Van Leeuwen
How does Van Leeuwen challenge and retain younger generations?

How does Van Leeuwen challenge and retain younger generations?

Kim Vellema
Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube, Zwijndrecht, the Netherlands

Van Leeuwen has a widely diverse workforce. People from different ages and backgrounds work together, even when they’re based in locations throughout the world. How does Van Leeuwen ensure that younger generations also feel affiliated to the company? And how does the company remain a valuable employer for this group? Van Leeuwen HR advisor Kim Vellema shows what goes on behind the scenes of this family business.

I have been working for two years at Van Leeuwen as an HR advisor. The diverse staff and the challenges of working at different locations are what appeal to me most. Moreover, Van Leeuwen is an ambitious company and employees are often involved in the process to make these ambitions a reality. Take the quarterly meetings, for example. They truly show the open culture at Van Leeuwen. Here, important themes, results and other important developments are shared with the employees, who are also encouraged to share and develop their own initiatives. This fits our core value of ‘innovative entrepreneurship’. In the same spirit, Van Leeuwen also wants to encourage younger colleagues to share new insights and ideas.

Young Lions day

Another way of reaching out to our younger colleagues are the Young Lions days. They are meant to inspire our younger colleagues, allow them to network and to have fun while doing so. The Young Lions day can take up to a full day and we organize them for employees of 35 and younger. Our goal is to bring the group closer together, which then makes it easier for them to get in touch with each other. At the most recent Dutch-Belgian Young Lions day, a whopping 61 colleagues turned up.

Introduction days and onboarding program

As I mentioned before, Van Leeuwen’s workforce consists of people from many different ages and cultures. In order to properly introduce new – usually young – employees to the company, we at the HR department are working on programs to fill introduction days and onboarding activities. These programs will also be used at Van Leeuwen locations abroad. It will be our way of showing Van Leeuwen’s long and rich history to new employees. After all, we’ve been around for 95 years!

Economic Development Board

We also introduced the Economic Development Board to initiate cooperations with local companies. The goal of the EDB is to establish a strong economic area in the Dutch ‘Drechtsteden’ region, by recruiting more young professionals and making sure they stay on board. We create opportunities for these young professionals to work together through various challenges: innovative research projects organized by the companies we work with. At the end of the challenge, the participants present their findings to the company which organized the challenge. Networking skills are an important factor of these challenges, allowing them to learn from each other. At the same time, of course, it’s an opportunity for us at HR to promote  Van Leeuwen.

Continuity and innovation

Our core values of ‘continuity’ and ‘innovation’ are sure to attract young professionals. Our efforts to digitize, automate and robotize are good examples of how we put these values into practice. We generate a dynamic and ‘FutureFit’ atmosphere and although we need a new skill set to work with these fresh concepts, those skills are second nature to young generations. These talents just finished their education, know the digital world and are quickly used to dynamic shifts. Our staff is rich and varied because we successfully attract and recruit young professionals.

We are also looking for ways to set up a global digital e-learning platform, so our employees are always empowered to develop their skills and knowledge. For many younger colleagues, a life filled with education seems obvious. Older colleagues usually need some encouragement to learn new things.

What the future holds

Family businesses are often seen as stuffy and conservative, but as you’ve just read, Van Leeuwen is on the move. We encourage new innovative projects, also in the field of Human Resources. Van Leeuwen, in other words, is an international company with a focus on the future. This makes it a great employer!



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