Meet the Winners: NN Group

Jun 30, 2022

Meet Vanessa Bakker, who has worked in HR for 25 years. She has been delighted to be working with and for young talent for the last 4 years within NN Group as a coach and talent manager for the trainees. She loves to contribute to the personal and professional growth of young high potentials and see them develop into inspiring thought or people leaders within the NN Group.

Hi Vanessa! The awards for Best Practice: Personal Branding and Learning and Development were won by the NN Group. How did this feel for the company? How did it feel for you personally?

It was great to win these best practice awards, and I am very proud of NN and the traineeship program, especially as these two topics are close to my heart. They perfectly align with the people strategy of NN.

The foundation of our traineeship is about personal branding and the unique qualities that the trainees bring to the table, helping them to discover, communicate and develop their talents in a personal brand. It is fantastic that Best Traineeship acknowledges this.

 When it comes to learning and development, it goes hand in hand with personal branding because this is the way to facilitate this. Learning and development is one of the most critical aspects of the traineeship and is perceived as one of the most valuable elements of the traineeship by our trainees. When this is confirmed in a best practice award, that is a great recognition.

Vanessa with the Best Practice: Learning and Development and the Best Practice: Personal Branding awards.

The jury commented on how much of an investment the NN Group makes in trainees and how the company builds on each trainee to find their authentic strengths as an individual. Tell us more about how important it is to encourage your trainees to identify and develop their own personal brands.

We believe the best way to develop young talent is to empower them to be their best. It is not about changing them and about molding them to become one type of leader; it is about them finding their own core strengths and then facilitating them to discover and develop these strengths to add the most value for themselves and for NN Group.

What advice would you impart to companies who want to follow your lead in investing in their trainees to help them build their own personal brands?

Value the differences in your trainees and build the program around helping your young talents to discover themselves, their unique qualities, pitfalls, interests, and drivers, and how they can make the best use of it.

One of the things that impressed the jury during the interview round was NN’s position on bringing out the individual qualities of the trainees and fostering their unique skills, rather than making them fit a specific mold or standard from the company. Can you tell us more about what makes this so important?

It’s not about fitting into a particular perfect profile that makes people thrive and excel. Getting to know yourself in an early stage of your career and being affirmed in your talents helps people be at their best. If they discover this and learn how to use these talents, it’s a win-win. If you know who you are, you also realize in what conditions you can be at your best, and then you can genuinely make a difference; that is what we are looking for.

What benefits did NN Group see in participating in the Best Traineeship Awards?

It’s valuable to get the benchmark report and see where you stand compared to other companies. So you know what to work on to make your program even better.

What is the added value of having the Best Traineeship recognition for NN Group?

It’s good for the branding of the traineeship, and it’s also an excellent way to involve trainees. It stimulates the feeling of pride and engagement of trainees within NN.

What key learning points from the awards you’ve taken away from the program?

One of the elements of potential improvement from the benchmark report was: ‘Within the company, there is a strongly embedded learning & development methodology that ensures a common language and understanding’. I think that is something we can improve by aligning our program better to the L&D strategy and also the NN Group strategy as a whole. This will help in developing a common language and will improve the clarity and consistency of the program. Furthermore, there are some elements of the mentor program that we can communicate and evaluate even better. We are already working on these improvement points.

What words of wisdom do you have for future applicants to the Best Traineeship?

Have fun participating and make use of the unique qualities of your trainees during the competition!

A big thank you to Vanessa and the NN Group for answering our questions and sharing their valuable insights on traineeships, in particular building personal brands for their trainees and investing in their learning and development on the job.

You can join the 2022 Best Traineeship awards and showcase your incredible traineeship programs against the best. Click here.