Stefan Duyf: ‘As a coach and a People Manager, you need to know where everyone is in the game’


Stefan Duyf (39) has taken on the role of People Manager at Aartsen since 1 February. He lives in Berkel-Enschot with his wife and 2.5-year-old twins, in an old farm that has finally reached the last phase of its much-needed renovation. The prospect of returning to normal life and continuing to throw himself into his new job gives him a good feeling. ‘After my hockey career, I’m happy to have the security of a job. And I already feel that I’m making an impact. That's a good feeling.’


Stefan started playing hockey when he was seven. But the decision to end his career 30 years later was something he really hadn’t seen that coming. ‘If you had asked me to make the switch a year ago, I would have said no. But things change, and when new possibilities come your way, it makes you think. The sports world has its ups and downs, and I’m glad to be free of that uncertainty. I also have duties and responsibilities towards my family: I’m 39 and still have my whole future ahead of me.”


Impact through connection

As People Manager, Stefan is responsible for involving employees at Aartsen. Stefan: ‘I’m what you could call a connector. I seek out connection with people, colleagues and team members. I think it’s important to know where people are in the game. That sounds a lot like building a team, doesn't it? It doesn't matter if you're a coach or a People Manager. You have to be able to level with and connect to the people around you. And Aartsen currently has 235 employees who each have their own story: personal, work-related, with many or few setbacks. I can really put my knowledge, discipline and experience of top-level hockey to good use here.’


He is also responsible for happiness in the workplace. Not necessarily an easy task, says Stefan. ‘Happiness in the workplace is pretty intangible. You find it in various things, such as appreciation. When I look at the people who work here, I see nice people – good people who are willing to invest in each other. But sometimes, you can see the small flaws, for example when communication breaks down due to work pressure. A compliment comes in handy at times like that. People thrive with a bit of appreciation, whether it's a salary increase or a sincere compliment. But it’s also important to know what other people want and feel. And you need to take time for each other to do that: both in terms of the content of the job and in a personal capacity.’


Structure and transparency

So there is a lot for Stefan to do. ‘Aartsen has an extremely strong foundation. It's a successful company, truly a well-oiled machine. People are given a warm welcome, and I’m in the process of rewriting several training courses in order to customise the onboarding. But it's such a big company, and people usually work on their own little island. In the office, they often don’t know what’s happening in the warehouse, and the people in the warehouse don’t always understand the decisions made in the office. An order picker doesn’t think about the turnover but still needs to understand where the turnover targets come from. It’s a very special project that aims to streamline the lines of communication and implement them as early as possible in the onboarding process. Incidentally, this idea has existed for some time within Aartsen's philosophy. It’s up to me to work out the details.’


There is also a geographical difference between the Aartsen locations. ‘HR doesn’t just look at absenteeism and time recording. We also need to know what's going on, and not just within our own branch. Visiting the other locations shows that we are making the effort to see how our colleagues are doing and find out what is going on in the workplace. Engaging in conversation in the workplace gives you much more relevant information. What’s more, so many great tools are available for systematically bringing more structure and transparency into the company, which in turn ensures that people continue to talk to each other. With a new HRM software package, I hope to be able to make a good impact here.’


The future of a traditional sector

With the future in mind, Stefan also looks ahead to the various standards and values he can see in the workplace. ‘Fruit and vegetables is a traditional sector that has been around for hundreds of years. But we also need to think about what the future will bring. Several new generations are now ready to enter the workplace. These people don’t have the same standards, values and lifestyles as the older generation.

You need to respond to this: how will they behave alongside the older generation, who are still happy to work 60 hours a week? It’s up to us to anticipate this as an organisation. The new generation is the future.

And the future for Stefan himself? ‘I hope for a healthy and happy work-life balance. And maybe I'll soon be running around after a ball with the children again.’