be able to defend the need for the move, for instance by stating that it is not desirable that employees spend more than three hours traveling each day, due to the employer’s decision. Based on good employee-ship the employee is subsequently obliged to accept the move, conditional to a reasonable proposal. ‘What is meant with ‘reasonable’ is not legally described in detail’, says lawyer Diana Simons, specialized in labour law, ‘but one should think of financial compensations for moving house, estate agent’s costs etc.‘ Someone who can make a case that moving is not an option due to personal circumstances, can suit for rescission of his contract at the regional court and ask for a compensation. It is up to the court to decide whether this will be granted or not. If so, the employee retains his entitlement for unemployment benefits because the rescission is caused by an employer’s decision. In Vodafone’s case a collective package of compensation has been agreed upon.

Vodafone Group
Vodafone Netherlands is part of the Vodafone Group, established in 1982 in the UK and active in 65 countries. The group entered the Dutch market in 1995 with mobile communication provider Libertel and opened a Dutch head office in Maastricht. In 2002 the brand changed to Vodafone – ‘voice data fone’. Measured in revenues and profitability the company comes second after KPN in the Dutch mobile market. The company has 252 million customers worldwide, of which 4 million in the Netherlands. Vodafone Group revenues in 2006/2007 totalled approx 41 billion Euros. Vodafone Netherlands employs around 2800 people.

Written by Lorain O’Mahoney

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