Henk van Ingen, manager of wage costs and productivity development at DEEN supermarkets, has been one of the leaders in the field of workforce management (WFM) for years. Through his substantive knowledge of the food retail environment, extensive experience in workforce management and status as a knowledge leader, Henk is rightly considered an expert in the market.
The market for workforce management is constantly changing. Technological developments follow each other in rapid succession. In addition, the food retail sector is, of course, also very dynamic. We therefore invited Henk for an expert interview. In an extensive interview, Henk shines his light on - among other things - the impact of recent and future trends, strategic challenges, the development of WFM within DEEN supermarkets and the role of the WFM specialist of the future.
DEEN supermarkets have been known for years for, among other things, customer and employee experience, unique traditional products, sustainable business practices and the excellent range of flowers and plants. It is a real family business and that is reflected in the eighty DEEN shops.
"By friendly staff and in a shop where you feel comfortable shopping and where you know your way around. But with the tasty products of DEEN you always come home feeling good. Because you never pay too much and with the tasty and unique DEEN products you always have success at home." With this approach, DEEN was a solid player in the Dutch food retail market for many years.
It was recently announced that DEEN supermarkets will be sold to Albert Heijn, Vomar and DekaMarkt. In a recent press release, DEEN emphasised that it was a conscious strategic choice with a view to the future: "We are really being sold as a solid and healthy party with a good name in the market. The choice was made particularly because the management and the family behind DEEN find the developments in e-commerce and the associated investments do not fit the organisation. It is therefore a logical choice. At this moment the shops are still active under the name DEEN, it is expected that the transition to the new formulas will take place around September this year."
The takeover of DEEN obviously also marks the end of the fine cooperation between DEEN and R&R and the wonderful results that were achieved during this period. We are proud of the joint developments and the journey we made together with all those involved. We will elaborate on this in this interview.
"How can we facilitate DEEN supermarkets in the area of WFM in the best possible way, in line with their vision, culture and core values? With this in mind, we started facilitating the organisation in a pragmatic manner. In doing so, we placed the most important changes with the employees themselves. In my opinion, that is also the way to go. That's how you make change sustainable and put people in their power. At the moment, 335 department managers are proactively making the best choices on a daily basis because you have provided them with the right insights and tools. This gives peace of mind and strength to the people and the entire organisation. You do not think for the department manager, but you inspire the employee to think for the organisation.
R&R's software is ideally suited for this purpose. The employees of DEEN really know R&R well by now. It offers the employees the daily insights to make the right choices themselves."
"At present, 335 department managers are proactively making the best choices on a daily basis because you have provided them with the right tools, insights and handles. This gives peace and strength to the people and strengthens the whole organisation."
In doing so, we have put the most important changes in the hands of the employees themselves. In my opinion, that is also the way to go. That's how you make change sustainable and put people in their power. At the moment, 335 department managers are proactively making the best choices on a daily basis because you have provided them with the right insights and tools. This gives peace of mind and strength to the people and the entire organisation. You don't think for the department manager, but you inspire the employee to think for the organisation. R&R's software is ideally suited for this. The employees of DEEN know R&R really well by now. It offers the employees the daily insights to make the right choices themselves."
"As a workforce manager, it is very important in any case to connect the various policy areas within the organisation. You are the 'linking pin' in this. After all, WFM has a major impact on many different parts of the organisation. Think of management, logistics, finance, HR and of course all the people who work with it every day. After all, without connection there can be no support and no synergy. In a synergetic model, everyone benefits from the change and you get mutual commitment to be successful together."
Henk therefore looks back on a beautiful, joint journey with both 'hard' and 'soft' measurable results. "We started with incremental steps and continued to optimise. With joint efforts, we have achieved some really nice results. And also in a way that is fully in line with the organisation and strategy of DEEN. Among others through more and better insight, grip and control in the field of labour costs and productivity. With the aim of organising the right staff at the right times. It sounds very logical and easy, but it certainly is not.
