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Suite Talk: Piet Hilarides, FrieslandCampina



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Piet Hilarides, COO of consumer products for FrieslandCampina Asia explains to Aditi Sharma Kalra why growth is the bloodline of a developing enterprise, and how HR can help to achieve it.

You joined the company more than 20 years ago. How have you seen the business evolve?

During my time at FrieslandCampina, I have seen the company grow – not just in size but also in our commitment to always improving the well-being of our consumers. Today, FrieslandCampina has offices in 32 countries and is one of the top five global dairy companies.

Our products find their way to more than 100 countries – a fantastic transformation from when I first joined Campina in 1994 before the merger with Royal Friesland Foods in 2008.

Having recently taken over FrieslandCampina’s Asia business, what is your top priority for this year?

Our goal is to create the most successful, professional and attractive dairy company for our member dairy farmers, employees, customers and consumers and for society.

To do this, achieving growth in new and existing markets is key and that will be a top priority for me in Asia – growth is the bloodline of our developing enterprise.

What are your top tips for managing your staff, and keeping them motivated?

Our business strategy for growth is playing an important role in motivating our teams to collectively achieve sustainable growth and value creation in the work which we do every day.

With a clear strategy, consistency in deployment and a focus on resource allocation I think all employees benefit and regularly celebrate successes.

With a clear strategy, consistency in deployment and a focus on resource allocation I think all employees benefit and regularly celebrate successes.

Where was your first job? Did you learn something there that you cherish till today?

When I started out in my career I was a sales manager. The role taught me very quickly the importance of being results-orientated and working towards team-based targets to create alignment amongst colleagues.

I still relish the opportunity to excel in execution.

Have you had a mentor guiding you through your career?

I do not have one specific mentor but during my career I have been fortunate to build close relationships with several senior managers who I have enjoyed sparring on difficult topics with.

I have learned that it is important to show vulnerability and to proactively ask for advice. Overall, I try to trust my personal judgement whilst taking the advice of others into account.

What is the philosophy of the HR team at FrieslandCampina? What do they look to achieve?

Our global HR function is committed to creating an attractive, challenging and inspiring working environment at FrieslandCampina. That’s why the team plays a decisive role in the development of our people principles, policies and execution.

A key focus is to build engagement that in turn drives performance.

This means we have to think about our proposition to employees in every sense – from recruitment, development, reward, well-being and working conditions.

What is your view of HR as a function? Does it add value to the business?

A key ambition is to ensure that we continually nurture and develop the skill sets of all of our employees and our HR department plays a pivotal role in helping us achieve that.

Our HR team is very proactive in their approach to develop new strategies to engage, grow and retain talent which I think adds tremendous value to our business.

Second, I feel they play an important role in organisation development, for example, how we structure ourselves for growth, and change management.

A key ambition is to ensure we continually nurture the skill sets of all of our employees and our HR department plays a pivotal role in helping us achieve that.

How can HR make a more solid contribution to the bottom line?

In most businesses, our overhead is around 70% people or people-related costs – therefore deriving the best possible value from this overhead is important, which includes managing, growing and nurturing a talent pool.

Through building and maintaining a motivated, engaged, and efficient talent pool all businesses see positive contributions to the bottom line.

I already mentioned change management – the cost of not managing change well can be expensive for any company.

You have been based in the Netherlands previously, and managed across Africa and the Middle East. Culturally, what strikes you as most different in the way people are managed there?

Whilst it’s always important to provide feedback to employees around the world there are clear cultural differences. Europeans are amongst those who like frank and honest feedback and in other regions of the world people like discreet pointers.

What’s the best way for you to unwind after a long day?

As I just recently moved to Singapore, exploring new places is providing a great way to unwind. I am a keen sportsman and still enjoy watching my favourite soccer team, Ajax.

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