“What is the value for our employee, what is the value for the company?” As a Talent and Office Manager, Peggy Timmermans needs to strike the right balance between doing the right thing for the growth and prosperity of TrustBuilder and the growth and well-being of the TrustBuilder employees. As a true team player, Peggy succeeds in keeping everyone satisfied.
You are 2-in-1, as you are both Talent Manager and Office Manager. Where is your focus?
Peggy: These last few months, my focus has been on HR. I feel that is the job where I really feel at home. There is a good balance between office and talent management. The office management part is well organized and doesn’t take too much time. I love working with people and caring for people, that is in my nature. In my previous job at a startup, I was seen as a ‘mother figure’ to the young people that worked there. I had to make sure everyone felt at home. That involved both HR and Office management. I prefer the soft side of HR and look forward to expanding that at TrustBuilder. I firmly believe in what they call ‘purple’ management, which strikes the right balance between ‘blue’ (analytical) and ‘red’ (leader) profiles.
Retention is more important than recruitment
How important is good HR management for a company? Is it only about acting as the mother of all employees?
Peggy: That’s only part of it, of course. There is a war for talent going on, especially when you talk about functions like developers. They get bombarded with job offers. That makes it even more important to have talent management that ensures that people stay at the company. Retention is much more important than recruitment nowadays. If you have good employer branding, people will find their way to you faster. And talent management helps build your brand as an employer.
Retention and recruitment go hand in hand, and I guess you did well on both fronts in 2022. Ten new people came on board, and we only lost one person, who wanted to work as a freelancer. How important are the TrustBuilder values of Commit, Collaborate and Celebrate for recruitment and retention? And how important are these values to you?
Peggy: Living these values comes naturally, I think. I understand that ‘commit’ is not always that easy, with everyone’s busy schedules. But if you have made a promise about a deadline, you need to keep that promise. I find ‘collaborate’ easy: when you see someone struggle, it’s a natural reflex to see how you can help. That’s why I like that the HR working group is open to everyone and anyone can contribute ideas. Teamwork is very important to me. And ‘celebrate’ is my middle name. When we interview potential colleagues, we always keep an eye on these values, to gauge if people will fit in our culture. During interviews we don’t just ask the usual questions, we explain how we cherish diversity, what we do to promote collaboration… We know how well they will blend into the culture based on their reactions. I think having the right person-culture fit is key. Experience or proficiency with a specific tool are things they can learn. Fitting in a culture or not, is not something you can learn.
How to strike the right work-life balance
What does a typical day look like? Provided there is such a thing as a typical day for you…
Peggy: I don’t think I have experienced two identical days since I started at TrustBuilder. Usually, I start the day with admin work: office management, the ‘hard’ side of HR… In the afternoon I develop policies or spend time thinking about new projects. But, in my job, people ask me questions throughout the day.
What qualities does an Office and Talent Manager need? It’s clear that flexibility is very important.
Peggy: Flexibility and empathy are key qualities you need, as well as being immune to stress. These are basic skills. You can train these skills to improve but it’s not something you can learn if you don’t have them. Stuff like knowledge of the legal framework, and basic accounting… are things you can learn.
You are a very active person. Besides your job, you are taking courses to get a degree as a Bachelor of business and languages. And you have many hobbies like cooking, baking, outdoor sports… How do you get all of that combined?
Peggy: It all comes down to motivation and planning. I want to get that degree, so I am going all for it. And I make sure that I block some time for it. My hobbies are the things that relax me, so I can’t complain about my work-life balance. Baking cakes and decorating them is something that makes my head stop spinning, so that is really relaxing.
How does TrustBuilder protect our colleagues’ work-life balance? We all have deadlines and stuff to do.
Peggy: TrustBuilder is a very understanding employer. As soon as we notice signs of stress, or people indicate that it’s getting too much, we act swiftly and allow people to take time off, redistributing tasks to other team members. As a company, we offer flexibility in when and how people work. We focus more on the quality of their work than on the hours they spend in the office.
You joined TrustBuilder as an employee after having worked as a contractor for us. What made you decide to fully engage with TrustBuilder?
Peggy: Three things, mainly. The corporate culture and the people are important motivations. Secondly, Frank Hamerlinck is the best manager anyone could wish for. Thirdly, the challenge of focusing even more on talent management. As a part-time contractor, there wasn’t enough time to develop talent management.
You make it seem like this is your dream job. Is it?
Peggy: It is! I like the way scale-ups allow you to work. I love the focus on HR and talent management and taking it to the next level.
The war for talent
Do customers notice when you are doing a good job?
Peggy: they will never notice right away. But if I do a bad job and we hire the wrong people, there will be delays in the work, and the team will not function well – that is something the customers will see. If we succeed in hiring and retaining good people, and if we succeed in letting our people grow in their job, the customers will experience a positive impact. They will get good products and good customer service.
How easy or how difficult is it for TrustBuilder to attract the right talent?
Peggy: It’s not easy. As I said, there is this war for talent and every software company is fishing in the same pond. The time is long gone that you had five or ten candidates for each job. Now we have five to ten companies vying for the same person. We are focusing on hiring young people that we can integrate and let grow. But even these young people are already solicited, long before they graduate.
Would you recommend working at TrustBuilder to family and friends? And why should they join?
Peggy: I certainly would. TrustBuilder is one of the best places I have ever worked. Our unique culture is a good reason to come to TrustBuilder, plus the chances they get to develop themselves. They can also help build a product in an interesting market. As Identity and Access Management (IAM) is constantly evolving, the product is never finished and people who work at TrustBuilder get to learn new things every day. We allow people to be who they are. Just look at me, with my purple hair.
TrustBuilder is a very diverse company with many nationalities, cultures, and religions… Why this strategy?
Peggy: Diversity is not a check-box item at TrustBuilder, we truly believe it helps everyone become a better person. You can learn a lot from different cultures and nationalities when you have these diverse teams. Society is diverse, so a company must adapt. We are constantly improving, and I would also like us to celebrate the different cultural festivals, Diwali for instance. That would be so enriching for all of us.
If you could put up a billboard in the center of Antwerp, what message would you put on the billboard?
Peggy: “Just do it.” Over the past few years, I have learned to jump into things and just see what happens. I have overcome my hesitation to do new things. “Highland games? Let’s do it! Pole dancing? Let’s do it! Working for a startup? Let’s do it!” I have learned to say yes to unexpected things that are outside of my comfort zone. Great things never happen in comfort zones.