Spiral of hands.850
Above: “Spiral of Hands” photo by lostintheredwoods, via Flickr. This image is licensed under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license/resized from original.
At the beginning of this year, I joined Akvo as the Talent/Human resource (HR) manager. So far, I’ve met great colleagues and come across impressive projects, like all the research and development done in water quality testing, and the online water atlas in Benin, for example. I believe working in such a context helps me to become a better professional. It actually makes sense for me to join Akvo as I have a background both in the international NGO sector, as well as the more corporate consultancy world. This is a perfect opportunity to combine both. I am looking forward to being part of the Akvo journey and supporting the talents we have in the organisation.

I was impressed by the on-boarding schedule and meetings everyone prepared. It helped me to pick up work easily. I also tried to talk with as many people as possible (still continue doing so) and the stories I heard from around the organisation were very meaningful to me. I learned more about people’s background and motivation to work for Akvo. The work everybody does is amazing, although through the different conversations I got feedback people were not always conscious about it anymore.

People also shared their needs for HR and talent support. I appreciated the open conversations. There were multiple topics, but what stood out for me was that Akvo has grown really fast in recent years. Great opportunities have come along with that growth and new colleagues have come on board. This has an impact on the ways in which we organise our work, our teams, our hubs and our services. You can’t be always up to date with what is out there and who is doing what in the midst of such rapid growth. Akvo, like many other organisations, is constantly looking for the best way to organise itself.

In this change process from a start-up organisation to a more “mature” organisation, I can see why there is a need for support on human resource topics. So far I’ve mapped out several fields on which I will work on the coming year:
  • Monitoring & Evaluation: Collecting more meaningful data about the development of Akvo’s staff by creating a new format for personal development talks and reviews. This new format supports Akvo as well as the individual development.
  • Administration: Make sure all supporting documents and services are in place and updated.
  • Talent development: Support the ongoing learning of Akvo staff and use all of the talent we have across the organisation in the best possible way.
  • Sustainability: Support a healthy work place. This includes addressing topics like safety and security, stress and time management, frequent travel, etc.
  • Mobility: Anticipate the aspirations of employees and help facilitate opportunities to grow either through changes in position or geography where appropriate.
  • Recruitment: Finding the best people to join our team.

First things first
In order to get things started, I will first focus on the administration aspects, working with Ingrid, our new office manager in Amsterdam. Secondly, monitoring & evaluation will be my main focus over the next six months. With these action I want to create a solid base for HR and talent management. 

I will also give some workshops during the year. One important outcome of the recent survey the comms team recently did, was the staff’s desire to improve their presentation skills. Therefore the first workshop, which is planned for April, will focus on speaking and presenting with impact, like a TED Talk. We will organise that workshop in Amsterdam, but at a time that is suitable for most of the people in the hubs. It will also be recorded for those who can’t make it.

I also will block the first Tuesday of each month for 1:1 coaching sessions for anyone who would like to work on personal development within Akvo. For example, if you would like to explore the best ways to implement your talents in your work. Send me an email and we’ll set a date. 

Following, one other important project will be a evaluation and revision of our safety & security plan. Lots of other parts of my job will be ongoing, like recruitment for example. 
Keep learning.850

I believe we learn every day. We were born to learn. Photo by Gerd Altmann, via Pixabay, made available under CC0 Public Domain.

I believe we learn every day. We were #borntolearn. Akvo is a great workplace in which to encourage learning. Sharing stories about learning and successes amongst our staff and partners nurtures us. Exploring your own talents and those of your colleagues makes work more fun and meaningful.

So for all of you reading this first blog, I leave you with a question and I would like you to include your comments at the end of this post:

What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on recently and what did you do to make it successful?

Maaike van der Velden is the Talent/HR manager for Akvo. She is based in Amsterdam. Follow her @MaaikeVelden