How do you build and supervise an inclusive team, as an employer?

‘Hoe ik talent voor het leven kreeg’,based on the book with the same name by Rodaan Al Galidi, premiered on February 14, 2020. Theater, music and dance came together in this performance, played by a large cast of actors and musicians, including dozens of newcomers. Artistic director Floris van Delft and business producer Anne Marleen de Jong talk about this special project, and what it meant to them as an employer to build and supervise an inclusive team.

Talent voor het leven_diversiteit

“A large part of the actors were introduced by NewBees,”

Floris begins. “In doing so, we were not the ones selecting. At the end of the selection days, the actors were the ones who decided if they wanted to participate.”

NewBees guided the actors through the traineeship. In addition, NewBees also supported the organisation WAT WE DOEN itself. “Both in terms of working with our trainees, as with the people who were employed by us” says Anne Marleen.

“We ran into quite a few things. For example, players who found the process so intense that they couldn’t get it out of their heads and would go over it again and again, 24 hours a day. NewBees helped us to deal with situations like that. But they also helped with recruiting newcomers into our own organisation.”

Start with the applications with an open mind

WAT WE DOEN had several vacancies. Anne Marleen: “We had thought about what the team should look like beforehand. We were looking for specific profiles, competencies and experiences.” NewBees nominated people from its own network and advised WAT WE DOEN to look at the applications with an open mind. Anne Marleen: “In the end, we re-evaluated all vacancies and hired people based on their values, their ambitions and their talents, rather than their knowledge of Microsoft Office.”

Floris looks back on the applications: “I remember that we asked, for example, whether people were familiar with Excel. Competencies that we thought were indispensable for a producer.” It soon became apparent that knowledge of computer programs was less important than we thought. Floris: “Human knowledge is what counts. This is how two great matches were created. Seeryz and Mo did not tick all the boxes of the vacancies they applied for, but we saw their talent and hired them as producer and photographer.”

Finding the right language

Sometimes WAT WE DOEN would be faced with different customs when it comes to communication. Anne Marleen: “We were working with a whole new group, with its own dynamics, its own issues. For example, when some people say ‘yes’, do they really mean ‘yes’ or is it unusual for them to say ‘no’ in a direct manner? The latter can be hard to deal with for direct Dutch people.”

Floris adds: “As an organization, we are used to placing very open assignments with the team, a co-creation mode. But that doesn’t always work; this time many people in the team preferred a tight framework and structure. NewBees helped us to understand this and to shape it. It was important to find the right language. By this I mean how do we actually understand each other, how do we connect with each other?” It soon became apparent to WAT WE DOEN that without providing a context, you do not reach anyone. Floris: “We decided to briefly explain the project and get down to practical work as soon as possible. The work was mainly physical. You don’t need words for that.”

Tips for employers

What would WAT WE DOEN want to pass along to other employers? “That it’s actually not that complicated to work with someone from a completely different background” says Floris. “We have all the tools we need to make it work, but our own mental frames sometimes get in the way.” He states that it pays to enter into a process with openness, awareness of others and attention for everyone. Floris: “This is how we have created a safe atmosphere. Stop and discuss with each other what you are doing. Is this the best way for everyone to work together and achieve the goal?”

Anne Marleen adds that this is the main reason why the whole project turned out so well. “Not only the final product, but also the process leading up to it was good. Everyone exuded that. It had an irresistible and palpable effect on the people around us.”

During and after the performance, the audience was noticeably impressed. After the play, NewBees, together with partner OpenEmbassy, organized workshops for employers, managers and organizations interested in inclusion and the benefits of a diverse team. The focus of these workshops is on facilitating and managing an inclusive workplace.

“Our own mental frames sometimes get in the way”

“Hoe ik talent voor het leven kreeg’ came to an abrupt end because of Corona. Anne Marleen and Floris hope to continue with the project after Corona. All those involved in the project, such as the actors and partners, believe that they should continue. Anne Marleen: “We have to set everything up all over again. From fundraising to sales. We are working hard on that now. Of course we don’t yet know how the situation with Corona will evolve; around March it should become clear whether or not we can continue next year.”

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