Human Resources

The success of the Horizon 2020 strategy is, to a high degree, determined by the commitment and performance of the employees of ForFarmers. This is why it is of great importance to attract and retain the right staff for the Organisation, and allow them to progress internally. ForFarmers therefore intensified various programmes in 2017 in order to stimulate the development of staff.

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ForFarmers’ social policy: focus on developing leadership and talent

The implementation of Horizon 2020 requires clear leadership from managers, and willingness to change from employees. This is why ForFarmers devotes particular attention to training for staff. 

Since 2015, all managers are taking part in management training, which places an emphasis on aspects such as being able to translate the Horizon 2020 strategy to the department, financial management and commercial excellence. Attention is also devoted to skills such as giving feedback or holding recruitment interviews to identify candidates’ qualities. Technical training and skills training is also developed and imparted.

The table below shows the management and technical training courses that took place in 2017. To keep knowledge and skills current, refresher sessions were first given to those who had previously taken part in the Senior Management and Potential programmes. To continuously improve its training programmes and to ensure their rollout is coordinated, a Training and Development manager was recruited in 2017.

ForFarmers has access to a broad pool of knowledge and skills thanks to its international activities. This knowledge is shared internally and employed for the benefit of customers. The ForFarmers academies have an important role to play in this. They offer modular training programmes, at a range of levels of experience for ruminant, swine and poultry specialists. The main aims of these training programmes are to improve technical knowledge, to share new developments at the Nutrition Innovation Centre (NIC) and strategic partners, and to fine-tune sales skills.

The sales organisation (advisors and specialists) plays an important role in the Horizon 2020 strategy. After all, advisors and specialists are in daily contact with customers and as a result, they are of great importance in translating the ‘For the Future of Farming’ mission to customers. In 2017, the sales organisation staff in all countries were assessed on the extent to which they deliver a contribution to improving the returns of their customers and to the implementation of the Horizon 2020 strategy. This was done based on knowledge and skills criteria. This provided a good overview of the areas in which there was room for development staff. These employees were then invited to take part in one or more Sales Academy modules.

In 2017, a Sales Trainee Program was started. This two-year programme exists to ensure that new talent within the sales organisation can get up to speed as quickly as possible. The programme is a very appealing aspect of ForFarmers’ HR policy, both for talent from outside the organisation and for internal talent. There are currently 14 young talents in the first round of the programme, who are being trained as advisor or specialist. In addition to dealing with the necessary theory, there is particular emphasis on practical training. The trainees are assigned customers from the very first day, whom they advise under the guidance of a senior advisor. The trainees also have to complete a project in one of the other countries in which ForFarmers operates. In this way, ForFarmers uses its international network to broaden knowledge of young employees.
Through this approach, ForFarmers gives substance to professional employment practices and talent development. The motto of this programme is ‘continuous development’. With the Management Programmes, the Academies, the many forms of career progression, traineeships, the opportunity to follow other (external)

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Programme Programme aim International programme NL GE BE UK
Masterclass Senior Management Development of personal leadership, implementing the strategy, deliver the mission ‘For the Future of Farming’ and coaching of colleagues 95% trained        
Potential program Translating the strategy to practice, deliver the mission ‘For the Future of Farming’ and preparation for a position in Senior Management 12 potentials trained        
Management Foundation Program Development of leadership skills, implementing the strategy, deliver the mission ‘For the Future of Farming’ and coaching of colleagues   30 participants 30 participants 15 participants 30 participants
Logistics Academy Develop know-how on rules and regulations, working safe and efficiently, reduce fuel usage and improving customer relations   216 225 40 20
Sales Academy Convey know-how and advice effectively to customers   225 50 130 150
Ruminants Academy Enhance professional know-how, share developments at NIC and strategic partners and sharpen commercial skills   86 50 24 70
Swine Academy Enhance professional know-how, share developments at NIC and strategic partners and sharpen commercial skills   113 85 20 48
Poultry Academy Enhance professional know-how, share developments at NIC and strategic partners and sharpen commercial skills   76 32 18 38

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training courses and career interviews forming a fixed part of the annual appraisals, ForFarmers stimulates promotion among employees. In 2017, a considerable number of employees were promoted internally.

