More Freedom Through Flexible Employment Conditions

Last updated: 2020-07-0210 min read time
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Three years ago, ManpowerGroup Nederland made the decision to implement a personalized benefits platform. Kristel Buitink, Director of Human Resources & Legal at ManpowerGroup Nederland, explains what the platform has meant to the HR service provider.


Kristel Buitink first entered the HR world with her previous employer, Deloitte, where her role was to organize the HR service delivery. After almost ten years with Deloitte, in 2015, Buitink made the move to ManpowerGroup Nederland, first as a Corporate HR Manager, and then as Director of Human Resources & Legal in May 2017.

“The temporary employment sector is not considered the most sustainably attractive industry. Quite wrongly, it’s often seen as a steppingstone in the job market.” Often, temporary employment placement is viewed as ‘enjoyable and something to learn a lot from’ after which employees often pursue their careers, for example, in business services.

“We see quite a high turnover during the first year at ManpowerGroup too,” says the HR Director. “These are usually new starters on the job market who sometimes have different expectations of the job. This is why it’s important that we look at job positions differently, so we get the most out of our talent. This is important for not only for individual development but for creating added value for the organization.”

Approximately 300 employees are working at ManpowerGroup Nederland’s head office in Diemen. Kristel Buitink, 35, leads a team of thirty HR professionals from the head office where she works with a problem of so-called ‘reverse diversity’. “My department comprises about 90 per cent women because men are simply not commonplace in Human Resources. Diversity is important, but ultimately it’s all about having the right person in the right place.”


When asking Buitink what achievements she is most proud of since arriving at ManpowerGroup, she cites the management traineeship program, which has already resulted in several top managers. To arm itself in the war for talent, the company is now offering more of its employees relevant training.

“Twice a year, we involve all senior managers to discuss succession planning - the development of potentials,” she explains. “We ask who could succeed who in key positions and then actively support those potentials with on-the-job learning and training. It works; managers think proactively about future talent and aren’t afraid that the talent will take over their position since there are also new opportunities for them.”

Another development that Buitink is proud of is the company’s flexible employment offerings. “We had four different packages. Some employees had 27 days off; others had 35. We wanted a scheme that applied to everyone. We needed an external party for this. After extensive research, I opted for Benify to be our provider who are by far the most active and extremely strong with innovative thinking. Additionally, Benify was the only party that could link and integrate with our other systems, and I supervised the project from start to finish.”


The integration of Benify was smooth and quick. Since Benify is a large international provider of personalized benefits platforms, there was no hesitation from them to send out experts to help when needed. “They were thinking along with us, every step along the way. For example, an expert was regularly flown in from Benify’s head office in Sweden to ask questions like, ‘What do your processes look like? How do you want to set up the platform?’. This worked really well. Setting up HR systems is complicated, especially when it comes to salary components, but Benify’s team did a great job.”

“The implementation process took a year to complete, which is extremely short for such a complex process considering there were 900 people to transition across.”

“Both the transition of our rewards process and the acceptation of our employees went smoothly. Younger employees immediately took to Benify as did colleagues who’ve worked at ManpowerGroup for a longer time, after a short period of familiarization. “There was very little resistance from our employees regarding the transition,” shares Buitink.

Whether employees choose to purchase fifteen non-statutory leave days or choose to have the leave days paid out as a tax-free benefit, administration is easy. “With Benify, the process is very user-friendly, whether you use your flexible benefits budget to purchase a new bicycle or a gym membership or choose to have it paid out,” says the HR director of ManpowerGroup Nederland.

Leave days

“The platform is used frequently and offers us a lot of freedom. For example, through the platform, you can optimize your travel costs by paying the balance not covered by your employer using your benefits budget. By doing this, you also receive a gross-net benefit. Or you can make an extra pension deposit. We see that people with small children often choose to purchase more leave days. Older employees think having more time off is more important than extra money. Around 99 per cent of our employees logged in to the platform as soon as it was launched”.

“And for HR, having just one set of employment conditions that apply to everyone means less administration, since often it’s the same questions being asked.”

Benify was also present for after-sales support by engaging employees, for example, through discounts and offers for wellness experiences, electronics or a weekend getaway. There were also regular meetings at the head office to make the platform even more accessible, to analyse usage, and to engage any employees who were less active in terms of participation.

Brand values

Kristel Buitink has been working at ManpowerGroup for almost five years. So, what does she hope to achieve with the employment agency over the next five years? “We want to use the talents of both permanent employees and temporary employees much more than now,” shares the HR & Legal director. “As an employer, we want temporary employees to make the most of themselves. We never let talent go unused. We care, we share, we dare. These are our brand values. We care about our customers and candidates. We share our knowledge, and we dare to innovate. That’s what Manpower is about.”

A lot is happening in the temporary employment market. New legislation, new players, an increasingly difficult playing field. “You can wait for real market disruption,” says Buitink. “But the established order, which includes ManpowerGroup, ensures its viability because it has the networks, the volume and the customers. The Dutch Balanced Labor Market Act’s (WAB) intention to reduce the differences between permanent and temporary will have a huge impact in the coming year.”

“No year is the same,” says the HR director. “We must constantly innovate, constantly build. It needs to be in your blood.” What sets ManpowerGroup apart from its competition? “We do more on the candidates’ side than our competitors. For instance, you will always be called back within 24 hours after applying for a job.”

End result

How does Buitink describe her management style? “I’m transparent, I give trust, and I challenge people to get the best out of themselves. I think it’s important that new HR colleagues understand the context in which they work, know their priorities and broader lines and don’t get bogged down in details but retain the long-term vision. How results are achieved, I consider less important, but the end result is important.”

By trust, Buitink means that she doesn’t need to know where every colleague is at any given time. “Unless I suspect we’re not doing the right thing, there’s no need to control the situation more than necessary. Fortunately, there are very few cases where my intervention is required. Each HR colleague is different, and that, of course, is a good thing. All that matters is that we are enabling employees to use their talent.”

It goes without saying that the HR department is important to ManpowerGroup - after all, the entire organization revolves around the recruitment of people. “I’m part of the management group and cooperate very thoroughly with our managing director, financial director and directors of our various labels, such as Manpower and Experis. There is always daily consultation; we share a room together. Most of the time, we agree with each other, but not always. We are, however, always open to each other’s opinion. There’s no doubt here that HR is important and has great added value.”

ManpowerGroup has made several acquisitions in recent years, including PEAK-IT, CiberNederland, iSense and Salarisprofs. Benify’s benefits platform will also be introduced into these acquired companies. “Introducing Benify into our other companies helps facilitate the merge. The new parties see the benefits of using one system.”

Note: This is a translation of a Dutch article written by Charles Sanders and published in CHRO Magazine on 24 October 2019.

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