My challenge is to integrate three worlds, in the most beautiful workplace of Eindhoven
“33 years ago, I set up this company together with a colleague. 10 years down the road I took over the company management. Subsequently I reset the company philosophy after the 2004 crisis. To that purpose I asked one key question: How can I create a world for talented technicians that is just right?”
John Settels, director of Settels Savenije in Eindhoven, is committed to providing an inspiring, professional working environment for his staff: “I wanted to create a company charged with talented technicians, collaborating together on exciting jobs for customers. What is it that most inspires technicians? Get the answer to that question correct and you attract the right people.”
“I believe, in our field, we are at level with best high-tech R&D teams in the world. We have our customers worldwide and our success fully relies on the quality of our employees. We carry out challenging high-risk projects and control them in a way that makes our customers happy. That has everything to do with the people and the philosophy of our company.”
What do you mean by a world of technicians that is just right?
“By that, I mean that our company culture needs to match that of people with a technical profile. 50% of our employees work Research & Development; the other 50% in manufacturing at Precision Parts, and in system test and assembly at Advanced Systems. We combine three worlds in one company and are integrating them. Our R&D staff, our supply chain engineers and our craftsmen on the shop floor should work together both effectively and happily.”
“All our employees are encouraged to develop non-technical skills. When they grow in their ‘softer’ domain, their impact as a professional grows. For example, it is paramount they learn how to give a colleague pertinent feedback in a way their colleague truly appreciates receiving it. And these matters have a large impact on how we function as an organisation.
So, you actively stimulate employees’ self-development?
“Personal development is high up on our agenda. Each and every employee has their own personal development program to work on. We encourage training, and peer support and sharing of knowledges. For this, we have developed a mentoring program in which the more senior colleagues mentor the juniors, especially with regard to personal development. In this way, they support each other in their profession, and also with difficult projects or in conflict situations.”
“I believe that we approach the topic of personal development in a very professional way. We consider this to be normal and facilitate it with various tools. For example, our new HR manager is very pleased with the assessment tool we developed years ago. My goal at that time was not to directly assess people, but to provide a tool for conducting valuable assessment dialogues between our team leaders and their staff. The last question of the assessment is, for example, ‘How do you rate the quality of this assessment dialogue with your boss?’ This in itself initiates a dialogue about the quality of their talk, and it will be better next time. "
“We like it when women want to work here. Unfortunately there are few women in the technical world. About 15% of our 130 employees are women, some in a purely technical position, others in a supportive role. We do not consciously focus on gender, we scout talent. Talented women are equally as welcome as talented men.”
Does Settels Savenije benefit from investments in its employees?
“To give an example, we responded to the corona virus relatively early on, motivating staff to work from home, even before our prime minister made his call. Furthermore, with a view to informing employees fortnightly about developments in the company, we have compiled regular newsletters and vlogs. I notice our staff appreciates this and that it connects them. Important things happen in our company, such as the opening of our new building, we need to share these things.”
“I aim to make our office the most beautiful workplace in Eindhoven. We are located in the old industrial TAQ building. We are now adding a new building in the old Philips style, filled with natural light and visibility, to create an inspiring working environment. Our colleagues from Precision Parts, who worked in Son for 30 years until recently, have now moved under the same roof. In terms of working environment, these employees landed in a completely different world, a super modern factory at a fantastic location.”
“I recently carried out a staff evaluation of employees who joined us in the last 6 months. They said that they feel welcome and that compared to other high tech companies we are different in how we recognize and acknowledge talent. A young gifted technician told me that, after working elsewhere for ten years, he has now settled in an environment where he finally feels free to talk to colleagues about any subject, including his personal challenges. And no, we don't do everything perfectly, but we do carry it out in an open and transparent way.”
How important is the TAQ location at Strijp T?
“Strijp T is a special location in itself, it has enormous appeal. The environment is unique and inspiring, and people who visit our TAQ building are overwhelmed. Take for example the famous landscape architect Adriaan Geuze, key player in the development of Strijp-S and Strijp-T on behalf of the city of Eindhoven. During his visit to the TAQ building he said ‘John, you should want to pay an entrance fee to be allowed to go inside TAQ and take a look around this magnificent building!’ I really loved that compliment.”
“Our company started of more than 30 years ago as an R&D company. The last 10 years have changed it into a company that not only develops, but also carries out in-house projects, manufactures components and assembles and test systems and modules. Our colleagues from R&D closely work together with their colleagues from Precision Parts and Advanced Systems. In 2016, the announcement of the merger of R&D, assembly & test and manufacturing at Strijp T in itself, resulted in new orders. Apparently, it gave customers new confidence in our company, a fact further strengthened by the recent move of Precision Parts to Strijp T.”
“We are fastly growing towards being a fully integrated company of approximately 200 employees. We are quite unique in our company profile: researchers, project managers, supply chain engineers, cleanroom technicians, as well as the craftsmen on the work floor of Precision Parts. You shouldn’t try to mix those unique blood types in a blender, rather ensure that they work pleasantly side by side. When the craftsman behind the Precison Parts machine sees his R&D colleague wandering off for a walk in the beautiful Philips park, right beside TAQ, to spark ideas, he should understand why. It is important that we appreciate and understand each other’s values. My challenge is to integrate those worlds.”