We are interviewing Hans de Man, since 2010 founder and CEO of Soltegro. As Soltegro grew over the past years, he had less and less insight in the satisfaction of his employees. He decided to follow his company’s motto: Simplify Complexity.

‘The best part of a continuous measurement is that you can zoom in on certain matters, you can immediately react if you observe something. Simply showing interest already has a huge impact.’

First of all, how did you think of that fantastic motto?

“That has two reasons. First of all, Soltegro is specialized in complex systems. For example, we deliver energy- and high voltage units, and work on tunnel systems and watersheds. So, essential but complex matters for society. It’s extremely important that we solve the problems surrounding these essential systems as innovative, reliable and simple as possible.”

“Furthermore, I believe that working together shouldn’t be too complicated. It’s important to just work in a straightforward way. That’s why I wanted to improve our employee satisfaction survey considerably.”

How was the measurement of employee satisfaction arranged then?

“Well, in the start-up phase of Soltegro, we tried to keep it as easily accessible as possible. So, we mostly held informal one-on-one-conversations. We were a lot smaller back then, so it was possible. In fact, we generally knew what was going on. But over time we grew, and we became too big for that method. Then we switched to the traditional way of measuring, so the annual employee satisfaction survey. And yes, all employees received a huge list of forty questions once a year.”

“Actually – I must admit – I didn’t like it then either. In the past, as an employee, I’ve filled out such a list. My experience is that most people dread an annual MTO. People often think on a Friday afternoon, “shit … I still have to fill in that list.” And when they reach question 40, the fun is long gone and most of them just fill something in. The result was that these studies gave a very distorted picture of the atmosphere in the workplace. Moreover, they’re also snapshots. That’s why we stopped using them at some point. In fact, it didn’t help us at all.”

And now you use our continuous method.

“Yes, fantastic. The team is satisfied too: each week an average of 75 to 90 percent of employees fill in the survey. It’s easily accessible, people no longer have to think about large measurements. Exactly like the start-up phase, when we had one-on-one conversations.”

“The best part is that with a continuous measurement you can zoom in on certain matters, if necessary; you can ask specific questions. You can also immediately react if you observe something. You don’t even necessarily have to solve it, simply showing interest already has a huge impact.”

“We also got an update recently. First, the weekly measurements were sent out at the same time, and it became a habit for our employees. The risk of a distorted image is way bigger that way. Lately, everyone gets the email for the weekly measurement at random times during the day. That too is well and adequately arranged.”

So, has the last year been successful in terms of job satisfaction?

“We have had a fantastic year compared to the baseline. For example, our eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) has risen from 16 to 35. I think that’s a huge compliment. It means that more and more of our employees are becoming ambassadors for Soltegro.”

“Moreover, the happiness level has risen in the past six months from 72 to 77 percent, despite the winter period!”

Can you elaborate further on how you achieve these good figures?

“In June 2018 we started with a base line to get an insight in the 15 drivers of engagement. This was followed by an in-depth survey based on the results of the baseline measurement. We then discussed all the results extensively within our MT and gave feedback to our employees. For example, we have come to a top 3 of action points to improve the work-life balance, because the in-depth survey showed that it could be improved.”

“A broader measurement followed after six months. As a result, we were able to focus on more learning and development opportunities within the MT, because there was a need for that. We already had a budget available for this, but it was not yet used because we weren’t aware of the specific wishes. We still hold a broader measurement every quarter to stay in the loop. We always want to know what’s going on in our work environment.”

How does Soltegro’s motto actually fit in with your vision of employee happiness and engagement?

“Well, that vision doesn’t go that deep, you know. People should do what they like. I remember well when I was asked about the business plan for Soltegro. We really have to go back to 2010. If there’s anything I don’t believe in, it’s a business plan. You put everything on paper that you will ultimately not realize. The only thing I want in a business plan is: every day with a smile to work. And I think we are achieving that.”