You might think that living and working abroad means that the last thing on your mind is ‘other’ foreign travel, but that’s definitely not so in my case – especially because many of my fellow trainees are in all kinds of interesting places around the world right now. I recently flew directly from Madrid to New York, for example. One of the other trainees has been working there in the risk department for the past couple of months. We have a mutual friend, who joined me on the trip. It was quite literally a flying visit – just for a weekend – so it was a bit mad, but above all it was good fun. No, that’s putting it too mildly – it was fantastic! What a dynamic city! I must admit I was quite relieved to be able to speak English again after all that Spanish – I could finally communicate with everyone again properly! It reminded me of when I was looking for my current rotation; at that point I was really hoping to go to an English-speaking country. Well, that obviously didn’t go according to plan :-). But I’m not complaining, of course – I’m now working on an international project in Madrid so at the end of the day I’ve got the best of both worlds.
I really love it in Madrid and I now wouldn’t want things any other way. I can’t wait to show the trainee from New York around ‘my’ city, which is due to happen in the near future. On the other hand, I think it’s important to strike the right balance, so I also socialise with local colleagues as well as a group of international people who are based here in Madrid too. It’s important to build up a social network for yourself – after all, you’re more or less stuck with one another. Luckily everyone’s keen to get the best out of their time here – not only at work during the week, but also at the weekends.
Here, I’m seeing a different side of HR than I saw in the Netherlands. The Model Bank ‘only’ has 100 employees on site and there are three of us in HR. That means that you’re expected to handle all kinds of tasks within the department, rather than just working on one particular aspect as is typically the case in the Dutch organisation. Of course I’ve got my job grading assignment to work on, but the day-to-day activities often demand most of my attention. There are so many things to get done and – because we’re literally very close to the business (the entire Model Bank takes up just two floors) – people are constantly stopping by to ask HR-related questions, and of course they want immediate answers. The communication lines are short, there are always urgent matters to deal with and you’re involved in lots of operational things. In Amsterdam my team and I were much more involved in the strategy. But don’t get me wrong – I really like it here; I’m surrounded by people from Retail Banking, IT and the management team, so I get first-hand experience of what’s going on in the bank. Everyone’s currently working hard on the first roll-out of the Model Bank in the Czech Republic. So much effort has already gone into it and now, in the final stretch, everyone’s upped their game even more. And as an HR professional, try as you might to ask people to submit job descriptions or other documents by a certain deadline, it’s just not realistic right now. It’s better to take a flexible approach. So being here is definitely changing my perspective on things!
Meanwhile, I’m steadily working on my job grading assignment in between all the other hectic activities. The assignment revolves around a way to evaluate the various roles within the Model Bank objectively, regardless of which person is in that role right now, and including the relevant responsibilities, skills, direct reports and rewards. We’re currently in the preparation phase and are scheduling interviews with all the people we want to discuss this with. We’re collaborating with external HR consultants who are objectifying our findings. My manager has overall responsibility for the project and I’m mainly doing the hands-on work.
Besides that, I’ve volunteered to help my manager visualise the HR processes within the Model Bank. I’ve drawn up an overview of the milestones and made a dashboard for recruitment, for example. The experience I gained during my first rotation came in useful for that. Even though that was a dashboard for talent management, the techniques are the same and I noticed that I found it a lot easier this time around. I’ve already submitted the first version and people were very happy with it. It’s great to have recently acquired a new skill that has already come in handy!
I started this blog with details of one trip and I’ll end it with another; I’ll soon be travelling to London with the entire group of HR trainees from the Netherlands. One of the trainees is based there so we’re all going to visit her and see how she’s getting on. After all, it’s important to broaden your horizons during your traineeship, don’t you agree?