Interview With Walter van de Waterbeemd, Chief Human Resources Officer

Tell us a bit about your role at Leaseweb.

At Leaseweb, I am the Chief Human Resources Officer and responsible for the global HR policies and the alignment of HR operations between all (international) entities. By analyzing the market, adequate strategies can be developed to stay an employer of choice and compete in a competitive industry where good employees are hard to find and keep. The HR strategy is based on the internal demand policies and arrangements that are being developed.

What attracted you to Leaseweb?

Leaseweb is a fast-paced company. In the beginning, the business grew more quickly than the development of the internal organization. This meant that the internal policies and instruments were lagging behind, which affected employees. The challenges in HR were significant – a lot had to be done and put in place – and I really enjoy this kind of challenge. So far, my team and I have been successful in putting HR on the map. We now have a robust and reliable HR department, which attracts the right people, administers the correct things, and, most importantly, encourages an environment where employees strive to do better today than yesterday to serve our customers worldwide. There is an atmosphere of trust in HR, and we deliver what we promise.

How would you describe the culture at Leaseweb?

Leaseweb is a flat organization where every colleague matters. It’s an open and transparent atmosphere where people feel at home and have fun in their workspace. Everyone is empowered to do his or her job, and we all share one thing – the fun we have in doing our jobs. Leaseweb creates possibilities and aims to let everyone take their career into their own hands. Personal development is key. Work-life balance is one thing, but being proud of Leaseweb and having fun in what you do is just as important.

As Chief HR Officer, how do you make employees feel empowered, engaged, and challenged in the workplace?

I strongly believe that by letting people take responsibility for their own job and trusting what they do, you empower employees to perform to the maximum of their capabilities. The trust you give will keep them engaged and challenged. We have invested in developing employees with a career framework where they can see what possibilities there are to further their careers and how to get there. We offer a wide variety of learning possibilities because no one person is the same. People can take talent tests, learn via e-learning platforms, training on the job, traineeships, and educate themselves via our Leaseweb learning platform that offers more than 5000 courses in the Netherlands. We truly live by our core values: practicing common sense, having fun, and getting things done – because they contribute to the feeling of empowerment, engagement, and challenge.

What initiatives have you been working on recently?

I am always working on the continuous improvement of our Learning and Development Platforms. On local levels, we have been introducing all kinds of programs and benefits to attract and keep the right people on board, such as pension arrangements, health insurance, development plans, a Restricted Stock Unit plan, an Employee Shared Purchase Plan, and Personal Development Plans.

We have more than 40 cultures working in various offices, and therefore have a Cultural Awareness Workshop to learn about the different habits and backgrounds of colleagues. This contributes to a better understanding of each other, as well as increased communication and collaboration.

You spent some time in the military. What did you learn from working at the Dutch Air Force?

I learned that good leadership will make people better and improve the overall results of a group. Facilitating people will bring much more than restricting and dictating them. When you give guidance and decide the direction/vision, people will follow and be highly motivated. Stay away from micro-management and have trust in the knowledge and abilities of your employees; let them do their job. It is always a balance between what and when to report and when to let the manager take the end responsibility. That is what it is all about.

Be in control, but don’t check everything by the minute or letter. Give people room to make mistakes. That is the only way to learn, and you need to let others learn from their mistakes. In aviation, this is called a “just culture.”

Tell us about a leader who has inspired you throughout your career.

Several leaders in my career were, to some extent, an inspiration on certain topics or lessons in my life. It all depended on the stage of my personal development and my life.

The older you get, the more experience you gain by putting all inspirations together. This could be beneficial to share with other, mostly younger people who just started their journey in life and work and be their source of inspiration.

What is your personal philosophy?

I have some ground rules I live by:

  • The only one who can make you happy is you, in private and at work.
  • As a manager, I will always make sure my colleagues can do their work in a safe environment and let them take ownership. The end responsibility is always mine. I can facilitate them with my knowledge and experience.

If you could fill a swimming pool with one thing, what would that be?

For swimming, you would need water – and I love a good glass of single malt whiskey, so I would fill the pool with “(fire)water”.

(For those unfamiliar, firewater is high proof alcohol – especially whiskey!)