In this way, it also has a direct positive impact on employee satisfaction and customer experience. Therefore I am really proud of what we have achieved. I am therefore very grateful to Leendert van Eck (director) for giving me the opportunity to develop WFM within DEEN in the right way and to facilitate it in the organisation."
E-commerce and home delivery are important trends in food retail. Henk does see a clear difference between the urban and rural environment in which the parties are active. "Of course it is important to look at the rise of parties like Picnic and Gorillas. In the urban environment, the impact is different than in the rural part. Parties like Picnic and Gorillas are currently emerging in the cities. The question is whether this model also works nationally.
How online delivery can become feasible and profitable is what everyone in the market is looking at, but so far no one has succeeded. Because including investments, there is still no online provider that has proven to be profitable.
I myself therefore expect that such a player will have to make his profits in another area. In the long term, that is, of course, necessary in order to compete and survive. So it remains to be seen what the real impact will be, but that it will have an impact on the market is clear.
The question is, of course, how the 'traditional supermarkets' will respond to this. After all, they also have the (limited) options and distribution networks to add this type of service to their existing activities. It is not for nothing that only two Dutch supermarkets have a good and fully integrated omnichannel strategy."
E-commerce and home delivery are important trends in food retail. Henk does see a clear difference between the urban and rural environment in which the parties are active. "Of course, it is important to look at the opc
Henk indicated earlier that workforce management has a strategic position within DEEN. The challenges in the field of labour costs, planning and productivity are therefore becoming increasingly strategic in nature. "The focus is increasingly on strategic formulation objectives and policy. Also financially, of course, because it has to be a positive business case. But at the end of the day, the focus must always be on the customer. With a good WFM policy, you give them the insight to make better decisions based on the right information. In addition, for many supermarkets it is also a major challenge to recruit and retain the right employees.
Fortunately, within DEEN we have no problems with recruitment and retention of staff. That is special and really a compliment to the entire organisation."
When asked what the WFM package and the role of the WFM manager of the future will look like, Henk envisages a situation in which WFM and strategic HR will come ever closer together: "With the employees, you are in a model of mutual dependence. A good HR policy ensures that this is properly secured in the cooperation and organisation. Change management plays an essential role in this. The most important thing is that the change fits in with the culture of the organisation and that there is broad support for joint change. A good WFM specialist is constantly working on this.
"Change management plays an essential role in the field of WFM. The most important thing is that the change fits the culture and that there is broad support for joint change."
In addition, you see that trends such as: central planning, automatic scheduling and the possibility of making data-driven decisions, can have an impact on the WFM market. However, the question is whether you can (fully) automate this. Given the high volumes of employees, the turnover rate, the diversity of functions and the different roles you have within the supermarket.
The WFM package of the future is the one that is most agile and can help drive value in an ever-changing market. A good example is the very busy period in the first lockdown. We went from a very quiet moment to a rush that we normally only have at Christmas.
Not only did we get more customers, but those customers also bought more. Impact on all fronts. DEEN has responded well to this as an overall team. Logistics and shop ensured a very good shop operation. By using the R&R Job App, the extra services needed could be released to an enthusiastic group of employees. Our auxiliary staff were called upon to respond to a shift. These are just a few examples. Partly due to our pleasant company culture, you can see that everyone is willing to help and support each other in these kinds of situations.
This has led to peace at an unpredictably busy time. I think this is a good example of how to be agile and flexible. For us, R&R was the tool that made this possible.
Supermarkets are also seeing developments in the field of new business models and shop management: overheads are being automated and the knowledge and value on the shop floor is being added. Management is becoming increasingly decentralised.
Ultimately, you end up with Darwin's Law: the organisation that is the most agile has the greatest chance of positive results. The winners are always the shops with a plan. But a plan that leaves room for flexibility, agility and pragmatism."
Finally, with the sale of DEEN, the many years of pleasant cooperation between DEEN and R&R will unfortunately come to an end. But just like Henk, we are proud of what we have achieved together and we look back on a wonderful period in which we too have learned a great deal. We hope that the positive development will be continued within the new formulas.
On behalf of R&R, we would like to thank everyone at DEEN for the pleasant cooperation and wish them all the best for the future!