Care center Zuidwest-Drenthe; Training à la carte

2012 – The foundation  Zorgcentra Zuidwest-Drenthe (ZZWD), (care center in the south-west of the Dutch province Drenthe) launched a two-year project around the ‘training à la carte’ in 2010. This tool focused on the talent of the employees and was part of a broader movement within the organization with topics such as: the ‘the focus on customers’ and the ‘employee as professional’. “This means more control and responsibility for the employee. It is important that the organization facilitates this", said Gerard Schoep, Director at ZZWD.

Training à la carte

There were kickoff meetings to introduce the project ‘the focus on customers’ with the employees. Subsequently in March 2010 ZZWD started with the basic training on the theme of ‘customer satisfaction at ZZWD’. This was a standard part of the entire training program and all employees have followed this program existing of three sessions. In addition to this standard part, the training program consisted of courses à la carte. Hanneke Lammers, HR advisor, explains the following: “All employees were given their own budget of 500 euros – in the form of points – to follow workshops at their own discretion and need, after consultation with the supervisor. We decided to make this budget available for all employees. So also for  managers, executives and temps”. The director of ZZWD participated. “I have been trained syndromes," says Gerard Schoep. With this project ZZWD provides employees the opportunity to develop their personality and their professional capabilities. The idea is that when employees are better equipped and act more as a professional, they will cope better with the customer and this will rise customers’  satisfaction. The subtitle is: ‘I make the difference’. According to Gerard Schoep this is the at the heart of the focus on customers: “The difference is made in the relationship between the employee and the client."

The training à la carte consists of workshops on five different themes:
• The client
Examples of workshops: Life Stories, Communicating with the family.
• Craftsmanship
Examples of workshops: Dealing with dementia, Learning to observe, Learning to coach, Working  demand-oriented.
• Personal development
Examples of workshops: Personal effectiveness, Individual coaching, Giving feedback and compliments.
• General development
Examples of workshops: Basic computing, Hospitality, Bright reporting.
• Fit and Healthy
Examples of workshops: Healthy at work, Consuming healthy and with pleasure, Losing weight with permanent results.

Each workshop costs some points. How much is depending on the intensity. Employees can choose to follow the workshop in their own time or during working hours. It costs the employee extra points if they want to follow the workshop during working hours
Before ‘training à la carte’  was introduced, courses and trainings were arranged centrally. All wishes were inventoried and the Director accorded it. Now, this responsibility lies primarily with the employee. The employee takes the initiative, talks with his or her supervisor about the needs in the field of education and makes choices. Now, the yearly conversation is much more a dialogue and the employee has an active and initiating role.

How ‘Training à la carte’ started
Based on interviews with managers and the Works Council needs regarding training and development were inventoried. Subsequently, these desires were clustered and a selection was made. There was made a booklet with information about the workshops. In this booklet there are vouchers  to register for the workshops. Ultimately, ZZWD cooperated  with suppliers to realize the workshops. These suppliers kept one or more workshops.

Accompanied by a personal letter, ZZWD sent the booklet to all employees. At each location, in the same week attention has been devoted to ‘Training à la carte’. Furthermore, the mouth-to-mouth recommendation had helped. Participants of the workshops were enthusiastic and this caused that other employees registered. End of 2011, the project came to an end. “Such a hard deadline also helps" says Hanneke Lammers. Some of the staff has signed up at the last moment because the points would expire otherwise.

Of the 400 employees, a total of 219 people attended Training à la carte. Of the 400 employees 300 people are permanently employed. Of this group, 209 employees participate, approximately 70%. Some of the employees have not participated. Others were so excited that they have spent more points than were available. On average, each participant followed 2 ½ workshop from the offer. 71% of the participants followed these in their own time. Workshops and individual coaching, dealing with dementia and the loss of  weight with permanent results, were popular.

In the benchmark study in the healthcare sector, the employees satisfaction of ZZWD scored slightly higher than three years ago. Furthermore the employees of ZZWD scored relatively high on change potential and willingness to change.

Both management and employees of ZZWD are very excited about Training à la carte. The Works Council for example explicitly asked for a continuation of the project. It is currently being investigated in what way and in what form this might be done. Hanneke Lammers says the following about the application: “À la carte is a nice addition to the regular training package to work out policies. You can align the courses with the goals of the organization. Think of ‘Prevention of absenteeism’ and ‘The trend of digitization’. Then the employee chooses appropriate workshops, based on his or her need.

Furthermore ZZWD is busy giving more control and self-organization to the teams.  A start has been made in home care. In the short term ZZWD will start self-organizing teams in the care for people who live together in homes in the neighborhoods. The next step will be to introduce such teams in the nursings. An instrument as Training à la carte fits in well. “We are working on a transition" says Gerard Schoep. The responsibility lies lower in the organization and employees are facilitated to develop as professionals and to make their own choices about their carreers. For the future, it is important that employees are going to make more use of each other’s expertise and give feedback regarding more focus on the customer.

• The instrument is appealing, but it is not comprehensive. Some programs must be followed by everyone.
• Do not miss the administrative side. During the process executives needed information. As an organization you need to record well what is going on.
• The strength of the tool is that employees can make their own choices. As a result, people are motivated. Therefore the management should not control!
• Ensure that an inspired (HR)-employee is in the lead. Sometimes there is resistance for practical reasons. Then you have to persevere and continue to make the project a success.
• The planning of the workshops is an important component. It is useful if the data are communicated in time so that there will be no problems with the planning of the departments.
• The dialogue between managers and employees is very important. Here you have to invest in, as an organization.


More information about Foundation ZZWD, visit The brochure (in Dutch) about ‘Training à la carte’  is attached.