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Episode 6: Fatima Yassir on people-oriented entrepreneurship and young people's first steps in professional life

""So the job is a piece of your career. And so the question is of, how can you as an employer make the most of that little piece?""

"We adults ... our CV now looks strategic. Were I to say here today of 'I did this and this', it seems like those were all thoughtful and strategic decisions. But for us, that was just tinkering and puzzling too. Of course, you're going to see a line in it afterwards or make lines appear. But at the end of the day, we're all stuck with the same thing. [That grows organically, that's for sure.] So that one person even put that on LinkedIn afterwards as well of 'it seems like everyone knows it very well, figures out her career very well...'. But they don't. [And those who think that at the beginning of their career who don't manage to build their career like that anyway]."

[general intro]

>>> You are listening to Let's Talk, a podcast where the talking points consist out of impactful initiatives, strong support offerings, and participation as a catalyst for innovation. Your host is Bart Wuyts, CEO of the group Blenders and WEB, the incubator of inclusive workplaces and innovative strategies concerning entrepreneurship, sustainability and job placement, among others.

[intro speaker]

>>> Welcome to this episode in which we have none other than Fatima Yassir as our guest! Fatima is a researcher at the Stichting Innovatie & Arbeid, the research unit of SERV (the Social and Economic Council of Flanders). She conducts research by and for the Flemish social partners on topics such as entrepreneurship and work organisation. In addition, she also works within UPOP, where she contributes to human-centred entrepreneurship. Listen in and find out if and why it is mainly employers who benefit from guidance, which intergenerational differences require attention, and why the term inclusion may no longer be relevant.

Fatima you work at SERV and you conduct research on how the labour market works and what is going well and not so well. Can you tell us what your job entails?

SERV is the Flemish social consultation: employers and trade unions - and they submit advice and memoranda to the Flemish government. Those are discussed and consulted. But there is also a research unit that is commissioned by or at the request of or in consultation with the social partners to deepen and investigate certain topics. That is that 'research' section. We have a number of clusters: entrepreneurship, work organisation and so on, and I'm in the entrepreneurship and innovation cluster. And so we do both quantitative and qualitative research on very broad themes, but always concerning economics in the labour market and work organisation. For example, we have the workability monitor which is about workable work - that is quite well-known, that has been around for almost 20 years now. And apart from that we do a lot, which can be very broad: from childcare to research on entrepreneurship, on young people in the workplace,.... Yes that is actually our main assignment that we carry out research, but always in consultation with the social partners.

So they are also the ones that commission those studies?

They can commission them and we can also make proposals on our own initiative, but it's always in coordination with. Which of course doesn't always make it easy either: you're sitting there with two benches. But usually consensus is found and certainly in terms of research. Those are the facts: it is the employers who speak and the employees who speak.

How big is that research group within SERV?

There are 12 of us or so.

And what is the research you are working on right now?

Now I am working on inclusive entrepreneurship. The sector funds have to submit an action plan on discrimination and inclusion as part of their covenant with the Flemish government. And in order not to start thinking from an ivory tower about what employers need, and also not to start thinking from the past, we decided to do a survey: qualitative research. We are going to listen to employers and hear what is going on today. There has been corona, there is this shortage that is very much present today, are there still the same issues, or not? What are your needs? And I'm doing the analysis now. But those are very interesting issues. For me at least. Partly maybe also disappointing.

Can you already give a hint of what interesting insights we will be learning from the research?

It hasn't been published yet... [on the day of recording] But it won't shock either, especially for people who are working on this topic. Rather, it is a bit disappointing in the sense of: we are still dealing with the same issues. But some things have sharpened. Namely, that labour market shortage: that has made that we actually have to skip that phase of sensitization, of convincing,... that we actually have to skip that a bit. It's a piece of 'I can't help but invest in this...' And there are some employers who are really only now being confronted with non-Dutch speakers and undocumented migrants and who act on the credo that 'as long as there is motivation, they can join. But then you notice that there is actually too little underpinning: how do I do that, how do I deal with this? ? How do I deal with the fact that in a job interview someone can't sell themselves very well? Who doesn't have a CV? Because then it's very often on gut feeling.... There I also notice that structures are missing, that strategies are lacking. There is a will: 'We are looking for people!’ But how do you ensure that this also works on the shop floor? How do you ensure that the shop floor is ready for it? And these are things we have been saying for years: make sure your company is ready for that.

