CorporateFebruary 16, 2015

Wolters Kluwer focused on technological talent

From traditional publisher to online knowledge provider. Few companies have completed quite such a transformation as Wolters Kluwer in the past ten years. Developing all these new, innovative services means that HR had to transform accordingly. Change management and talent development are now central themes.

Wolters Kluwer’s decision to participate in the comprehensive Top Employers survey for the first time this year did not materialize from thin air. The company underwent a metamorphosis. What once was a very traditional Dutch book publisher is now an international provider of digital information services for medical, legal, tax, accountancy, and financial specialists. Until no more than some ten years ago, 75 percent of the group’s sales were generated from printing activities. Today, print generates less than 20 percent of total sales. “This transformation to online, software and innovation requires different know-how,” says Frans Klaassen, Managing Director of Wolters Kluwer Netherlands. “This means having to compete with other employers, such as software manufacturers and internet firms. It is vital to us to have talent in this sector on our radar. We aim to be among the top employers in the Netherlands. So it is good to participate in the survey to check if our HR policy is suitable.”

Talent Live Tour

An essential component of the HR policy is finding and recruiting the right people. Change-minded employees, as they are referred to by Klaassen. "The online world develops at a much quicker pace than the old print world. This means we are working on cultural change. We organized that in the program 'On the Move' within Wolters Kluwer Netherlands. In this program, we provide focused training to embed the envisioned innovation culture within our company, organizing social activities and encouraging teamwork. Also, we have the "Talent Live Tour" worldwide at Wolters Kluwer. People from various departments and different countries are asked to participate in training, learning how to effectively apply change management. They work on real, actual business cases within project groups. With three of those, we are in advanced stages of development, and that happened within a short period of time. They are working on mobile applications."

Buddy system

Change also means working on development. Young Wolters Kluwer is a good example, a program allowing young talents to exchange information and knowledge. They are offered focused training relating to networking and presentation. Young employees also visit other companies. For high potentials, the company offers the Management Development Program, mainly working on communicative and supervisory competencies. "Then we have the buddy system," says Klaassen. "This links you to someone at your own level. We also have mentors. As a young employee, you are assigned a senior manager that you can always turn to for advice on work-related issues. We give people a lot of responsibility fairly quickly, but we always provide a safety net of experienced colleagues to fall back on. But we focus on more than just young talent, of course. The employees that have been with the company for a longer time also have the option of further development. For example, we have special professional development programs, such as our Go To Market program, tailored to marketing and sales positions."

Cross-border trainees

According to Klaassen, the Top Employers certificate highlights that the company has taken the right HR path. However, he still sees room for further improvement on the policy in the coming years. "It is a good thing to offer traineeships now. This results in an influx of talented people with a broad orientation. I hope to be able to quickly start such traineeships abroad too, and subsequently focus even more on exchanging employees. That is important, as this company has long stopped being a traditional publisher operating within the Dutch borders. We are an organization with international operations and innovative services that make the difference for professionals."

Traineeship in the light of innovation

A book publisher. When Arien Hendriksma first heard about a Management Traineeship within Wolters Kluwer in the spring of 2014, this is what sprang to mind. "My first thought was in any case not 'innovative information service provider.' But as I progressed in the application process, I became increasingly enthusiastic. The company is on the move at a very fast pace, and innovation plays a major role. With my Masters in Strategic Innovation Management, I feel completely at home here."

Rotating between departments

The traineeship takes two years and is divided into four six-month units. Rotating between departments allows Hendriksma to get familiar with the company. "In September last year, I started as a junior innovation manager in the Legal business unit. Our task is to support legal specialists with new products that are often developed in a co-creation process. This enables us to help solicitors find the right information quickly; and we also work on business development initiatives, enabling the solicitors to retain existing clients and binding new clients to their firm. This is a major challenge to many legal firms. Furthermore, we are looking into new options for market expansion."

Getting started in Belgium

A fixed part of the traineeship is spending time abroad. This is why Hendriksma will be getting started in the Belgium office. "In particular the Training Courses business unit is performing very well there. I am going to complete a benchmark to see if we can apply these best practices in other countries where our company is active. This is what I find really appealing within Wolters Kluwer. They allow you to work on new, innovative projects and you are quickly given a lot of responsibility -certainly compared with other alumni that I am still in touch with."

This article originally appeared in De Telegraaf in Dutch.