To preserve knowledge and skills for the organisation, ForFarmers places great emphasis on internal succession for key positions. The Management Teams from the country organisations regularly discuss the talents that should be considered for key positions. Available talent is discussed by HR and the Executive Committee twice a year, both at a countrywide level and internationally. For these talents, individual development plans are established to ensure that they are ready on time for a career move. The international HR team discusses succession planning for key positions every quarter.

ForFarmers on the employment market

In 2017, ForFarmers strengthened its ties with universities, colleges and study and student associations. Seven events with universities and student associations took place in the Netherlands and three in the United Kingdom. Germany organised a successful student introduction day. In the Netherlands, on the internship selection day, interns could find out about ForFarmers in a very interactive way, and register for internships. The new ‘working@ForFarmers’ website ( was launched in 2017 in the four countries in which ForFarmers is active. The vacancies at ForFarmers are presented on this website, and some staff members share their practical experiences.

ForFarmers positions itself as an attractive employer by means of these types of activities. The positive effect hereof can be seen from the fact that 465 new employees (340 FTEs) were recruited in 2017. Since 2017, ForFarmers in the Netherlands has its own corporate recruiter, ensuing in 78 positions being filled by ForFarmers itself (2016: 20 positions) and only 18 through external agencies (2016: 48). This has delivered a considerable cost saving. In addition, ForFarmers presents itself actively on the employment market. Social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, was used for this. 
To ForFarmers it is important to recruit employees based on skills, so irrespective of gender, age, race or religious beliefs. This forms an intrinsic part of the organisation’s core values. ForFarmers traditionally operates in an environment in which the largest proportion of employees is male. In this respect, it is encouraging to see that more women are applying on vacancies. This is the result of, among others, the adjusted way in which ForFarmers now positions itself. Of the employees who started the Sales Trainee Program, 30% are women.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, some 95% of staff are covered by labour agreements. In Germany this percentage is around 12.5% and in the United Kingdom none of the employees are covered by a collective labour agreement.

Last year, 377 employees left ForFarmers for a range of reasons, including retirement, reorganisation, because of dysfunction or new external opportunities.

Future-proof HR platform implemented

One ForFarmers is an important pillar of the Horizon 2020 strategy. One ForFarmers is focused on exchanging and making the best use of internal knowledge, and further professionalising the organisation, achieving a uniform way of working and making optimal use of economies of scale. In this context, the HR system ‘Workday’ was implemented in 2017, which was chosen in 2016. This comprehensive project went according to plan. At the end of 2017, all managers were connected. The first reactions of the users were positive.  From January 2018, all staff is connected to the system. Accordingly, the foundation has been laid for optimising the management and execution of HR processes and the documentation of agreements. Managers and employees are not only supported in standardised HR processes but also in talent management, career planning and strategic personnel planning.

Changes in the organisation

In 2017, the Finance department set up a Shared Service Centre for the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. The previously decentralised activities relating to accounting processes (such as accounts receivable and accounts payable) now take place in one location, meaning that these can be done more effectively and efficiently. Moreover, these business-critical processes can now be controlled and conducted in a uniform manner, minimising risks. This change also offers more development and career progression opportunities for employees, because broader roles have come about which are more dynamic. The sharing of knowledge and expertise is also promoted.

In the United Kingdom, three offices were merged in the new central office at Horizon House. As a result of this merger, a number of jobs was lost. The new organisation in the United Kingdom however also offers opportunities for employees.

Staff meetings 

ForFarmers regularly organises meetings where groups of employees are informed on the progress of the Horizon 2020 strategy. This is an effective way of increasing commitment from employees and sharing the mission of ForFarmers. In July and December 2017, two-day management conferences were held for the senior


management team. The Management Conference XL took place in July 2017. This conference, which brings together 250 ForFarmers managers, is held once every three years and has an interactive nature. Over 95% of those who attended found the meeting to have been valuable. 

Furthermore, 32 decentral interactive staff meetings were organised in 2017 in the countries in which ForFarmers is active. 