As a sidnote: that is exactly the service we also provide with I-Diverso. For those entrepreneurs: offering them that service they actually need.

Yes, and then my appeal will also be: provide again that personal guidance that used to be there - diversity consultants that disappeared or were abolished at some point. But we are now in such a context that there is no other way. And you do have a typology of employers! We have never done that as policymakers. We make an offer for 'the employer', but you notice very quickly that those who are really new to this topic and really do get almost overwhelmed - and because of that shortage, they suddenly have to start thinking of 'wait a minute, what am I doing and how can I do this differently.?' 'I've always done it in a certain way...' And people are not ready for that. And there are also some people who say 'If I didn't have the feeling that I am compelled to work in an inclusive way, I wouldn't have done it.' I really do find it very tough and very difficult.'

I am also going to include the term inclusion fatigue in my report, because we notice that especially those sandwich managers and the N+1, the direct managers, they have a very, very hard time. Because management and HR push 'you have to fully go for inclusion because we can't find anyone else'; 'we've finally found someone and you just have to manage to make this succesfull - , but that direct manager, of course, has a lot of workload and then at the same time has to supervise someone who is not quite ready. And they also see the turnover because it all doesn't work out and so they just get tired of these situations: again supervising someone, again training someone,... I don't have the tools for that, I don't have the time for that and I'm busy with my people.

Indeed, we also do that guidance of those front-line leaders. We know, we just feel in practice that that is badly needed.

Yes, and that has been a bit underexposed, hasn't it?

Yes definitely yes.

For a very long time - even apart from inclusion. This is also reflected in my research on young people in the workplace: those N+1s, that direct supervisor is SO crucial.... But still yes: not enough soft skills, not enough training,... and they are a bit sandwiched between different demands. And because of this shortage and the fact that employers say 'yes, let them come in', you also notice that the activation component no longer takes place at VDAB or OCMW. It shifts a bit to the shop floor and we haven't sufficiently equipped the employers for that. They are suddenly confronted with someone who still has to find housing, someone who still has to get his driving licence, his papers are not in order, language course,.... So you sit there with a huge number of tough issues, sometimes poverty, debt, etc.. Which an employer is not trained for at all.

And they also ask themselves the question 'How far should I go?' Some go along to the town hall, along to the mutual insurance company, help fill in pension forms, look for a house, act as guarantor for a rent guarantee, etc. But they also wonder 'how far should and can I go?' They don't want to lose those people, there is also very little support, there is little aftercare. Once someone is in, then it's done. And so those preconditions end up with the employer, on the shop floor. But as policymakers, we still have to think about that. We are still very much in the intake story and we do talk about retention, but very concretely: intake actually continues. Those first few months.

Absolutely. The whole onboarding process is very important.

To confirm what you say… And I'm just referring to our own activities. We very clearly recognise what you just said, because at one end of the spectrum we have for years been assisting jobseekers who are guided via VDAB or OCMWs and in which we provide all kinds of support - often also in fine-tuning or arranging all kinds of preconditions to be able to start thinking about job targets in the first place. And so what we saw last year is that we have a big shift here internally as well and that we are getting far fewer people guided by the VDAB and PCSWs than in previous years, and that at the other end of the spectrum we are guiding far more people via the employer, via our I-Diversp component. That's really been a switch where you see that we're guiding more people in total, but with a clear shift towards - and that includes that kind of issue where we really support employers because we have a lot of experience in it and we can take a lot of work off their hands. But anyway, that aside. It's funny that you see it as an important conclusion right away as well.

