Focus on Engagement

Ingeborg van Harten

Head of People & Places at Mollie

Ingeborg van Harten is Head of People & Places at Mollie, one of the fastest growing fintech scaleups in the Netherlands at the moment. Last September, Mollie raised another € 90 million to expand internationally. Currently the company counts around 300 employees. It is Ingeborg’s mission to co-create organisations where high engagement leads to high performance. Being able to make a positive impact on people’s lives and enable businesses to thrive at the same time, is what she loves doing most.

Mollie has engagement high on the agenda. Why is this?

When we identified how to become an organization with a ‘high-performance culture’, the entire management team agreed that one of the key ingredients would be high engagement levels among employees. Every people manager at Mollie has a focus on three pillars: provide direction, drive results, and develop your people. We believe that when managers do this well, they can build teams consisting of high performers with high engagement levels, and a greater level of happiness. This focus also leads to higher employee retention rates and help us to become an employer of choice. We see employee engagement as a crucial factor in building winning teams. Achieving an outstanding eNPS score has even become one of the strategic goals, for the entire company, in our growth plans for 2020 - 2024.

How do you measure engagement?

We measure the employee Net Promoter Score, the eNPS. We do this every quarter by asking the team (anonymously via a survey) just one question: On a scale of 1 - 10, how likely are you to refer Mollie as a place to work? Based on their answer, every team member gets one follow-up question. People who give Mollie a 9 or a 10, the ‘promoters’ are asked what some of the things are that Mollie is doing well. The ‘neutrals’, people who rate Mollie as a 7 or 8, are asked what Mollie could do to ensure they recommend Mollie as an employer, and the ‘detractors’, employees who give Mollie a score between 1 and 6, get the question, what can Mollie do to improve as an employer. Based on the ratings and the answers, we develop an action plan to work on for the next quarter, both on a department level and a company level, and we share this with the entire organization.

Ingeborg van Harten

Head of People & Places at Mollie

HR-expert with 15+ years experience

Especially during this COVID-19 period we also notice that highly engaged teams have fewer issues with communication and collaboration and work more effectively in general.
We can no longer dispute that engagement is an important driver for company success.

What are the results of focussing on engagement so far? We’ve measured our eNPS this since October 2019, and we’ve done five quarterly measures so far. What we already see is that the teams with high engagement scores have a higher employee retention rate and fewer sick days. We also see lower time to hire, as they bring in more referrals when it comes to hiring new team members. Especially during this COVID-19 period, we also notice that highly engaged teams have fewer communication and collaboration issues. They work more effectively in general. Since introducing the eNPS, people really feel like they have a voice. We share the outcomes of every engagement survey the week afterwards and are fully transparent about the top likes, the top dislikes, and common themes at an organizational level. We ask every department lead to share the department specific results with their team as well. Measuring engagement opened up a lot of valuable conversations, and it gave us the possibility to tweak, for example, our benefits. We introduced benefits for new parents and implemented our learning & development program based on the feedback we got through the survey.

How do you ensure that the importance of engagement is adopted by the full team?

We can no longer dispute that engagement is an important driver for company success. Some managers at Mollie were a little bit skeptical at first to use another survey and wondered if we would really follow-up on the results. But after the first round and results, they really experienced the added value of this type of feedback. People experienced that we were super transparent in sharing the results and our clear follow-up, and the response rates are quite high, up to 75%.

People really feel like they have a voice now.

How does Mollie further support employee growth? We have quarterly performance & growth conversations between the manager and the employee. It’s a two-way conversation where both the manager and employee provide feedback based on similar questions, ranging from what someone did well in the last quarter and what areas for improvement are to how valued someone has felt and what they need to be able to do their best work. The focus is more on doing better work in the future than reflecting on past performance. Around 80% of people perform well, so we prefer to focus on growth in the future. Additionally, people can use a 360 degrees feedback tool if they would like to get more feedback from their team members.

How does the team value the process?

The team loves the fact that you can sit down four times a year to discuss how you can shine or improve and that you can give feedback to the organization as well. To be honest, it can be quite some work for managers, but I truly believe that your main role as a manager is to listen to your team members, provide them with feedback and help them grow. An old-school way of doing this is once per year, having a very formal conversation and possible midyear a more informal conversation. The new-school way is giving feedback as often as possible or as often as needed. Towards the future, I would love to take out all the ratings. People still get a score on some of the questions, but numbers on these kinds of questions are always debatable. It can even lead to disengagement, and that’s the opposite of what you want to achieve from growth conversations. Instead, I want to focus even more on engagement and growth-potential open conversations.

we prefer to focus on growth in the future
The focus in our performance reviews is more on doing better work in the future than reflecting on past
you can definitely influence engagement

What does Mollie do to coach the managers in giving feedback?

With the help of a neuroscientist, we explained how the brain works and what exactly happens as a trigger in the brain when someone receives feedback. We trained managers on techniques for not only feedback conversations but also to focus on growth conversations. Managers attend courses on how to set people up for success, how to ensure that you point team members in the right direction, and how to provide useful feedback. This is an ongoing investment and part of our continuous leadership training.

What’s your biggest tip about engagement and feedback? A high-performance culture and great results come from a highly engaged team. You can’t always predict results and performance, but you can definitely influence engagement. Allowing people to give the organization a lot of feedback, and helping people grow, will lead to high engagement levels. And that will help with building a winning team and creating a in a high-performance culture. Remember that as a leader, you are the key influencer of engagement. It’s up to you to drive it!

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