Employee engagement – ‘pulse check’

ForFarmers conducted its first employee engagement survey in 2016. In 2017, there was a follow-up to this with a ‘pulse check’. This provides an insight into progress made on the points to be developed. All employees could take part in the pulse check online. These results show that 88% of employees feel ‘committed to very committed’ to ForFarmers (2016: 77%). Around 75% of staff would recommend ForFarmers as an employer to friends or family (2016: 70%). It also unveiled that positive steps have been taken in the area of giving and receiving feedback and career opportunities and agreement, but that there is still room for improvement in these areas. Some employees continue to perceive their workload as heavy. This is responded to by reducing the number of projects that are added on to normal work and communicating more clearly about priorities. Finally, it seems that there is still room for improvement in the area of clear communication regarding everyone’s individual contribution to the Horizon 2020 strategy. To give additional impetus to points for improvement, the decision was made to give all managers a number of centrally determined key goals to this for 2018. 
The results of the pulse check were discussed per country and where necessary, additional improvement plans were drawn up. A more extended survey will again be conducted in 2019.
The absentee rate due to illness remained stable at 4% in the Netherlands in 2017. Both in Germany as in the United Kingdom the absentee rate fell (respectively from 4.9% to 4.4%, and from 1.8% to 1.3%). Absenteeism increased from 2.4% in 2016 to 3.4% in 2017 in Belgium.

Code of Conduct and Whistle-blower Policy

ForFarmers has a Code of Conduct, which provides a set of rules for work ethics within the Company. The code describes values that guide employees on their way of working (and working together). These values allow employees to work independently and to call each other to account with respect to misconduct. In addition to the Code of Conduct there is also a whistle-blower policy. This policy was used ten times in 2017. The matters involved are handled in accordance with a set procedure.

Employee participation plan

Since 2015, ForFarmers operates an employee participation plan for permanent employees. In 2017, employees under this plan could purchase ForFarmers shares, which may not be traded for the following three years, up to a maximum value of €5,000 per person with a discount of 13.5%. Senior management of ForFarmers could participate in a different plan. In the Netherlands, the employees received a discount directly on the shares and in the other countries, the discount was applied in the form of free shares. In 2017, almost 14% of employees participated, compared to 15% in 2016. Participants invested an average of €3,454 in 2017. In total, 25% of employees now have shares in ForFarmers (2016: 22%). The objective of the participation plan is to stimulate employees’ bond with the business, enhance motivation and cement commitment. The aim is to offer this scheme on an annual basis. The Supervisory Board has to approve this and then the General Meeting of Shareholders is asked to consent to purchasing shares for the participation plan. 

Health and safety

ForFarmers wants to offer employees a safe work environment. That is why significant attention is paid to safety, monitoring and proactive identification of hazardous or potentially hazardous situations at ForFarmers’ premises and at—or on the way to—customer sites. ForFarmers’ approach with regard to health and safety is outlined in the section on Sustainability.

Employee representation

In the various countries, ForFarmers has good employee representation or formal works councils. These are involved in organisational development and also have a critical, constructive role to review situations from the perspective of the employee.

Since October 2015, ForFarmers has had a Europe-wide employee representative. In the ForFarmers European Employees Council (FFEEC), which consists of employee representatives from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, subjects that concern several countries are discussed. In 2017, there was a meeting with the Executive Committee in which a number of subjects were discussed.

These included for instance the results of the employee engagement survey, but also in how far the culture of the organisation impacts (the improvement of) the employees’ commitment. With this, the FFEEC was able to offer a substantial contribution to the Company’s improvement. Among the subjects covered were the ageing workforce, recruiting new young talent and promoting succession in key positions. 

Priorities for the coming years

The priorities in the area of HR for the coming years are, among other things, further rollout of the various Academies (Sales, Ruminant, Swine, Poultry, Logistics and Operations) and the implementation of the Management Foundation Programme in all countries. Talent management also continues to be high on the agenda. In particular, 2018 will entail working on filling a talent pipeline for key positions, project managers and managers who can guide the integration of future acquisitions. This also in light of the ageing workforce. In 2018, a Training & Development module will be rolled out in the HR system, so that managers can plan and monitor an employee’s development. With this module, ForFarmers can develop online training courses itself and employees can also choose from a number of standard ForFarmers training courses or workshops to further their own development. 

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