Yes that shift activation to the workplace and so that means we do need to rethink our tools and the role of everyone in it. Employers are asking to be in some kind of coalitions or collaboration or network with. Private & public together, government agencies and employers, because they are also like 'if I need to go somewhere for housing or for debt or something, I want to know where to go'. Now, as an employer, you have to take steps yourself, find out yourself,.... So the whole local thing becomes very important there again. Knowing local partners, knowing local expertise,... What also emerges is that we have so much but it's just cluttered. It's fragmented. Who does what and where? You notice that in rural regions there is less supply or that certain services cannot get work there. So as an employer, you actually have to do a lot yourself. Going to find out a lot yourself and there's just no time for that.

Yes and the expertise often not there either.

Yes, what they are looking for is really also often expertise, insights. But then also,. Many declare that they are going to talk about inclusion but it remains so woolly, it remains about the strategic.... But they really need someone who can give insights. Young people: what are they worrying about? What do I need to consider? Women. How about them? Non-native speakers. Real substantive expertise, which is sometimes lacking in the current offer. It is a hot item: inclusion. And everyone is quick to declare themselves inclusion coaches. So they are looking for insights, but also for an overview: what is out there? But in my opinion, there is still too much being asked of the employer: here is the offer and do it, and look for it.

That personal guidance, huh, that's really going to be my biggest plea. I don't know if that will get through because of course the social partners also have to support that, but also the experts among themselves.

And that personal guidance, what do you mean by that?

Really someone - like with you - who really does go into the workplace to listen more.

Guidance for the vulnerable employee in the workplace?

The employer. And, of course, the vulnerable employee as well.

Ah personal guidance for the employer?

Yes and being a sparring partner.

So that you're there for the 'how should I approach this?' and 'my blind spots: what are they?' I've spoken to employers who just literally tell me 'look, I've already given opportunities to 30 people from migrant backgrounds for me it's done - they're playing with me and for me it's done' so that's where you need someone who is a sounding board, a mirror to say ‘wait, how do you approach it, how far do you go...? That self-critical entrepreneurship becomes a very important thing: daring to question your procedures and your processes and your strategies. You also have to be able to do that as an employer. You have to allow that too. But then you also need someone who can really challenge you. What also comes back very often is fighting symptoms. You know the drill: we have two nationalities who don't like each other politically, so we are going to separate them. Or there is an issue on the shop floor between the established employees, shall we say, and someone new coming in. 'Yes that will have to do with the language; that they don't understand each other...' But they are not going to dig through to really the root causes. And that's where certain employers do ask for someone who can really dig through to what is really the cause? Is it an issue of trust between employees? Communication? Is it in my process and the way I do something? That's not so obvious huh, it's not obvious anyway to explore your blind spots yourself....

You can't in fact do that.

Yes, so in that area I do advocate for personal guidance, but then more towards the employer. Yes, 'the employer' is of course a broad term, but there is a need for someone who can spar with you on the shop floor.

I really like that you are making such a case for our operation here, for our service. It just totally picks up on it.

We have been zooming in on the barriers that people experience towards full participation in the labour market for a few years now. And then one of the target groups we have also focused on is longer-educated women with migration backgrounds, for example - but it goes much wider than that, of course. When I hear you talk, you say: the labour market is such a draw at the moment that many of those barriers are automatically almost removed. But there is still a big pitfall, which is that turnover is high because actually the process is not adapted to what is needed. And that, so to speak, is a new threshold being created.

Yes. It is the moment to work on inclusion as a policymaker, as an expert, as a coach. Because - in theory, this would be the time when everybody gets opportunities.... But you notice in practice that as long as indeed your shop floor and those HR processes don't change with you that, that is indeed a revolving door.

It sounds now in our conversation as if we are very often talking about predominantly executive jobs. Do you see the same trends and the same developments also in more knowledge-intensive jobs or jobs for longer-skilled people? Or is the situation different there?

