Henry Haaijer: “Performance is all about people”

“I think it’s really cool to stimulate people’s development and link it to a company’s strategy so that performance is optimised and everything can be made doable. It intrigues me,” says Henry Haaijer, who, for the past year, has been working as Performance Improvement Director at ITDS.

“Organisations that I come into contact with usually face the same problems. It’s difficult to find and hold on to the right talent, and nowadays leadership can be so difficult. You’re faced with questions like: how should I manage people in our changing world, and how should everything be organised? Truth be told, many organisations struggle with this, but at the end of the day it’s evident that it can be linked to the set-up of the organisation and its performance management system. Generally speaking, companies are fairly traditional and managed on the basis a number of standard KPIs with the organisation often being layered and relatively inflexible.” The combination of these facts force companies to innovate, he adds. “It’s a question of the tail wagging the dog: there are generational issues at play here and certain millennials have a different take on work. It’s our responsibility to come up with a good solution because having the right talent enables you to remain a step ahead of the competition.”


The improvement of performance is inextricably linked to behaviour and the ability to change it, continues Henry. “But too many people find this daunting because we have a natural reluctance to step outside our comfort zone. It’s seen as difficult, both in a business and a private context. There is always a sizeable ‘behavioural component’ in our assignments, and let’s face it; organisations cannot change until their people do so. It’s important to steer this behavioural change as tangibly as possible and thus convert it into visible performance improvements. It’s crucial to create a safe environment in which development is paramount and that’s something which is always consciously steered, both by participants and clients. On the other hand, behavioural change can be measured when it comes to the improvement of performance. Wherever it’s possible, we actually try to convert behavioural change into a steering mechanism.”


Explaining that his interest in people’s development started when he chose the direction of his studies, Henry explains that he was fascinated by how our thought patterns develop and he was keen to combine this with commerce. “During my studies, after starting work with a branch of C&A, I applied what I was learning to the sales process and I quickly became their best salesman! Then, after working for several years for a family business, at the age of 27 I started up my own business, which focused on mainly on leadership, culture and HR issues. I ran that company for 15 years, during which time the interest never waned.”


“An advantage of my work is that because my assignments continuously compel me to go deeper and broader it means that you cannot just keep relying on the same solutions. I like to keep innovating in what I do and this forces me to consider my own development. I usually fall back on my network for this, talking to people who are in a position to help me with an assignment and then learning how they deal with things. Developing a strategy wasn’t something I learned in a classroom. It was done by acquiring considerable experience with different strategies with a variety of companies. Time and time again I’ve enjoyed thinking about a certain vision or strategy and how you can coax the desired behaviour from employees. Moreover, I think it’s important to be part of various networks because, aside from the substantive and commercial benefits they bring, they can also broaden your horizons.”

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