Following the organisational changes at Bouwinvest in 2013, Human Resources Management (HRM) focused on refining and enhancing the organisation in 2014, with a clear focus on increasing efficiency and encouraging more cooperation and knowledge exchange across the company. Bouwinvest wants to be the best in its market, the best at what we do and, very importantly, provide investors and other stakeholders with the highest possible levels of service. The only way to do that is by having the best people in the right place in an organisation that is both effective and efficient, and that can add value at an individual and organisational level.
HRM Highlights in 2014:
- Instigating real change by putting our people in charge
- Increasing the commercial focus and efficiency of back-office processes, including digitising accounts payable and a new administrative system for International Investments
- Increasing the awareness of AIFMD-related processes and demands
- Promoting collaboration and knowledge-sharing through an open-space office, business and social networking, plus intensified internal communications
- Actively endorsing our social responsibility in our hiring policy and through a partnership with HomePlan
One of Bouwinvest’s strategic goals is to increase its assets under management to € 7.7 billion in 2017. But we are not interested in growth for growth’s sake. We want to book controlled growth, combining entrepreneurial spirit with accountability and control processes. We are now under much more scrutiny than in the past, as we now fall under the supervision of the Dutch Financial Markets Authority and the Dutch Central Bank. Additionally, we now have to meet the conditions of our AIFMD license. So we need to meet very strict control and reporting standards, and increase our focus on the commercial side of the business.
Creating a clear identity
In 2014, HRM took further steps towards creating this new Bouwinvest corporate identity, a culture based on accountability, focus and collaboration. Of course, you cannot create a new corporate culture overnight. Organisational change has to be accompanied by a change in the mindset of the people it affects the most.
This is why Bouwinvest’s approach to change is to put its people at the forefront, to make them stakeholders in that change. It may not be the quickest road to change, but we have found that the most effective way to realise real change is to put together small but diverse project groups, who help to define the changes necessary. Then we get as many people as possible involved in actually making the changes and embedding them in the organisation. People are much more willing to accept change that they have helped to shape. This not only increases buy-in and the chances of success, it helps Bouwinvest to make changes that actually work and add value for clients, the organisation, and our employees.
Focus on core competencies, efficiency and control
To achieve this added value, our focus has to be more competency-driven, putting highly-skilled specialists where they are the most effective. For instance, we have a lot of specialists in fields such as compliance, risk management, internal audit, tax and reporting. We have continuous process management, document management and change management in place. In other words, we are in control. In fact, this is virtually a business within the business, which is vital in the much more demanding compliance environment in which we now operate.
Last year, we took a number of practical measures to improve these processes and the efficiency of the ‘back-office’. These included the introduction of the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) system, digitalising accounts payable and reducing administration. We improved our quarterly reporting both quantitatively and qualitatively, raising overall reporting to AIFMD standards. Last year saw several measures aimed at enhancing the AIFMD compliance process and increasing awareness of AIFMD standards. And Bouwinvest decided to decentralise its IT systems and migrate from one supplier to a number specialised IT companies. This gave us an opportunity to increase control of our company-wide IT system. In line with the sharp increase in investments at our International portfolio, we decided to invest in a new and far more efficient administration system.
Collaboration is key
The real estate investment sector is a people business; it depends completely on know-how and expertise. And achieving commercial focus requires very high levels of collaboration and knowledge exchange, right across the organisation. This will be one of the major drivers of change at Bouwinvest in the years ahead. Collaboration is already implicit in almost everything we do, but in the future it will be a very explicit and integral part of how we do business.
To promote collaboration, we introduced an open-plan office, literally breaking down barriers and bringing people from different parts of the organisation closer together. This effort was boosted by the flex working practices we introduced, such as the absence of fixed work stations for a large number of our employees.
Communication is a key factor in the promotion of collaboration and Bouwinvest has stepped up its internal communications in several ways. We now make maximum use of internal media such as our group intranet and various in-house magazines, increasing the number of internal news items and project write-ups. People are now much more aware of what is happening in other parts of the organisation.
Putting people first
Our people and their know-how, their commitment and their engagement are essential to our continued success. This is why Bouwinvest places so much focus on its people’s professional and personal development. We want our people to be committed and accept accountability for their results. But commitment and accountability are two-way streets. We cannot expect people to be engaged unless we as an organisation show similar levels of engagement. We provide our people with the tools they need and create a culture in which they can focus on what they need to do.
Respect people, have fun and make money
We invest both time and money in the development of professional and personal skills, to create project challenges and also to promote an active vitality programme with a range of individual sports activities and collective events. In addition to our commercial success, we feel that this engagement has also helped us to achieve one of the lowest absenteeism rates in the real estate industry and indeed in the Dutch corporate world.
We also organise regular social and networking events for the entire organisation. These have increased the opportunities for internal networking and helped create a much more cohesive organisation, with fewer barriers to communications across the company. Besides this, the social events give people a chance to get to know each other in an even more relaxed atmosphere.
Investing in the future
We want to continue to improve as an organisation with the people we have on board and we want them to grow with us. We already have strategic personal planning and succession planning in place and in 2013 we introduced the Management Development programme, covering a wide range of management skills. Last year’s launch of the development programme for team leaders and high potentials was the next logical step in the process. We will continue to roll this out in 2015, paving the way for the next generation of leaders. We will also be conducting our bi-annual employee engagement survey, which will show us when our employees think we are on the right track and identify other improvements to makes us even more effective.
Accepting social responsibility
Bouwinvest does not exist in a vacuum and we aim to play an active and positive role in the world around us. We actively promote the regeneration of neighbourhoods in inner city areas across the Netherlands, both at head office level and through our investment funds, and encourage our people to get involved in social initiatives.
On a real bricks and mortar level, Bouwinvest extended its partnership with the HomePlan charity foundation, which builds houses for some of the world’s poorest people. For an initial period of three years, Bouwinvest will make a fixed donation to the charity’s housing projects, but we have also committed to getting our own people involved in initiatives around the globe. In November of last year, three Bouwinvest employees spent time in Mexico with a HomePlan team building homes in the slums of San Andrés Azumiatla in the country’s Puebla province. Ten families had new homes in time for Christmas.
On the home front, young people are currently finding it very difficult to enter the job market. Bouwinvest has therefore increased the number of interns we take on each year, giving young people a chance to work in a highly professional environment and gain valuable work experience.
Influencing respectful personnel management with business partners has now been incorporated in selection criteria when tendering for Facility Management services, such as catering and cleaning. In addition to pricing, social responsibility is now a key issue in the selection of new partners and is part of our Service Level Agreements.
For more information on Bouwinvest’s CSR initiatives, see the CSR section in this annual report.