That's a different situation. Those technical barriers are actually already non-existent. It's more a case of not knowing, not daring that falls away to some extent. Whereas with the others, there are really technical issues in terms of language and support. So you do notice a difference in that at these higher levels it goes a bit easier. And for me - I remember that in the past I always argued for - because we very quickly went to the weakest link, and I understand that, we went to refugees and non-native speakers where there really is something visibly 'wrong' technically, by the way... But I have always advocated going to those 'upper layers' - diversity is like a lasagna and there are so many layers. And in that upper layer are the people like Artemis and I shall I say, where there is nothing 'wrong' (so to speak): we speak Dutch, we have our degree, we look a bit different. If we can start with that layer and get it in the right way. That already paints a picture, for example, to that target group of the 'inactive woman'.

Sure, but what are the thresholds there? For people, as you describe them, to get into those kinds of positions?

A lot of prejudices, really huge prejudices. And then my advice - I've been a consultant, and I'm still freelancing today too - is to go out there. Meet people. You'd be surprised how many... [Advice to whom?] I usually think of employers. I'm mostly working with employers. And you'd be surprised how homogeneous the networks usually are. As a freelancer, I often do such an exercise: think about your network, your immediate environment. And that is also very interesting to do because the 10 people you trust in your environment are usually people who look like you. So employers just come into very little contact with people who are different, who think differently. And then when you're at a job interview yes your brain takes over and it goes for the safe option in the sense of 'that's unknown' and 'I've heard things' and 'I always hear those women's migration background that that's an issue after all'.... When you hear that in policy texts, in policy jargon, that also breeds something in people's minds.

Yep. So we should actually stop talking about it?

I've always said. 'Women from migrant backgrounds that's an issue.' Even if that is expressed in good terms; like 'we are going to do something for housewives...' But that still creates in our heads an image of 'there is something wrong with them and please, give them opportunities.'

Especially if you don't have any friends or girlfriends in your close circle who fit that profile, who balance your image a bit.

And that when you ask someone to 'think of a woman from a migration background' you think of someone who is standing at the school gate not working and watching satellite TV in the sofa. While there is so much variation! And we don't show that variation. Because in our policy context in our policy sectors, we are busy with okay, which target groups are we helping here, what measures should we take? And we're going to translate that literally, when actually there's still a filter to be done. Behind the scenes, you can really start zooming in on who are the target groups that experience the most barriers, which barriers do we need to address? But then when you work out an action, you should actually bring it very generally.

One could ponder about whether the word inclusion is also too common, because as long as we talk about inclusion, we will remain exclusive.

Amen. I have said that SO many times. And it is contradictory with the fact that I am researching inclusive entrepreneurship. That's a battle within myself: I believe very hard in the inclusion story, but we have already completely eroded it. The term itself, if you throw that within certain work discussions, you already have a team saying 'oy, I'm not into this', 'that's not for me'. And the employers in my interviews have also said themselves, 'we should find a new term'because a lot of employers say 'this has nothing to do with me', 'I'm already inclusive' or 'this is far from my mind'.... Yes and then people often think of people with migration background and inclusion = women with migration background, refugees and so on. We have already completely eroded that term, I agree.

What's a better word? Have you coined it yet?

No, I haven't thought it up. But actually it's about... Yes, we did come up with it.

So where I freelance, at UPOP, we've actually been thinking about it and our term is actually 'human business', so human-centred business and human-centred work. That's basically what it's all about. You notice now that we also bombard employers with workable work on the one hand, inclusion on the other, lifelong learning,.... As an employer, you almost have to make a choice: what am I going to focus on?

While it's all interconnected.

People-centred business: put your people first. Which is also an important conclusion from my research. Now employer branding is becoming SO important. Whereas before, smaller employers were like 'that's more something for marketing'. And in the past you could really start marketing a product and say, yes, 'we have connected with Coca Cola' or something else, but now you have to start marketing yourself. And a lot of employers are asking 'how do I do that?' 'how do I know what sets me apart from others?', 'what is my USP?' and 'I need someone to explain that to me: what do I put in my marketing story' and 'how do I do that in a very authentic way?' - because, of course, you don't want to engage in window dressing or the like either. This is very much in demand and I think this is a new approach for SMEs, for the non-profit sector. And smart employers address this very well in exit interviews, for example.

We were talking about people-centred business and now you are talking about employer branding - where did you make the bridge?

