Creating a force of positive change

Look what happens when students work with external partners

On December 21st, we were part of a celebratory event that was organized for the students and their clients of the master People, Organisations and Change (POC). It was a moment to celebrate the great, four-month, collaboration of the +- 80 Master students and 16 real-world organisations. 

From September till December 2023 the students namely used their insights to consult organizations on a POC challenge they were facing such as: “How to increase our diversity and inclusion?”, “How to streamline our people processes with our new strategy”, “How to make the employee journey more positive” and “How to connect different generations on the work floor?” A great variety of organisations joined the programme, like meal-kit company HelloFresh, global insights agency SKIM, Province Zuid-Holland, non-profit foundation De Werkshop and tool company Stanley Black and Decker.

The consultancy project

The consultancy project is an integral part of the MSc programme, as the Master examines how to manage people, organisations & change to best develop individuals’ motivation and abilities to improve organizational effectiveness, employee well-being, and company performance. It is community-oriented and integrates empirical research, theory, and practice into strategy. The Master programme is part of Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), one of the top-ranked business schools in Europe.  Judith Werkhoven, lecturer of the Department of Organisation and Personnel Management, is leading this consultancy project.

On December 21st, the students and clients came together. First, the studentteams presented their final presentation to their own client, after which all attended a plenary event with talks, sharing experiences and inspiration, followed by a drink to celebrate the collaboration.

Even though students felt anxious sometimes during the four-month project (for a great variety of reasons such as stakeholder management, dealing with unforeseen situations, planning issues etc.), in the end both students and organisations rated the collaboration as very fruitful. The project shows that every small step towards change is a very important one to help organisations and thus people.

Diversity and inclusion workshop by Sofya Isaakyan

But before we dive into the experiences of the students and organisations, let’s discuss workshop that Sofya Isaakyan held during the closing event. Sofya Isaakyan, is an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the department of Organisation and Personnel Management, (RSM). She first explained some latest insights about diversity and inclusion, followed by an interactive workshop. In this interactive workshop Sofya placed everyone in a team of 5. All participants got assigned to different roles and information. Some participants even got a language barrier; all obstacles to come to one solution as a team. It was interesting to see that the teams all had such different solutions for the same problem. The question arose: “how can we effectively communicate and listen to each other to make a great impact?” This workshop concluded with important insights into these matters, with the main message “Diversity is a fact and inclusion is an act.” 

How students can make an impact on organisations

After the talk of Sofya, it was time for two student teams to present their work. The class voted for the teams that they felt best represented them; the teams working for HelloFresh and the Erasmus University got selected. The studentconsultants Noor Bakker, Momin, Qazi, Julia van Eekelen and Kelment Llozana that worked with HelloFresh had come up with solutions for the organization to improve the onboarding process for new (blue collar) employees. By that, the team came with super creative solutions that  can create a more diverse and inclusive work environment. Students Marten Vogelpoel, Zaza Wang, Gianna Picariello, Félice ter Hofte that worked with the Erasmus University Rotterdam dived into the link between sustainability policies of the employer and the engagement of employees. Doing so they provided advice for the EUR to link their sustainability policies to the values and culture of the organization.

After the presentations, the clients were asked on stage to discuss their experiences. Both the client from Hello Fresh and the Erasmus University were very positive about the job that the students had done. Only sharing their perspective on the challenge already made an impact. Next to that, the studentteams came up with really interesting and creative ideas. The organisations were excited to see that the solutions the students produced could immediately be integrated in the organisation and make an impact on their employees and customers. Students expressed their gratefulness for this opportunity and have learned a lot where they could apply their theoretical knowledge in real life issues. Both students and organisations stated that working together is very beneficial and can create a better future for us all. 

Be a hummingbird

This beautiful event ended with the closing words of Judith Werkhoven and a story about a hummingbird, told by a Hagar Khermjioui, a student of the Master. The story is once told by Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and is about a hummingbird that wants to extinguish the fire in the forest, even though the bird could carry just one drop of water at a time. Still this bird went back and forth, while bigger animals like elephants, which could carry a lot more, were standing and watching at the fire. The main message is to always have hope and help others even though it makes a small impact, something that aligns very well with the knowledge the students have gained in this master. And as the student said: “I hope we can all become hummingbirds.” (The whole story can be read here.

Drinks at Smitse

The hard work of all involved during this course was rewarded with drinks at Smitse after the event. Students, clients, and teachers connected with each other once again and together they looked back at a wonderful period of making impact together. Cheers to creating more impactful experiences in the future!

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