Interview with Tom Haak

Tom Haak

We were able to interview Tom Haak in his office near Utrecht in The Netherlands.
Tom is the founder and director and director of the HR Trend Institute.

1. Why did you leave your job at Arcadis? Were you fired?

I worked for Arcadis for nearly eight years, from 2006 to 2014. This was a fantastic period. The company grew from 10,000 to 22,000 people. I was able to build a world-class HR team. We developed some really innovative programs, as Arcadis Global Shapers. The company got a new CEO and the transition went very well. As HR you should walk the talk, and not stay in a job too long.

Eight years in one job is a long time. I am not a job hopper, but probably I generally stayed somewhat too long in my jobs (as I liked them so much). Also: Arcadis was probably getting too big for me. Some of the emerging themes (e.g. global standardisation) were less appealing to me. I was not fired. I gave notice, we found a good successor and I was able to leave with a good feeling. Arcadis is a great company, and I am sure they will be doing well.

2. Why the HR Trend Institute?

Already for some years I write a blog, I tweet regularly and I collect information about innovative HR practices.
I founded the HR Institute to create a network of people who are interested in HR innovations. The HR Institute is looking for examples of organisations and service providers who are really using current trends in an innovative, creative way.

One of the products the Institute is developing is the HR Trend Scan. The HR Trend Scan can be used to help organisations to assess how they can use the trends in the best possible way.

3. What will you do next to the work for the Institute?

You could say the Institute is part one. The core of my experience is in developing and implementing innovative and impactful HR strategies for multinational companies. My plan is to develop a niche HR strategy consultancy, to assist organisations in crafting and implementing their HR strategy.

The name I have in mind: The HR Architects. Of course in this work I will use the findings of the HR Trend Institute. I have some clear views on how HR strategies can be improved. Many organisations are not so happy with the current situation. The impact of HR is too low. In my view some of the reasons for this are a lack of focus and a lack of HR interventions that have a great impact. HR in many organisations is too submissive and too service oriented.

4. What is your ‘Earning model’?

This is a question I get a lot. Often this is one of the first questions, as people seem to be really concerned that I earn some money. I am less concerned. The HR Trend Institute will not be a big money maker, and that is not the intention.

The Institute will share its findings freely. With my strategy advice I will earn some money, when it is clear I really add value. It is also my intention to develop partnerships with organisations that deliver innovative HR services in specific areas, as leadership development, talent sourcing and building global networks.

5. What are you ideal clients?

There can be several ideal clients. Multinational companies with ambition. Who have the feeling they need improvement in the people and organisation domain. Their current hr programs are ok, but not delivering on the high expectations.

Organisations who are willing to take some risks. Many organisations are copying each other, as they use benchmarking as a way to determine what they should do. If you want to stand out, you have to leave the crowd and develop something new. The ideal clients are clients who want to build a long-term relationship, allowing me to really get to know their business.

6. Why should organisations involve you?

A good fit between me and the organisations I am able to support is important. I bring a long experience, with a good track record, in international HR. Some consider me an independent thinker, creative and innovative. Also I am a good challenger. My network is strong, with fast access to service providers in different areas. I like to co-create, and not to bring standard solutions.

7. Do you see yourself ever going back into a corporate role?

I like very much what I am doing now. This is a building phase, and it will take a while before the HR Trend Institute and the hr strategy advice are fully up and running. If a challenging corporate hr role comes along, I certainly will have a look. Maybe a combination is possible.

8. You are very active on Social Media; what does that bring you?

My start on social media was three years ago. It has brought me a lot. I am able to connect to international communities who share my interests. A lot of my information I get through Twitter. I am stimulated to gather information and keep myself up-to-date. I have got into contact with some interesting people. It is also fun.

9. What are your strong beliefs, after 30+ years in hr?

One of my strongest beliefs is, that the potential of many people in organisations is not fully used. People are locked in their jobs and in the org charts. If we can find ways to unlock the potential, great things can be accomplished. Working can be a lot more fun than it is today. HR has drifted away too much into an instrumental area.

10. Do you see a future for HR?

Sure. HR will have to evolve. If HR can make the transition the future will be bright. People who can help to make organisations better places to work, more meaningful and more focused on using the potential of people, will be very welcome.

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