The bridge lies in the fact that - if you want to attract people, often you do it though your human resources, with your employer branding, with your people-focused employer branding. And so the question is "what works within my context?", and that is different with everyone. And "how do I market then, too?" Whereas a vacancy used to serve to select ("who does succed... who doesn't..."), it is now the other way around!

The candidate selects.

Yes. And employers realise this, but are not always sure how to act upon it - especially the smaller employers who do not have a separate communications or marketing department.


We have long dwelled on the research you are doing now, which is already well advanced - from which very interesting insights are emerging. Are there any other recent studies where you have brought out interesting findings around the same topic?

Yes. Last year, we published a study on young workers, i.e. young people who are really in their a first, second, third job. The angle was employeeship - that was actually the social partners' question: what does that entail? Because you have entrepreneurship, a lot is invested in that and there are a lot of programmes concerning it. Among others, you with BLENDERS and WEB are also working on that. But being an employee: what is that? What does it mean? How do you fill it in? And it was not easy to find a concept for that. But we started looking at the moments in a career when that comes up very strongly. The moment you enter and the end of your career, that's when being an employee really comes to the fore as a concept. And when you enter: yes, you can look at different groups, you can look at young people, you can look at people returning to work or at newcomers who suddenly find themselves in a new job market. We chose young people. And we started talking to young people, so really getting inside their heads, doing in-depth interviews.... And the title of the research is 'I want a guide'and that is effectively what comes out of that research. They are really very searching.

Young people, regardless of education level?

Regardless of education level. Everyone is really serious about finding a job, and we've all experienced that, haven't we? But I think the general idea exists today about millennials and generation Z that 'they know very well what they want', ' they are articulate, so they will find their way'. But education does not adequately address this: soft skills, career competences, those things are not really discussed at school. In the workplace itself, there is still something like the psychological contract: the relationship between the immediate supervisor and the young people (in this case), where things are still not explicitly named. A lot of expectations are created, along both sides. The young people don't really dare say anything or ask anything for fear of coming across as stupid. The employer thinks 'yes, but have seen it all: making a PowerPoint, sending an e-mail to a customer,... you know how to do that and you're always on your mobile phone,...'. So a lot of expectations that are not expressed and that really does make for a kind of mismatch. This applies to all employees, but with young people it is even more important because they are very much searching, because they really have no frame of reference. Because at the moment they just do copy paste, for example, and look at colleagues ('how is that mail actually written').

I do recognise it in my own children who are indeed also searching in that job market.

Yes. But it doesn't seem that way, does it?

No indeed. It is nice that you note that, because I think it is generally overlooked today among employers or tout court in society. Indeed, we assume that those youngsters are very self-reliant.

And, honestly, I went into this research with that idea: these young people are going to know very well what they want. And that was very surprising to me, very heartening, because they are really quite in the process of searching. So that did touch my mother's heart somewhat. They've grown up in a certain zeitgeist, they've been given a certain upbringing, but the work floors haven't adapted. And that's funny because the managers that's you and me - we are the parents. At home. We sit down with them and discuss everything. There are no taboos and there's equality, but in the workplace you slip into your role an employer or HR manager and then it's like 'no, that should be so and so...' and so that just clashes. And they are then like ‘I just want to give my opinion and I just want to engage in discussion’. The person on the other side of the table is then like 'but he's only just started and already so critical,...'. - wages, for example. One of the important comments here is that wage is not one of the priority criteria. What are: growth, development, feedback, mentoring. But at the job interview table, they just start throwing that on the table, that's not a taboo anymore.

And that is then perceived as...

What will they throw on the table?

Wage. Thinking 'I'm going to talk about it, what do I get...'. And sometimes that is seen as arrogant: just started and you already start talking about pay, you haven't even proven yourself yet.... But actually the young person just wants to know what his prospects are. And then it's perfectly possible that you say, for example: 'Now you're still a bit inexperienced, but in three years' time..'. And then that's ok too. So transparency, honesty. But those clichés also feed that, like: 'Ah yes, there they are already asking about money and they already want a car and so on'. ? And yes then that also blocks it somewhere, doesn't it?

