30 years in HR, part 7: Growing with Arcadis

Interview at Arcadis

On May 16, 2006, I had my first interview at Arcadis. The job profile I received from the search company was dated November 3, 2005, so they had been looking for a while.  This profile was rather general. What was clear, that this was a one-person job. “Although this is a stand-alone position, every regional HR Director (five) will report indirectly to him”. Arcadis was looking for “a mature HR professional, who has a broad experience both on the “hard side” as well as on the “soft side” of HR”.

The first interview was with Harrie Noy and the Corporate Director HR, who would retire early 2007. Location: the headquarters of Arcadis in Arnhem (this was where the HQ was before the move to Amsterdam). The atmosphere was very informal, and we laughed a lot. Did I realise this was a one-man job? Would I be able to function without a lot of support? What were my ideas about how HR could contribute to the growth of Arcadis? The interview went well, and I was invited for a second round of interviews.  With the other members of the Executive Board and the Director Corporate Development.

In the first interview the EB member responsible for Europe made the remark that it was great that I spoke excellent French. This would be helpful in dealing with the French operating company, which was somewhat hesitant towards the need of good HR management. I had to confess my French was very poor. Later I saw the profile the search company had provided, and with regards to language capabilities they had pimped my cv.

A one-man band

Some time after the second round I was offered the job. I received the formal offer on August 30, 2006. Start: October 1, 2006. Later I heard that many candidates had been interviewed for the job. Initially they had been looking for a woman, without success. Other candidates had been put off by the size of the corporate HR team (one, including the Corporate Director HR). Although the job title was good, how could you run a global HR job with such a small team?

The same profile in which my French language capabilities were exaggerated, stated that I was the candidate who probably most resembled the current Director HR. That was probably an important implicit selection criteria. Why did I take the job? Although I had never heard of Arcadis, I was impressed by the track record and ambitions. The increasing internationalisation also appealed to me.  Both Harrie Noy, my predecessor and the other people I had met seemed to be nice people. Down-to-earth, not pompous at all, and with a corporate HQ of 33 people the typical HQ atmosphere and behaviour seemed to be non-existent.

Growing with Arcadis

I am now approaching six years with Arcadis. When I arrived the total number of employees was little above 10,000. Today we have more than 21,000. Fantastic growth in five years, both by acquisitions and organic. The Corporate HR team has grown with 200% (from 1 to 3) and and July 1 a fourth team member will start. On May 16, 2012, Harrie Noy was succeeded by Neil McArthur, and Arcadis is preparing for the next phase of growth. It is not so easy for me to give a lot of juicy details about my first five Arcadis years, as I still work there. For that you will have to wait for my blog series “40 year in HR”.

What I can say is that the experience has been very positive. A lean and mean HQ is a blessing for an organisation. People can find each other easily, and there is not much time for internal politics and the development of bureaucratic procedures.  I have been very lucky with the people that have become part of the small corporate HR team. In the end, also for a Director HR, engagement is largely determined by your boss and the colleagues you work with on a daily basis. A company that is growing and doing well, and where the ambitions are big, offers many positive challenges for the coming years.

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