But that's interesting, isn't it? Those are actually interesting findings. Because that also challenges us, because we urgently need to start adapting our workplaces and our way of working, our procedures to really not burn out that new generation, not lose it. A lot of potential will be lost if we are not careful.

Yes. And as a researcher, I've just been asked a lot by employers or by employers' organisations 'can you come and explain this in our network of companies because we need those insights. What resonates with these young people, how should we communicate with them?'

And then in that research, did you come across the right solutions? So what are the factors or critical success factors that need to be worked on and where do they exist, or have you come across them?

We interviewed 10 employers - not necessarily good practices, because ultimately it's about human resources management. There is nobody who is really doing anything specifically for young people, but we were able to extract interesting things here and there, for example: entrepreneurship and creativity is very, very important among young people. They grow up with YouTube and all these other apps that I don't know about already at the moment. But everything is possible, so if they want to learn Russian they just do it. For example, you know what - copywriting I'm going to try that. I'll do that. I launch myself. I start as a copywriter. It doesn't work out. And that's a real case of a young person who told me that's how he did it. And that the client said 'sorry, I don't pay for something like that because it looks too bad.'But so that one did try it. So for them it's just doing it, and as much as possible and trying.

And if they do that while they are students or jobseekers, they are still in that bubble of 'everything is possible and there are not so many risks'. As soon as they start working, they are like 'okay, now the serious work starts' and 'I want to gain expertise' but they crave the entrepreneurship, the creativity, the autonomy. They literally ask for that.

So environments that enable that,.

Yes and today we don't come across that enough. More than half of these young people - including those who said they are very good at their jobs and that they get plenty of opportunity to learn and grow - said 'yes, but in the long run I want to be self-employed'. If you then ask in what 'yes I don't know, but I just want to be self-employed' and why? 'I want to earn a lot'. That's a very idealised image and unrealistic image of entrepreneurship. And secondly especially 'I want to be able to do my own thing'. That came back very often.

A lot of flexibility.

Yes. Small practices where you allow that creativity by, for example, in an SME, Chocolate World, where someone who sits at the reception desk apparently worked out vlogs in her spare time and they were then allowed her to manage the company's social media. So it's sometimes a small practice and then it's just possible. That's innovative, that's not just about it having to deliver something.... Those young women are very motivated. And she may now bring this part of her interest int her assignments. The idea of entrepreneurship and innovation is still too often seen as 'that belongs within that department and that working group and those people' but actually the plea is a bit of try to create that in every function bit. And in any case, we need to move away from 'it's that function and nothing else.' I Think we need to go more towards some additional roles. So there are some examples in there. There's also a residential care home that handles it very nicely. You should definitely read that report!

Yes, I wanted to ask Fatima, so those are studies that you do from SERV that then eventually land in a report and those reports are freely available? Via the website or...?

Yes, via the website. We also organised an event about it in December, but because of the strike it was postponed to February. And that attracted quite a few people. So there is interest. I also found that surprising, coming from different angles: employers, but also intermediaries who ask themselves 'how do young people think, what are their struggles, what are their expectations?

Super fascinating! What is the next research you would really like to do?

The next one will be about career development in the workplace. We often think in terms of career guidance vouchers and the like outside the workplace. But I've also come across my various studies that there are very exciting cases where one can offer that inthe workplace. And more and more employers are thinking about that as well....

So, what do you mean? Career guidance in the workplace: how should I understand that?

Guidance really of career development. So that you really work with pathways and that you offer the perspective of '3 years of this and then...' That is very important for the new generation, but also for everyone, I think: what are my perspectives and no longer the classic 'after 10 years you become a manager' or the like. But that you really do offer pathways of '3 years you do this, then you get that training and then you grow to this' And that doesn't always have to be vertically. And also do start the discussion of, what do you want as a person, what are your personal goals? What do you want to grow towards and how can we meet you in that as an organisation? Does that match our goals anywhere? That's basically the idea. And start from the fact that you can no longer assume that someone will stay with you for a very long time. Then, as an employer, you just have to make the most of it by effectively saying 'OK, you might want to stay with me for 5 years, then I'll offer you this in this trajectory.' So the job is a piece of your career. And so the question is of, how can you as an employer make the most of that little piece? Knowing that people might not stay with you for a long time.

One last question that comes to mind. You work for SERV, which is a collaboration between employers and employees' organisations. I heard you say at the beginning of the interview: the subjects we work on and the reports we produce must be in good consultation with both parties. Does it sometimes happen that you have done a study, that you write a report and that you have to adjust your conclusions under pressure from one party or another? How difficult is that to deal with?

There is a reasonable amount of consensus. There is also a reasonable amount of common ground. The labour market must run. But of course there are nuance differences between what unions want, what employers think,.... But so far it has been rare that a consensus cannot be found - perhaps once in the long past.... Sometimes it's nuances but generally it's about how that labour should be organised, what are the bottlenecks that exist today? The next steps afterwards is of course something else: where should resources go? What measures are needed? But the research as such is often not really fodder for heavy discussion. But of course you have to - you are also trained in that as an investigator, that you include all persepctives: that you look at both the employer's side, but also the other side. But that's only enriching. I think otherwise it also just becomes too one-sided and unrealistic.

Thank you.

But I still look at my colleague Artemis. She always has a good last question.

I have one question Fatima. You referred to “inclusion fatigue”. I'm always in favour of sharing things that don't work. Because a lot of employers have already tried a lot of things and hence probably that inclusion fatigue - of 'yeah look, it just doesn't work'. But I wonder: is there already enough safe space for employers share with each other what is not working? Or don’t you see much benefit in sharing what is failing?

Ik geloof daar enorm in. En dat was ook echt wel de vraag van heel veel werkgevers: ik wil andere werkgevers horen en ik wil niet die roze wolkjes verhalen, ik wil echt realiteit van wat werkt, wat werkt niet. Dat was ook wel echt wel een vraag van de werkgevers: we willen praktijken delen onder onder elkaar. Sommige sectoren willen dat onder elkaar doen binnen de sector en bij andere is het zo concurrentieel dat dat niet gaat. Het is dus wel een vraag die heel sterk leeft. Ik denk – de grondoorzaak van waarom die inclusiemoeheid optreedt is omdat we in het algemeen geen definitie hebben van wat dat is: ‘inclusie’. Iedereen vult dat in op zijn manier.

Eigenlijk hoort jou ook een beetje een pleidooi voeren voor moedig mensgericht ondernemen?


Want zonder die moed kom je daar ook niet..

I'm a huge believer in that. And that was also really the question from a lot of employers: I want to hear other employers and I don't want those pink cloud stories, I really want reality of what works, what doesn't work. That was also really a demand from employers: we want to share practices among ourselves. Some sectors want to do that among themselves within the sector and in others it is so competitive that that is not possible. So it is a question that does resonate very strongly. I think - the root cause of why this inclusion fatigue occurs is because we generally don't have a definition of what that is: 'inclusion'. Everyone fills that in their own way.

Actually, you also hear a bit of a plea for courageous people-centred business?


Because without that courage, we won't get there either....

Yes, because it doesn't have to be a... How should I put it... We are still business. And every business is different and that is okay. Of course you are not allowed to discriminate, that's where the hard line is. But there is a lot of room to add your own touches. And I feel that - perhaps also because of the shortage, but also because of the fact that yes everyone wants to be inclusive – it is hot and it is fun, but how far do you go? Where do you stand as an employer? Maybe you have experience in that too: with that question 'what are my boundaries?' What is okay and not okay to say. I'll go that far and no more for example.

Courageous human-centred entrepreneurship, that will be the new term .

..And Blenders' new name.


>>> You have been listening to Let's Talk, the podcast where we feed the dialogue on inclusion in the labour market, highlight impactful initiatives and let lesser heard voices have their say. Were you captivated, did this conversation make you think, would you like to be one of our next guests yourself? Let us know, follow us on social media and be sure to subscribe to this podcast series!