Moneypenny shaping the future of work
2019 – Moneypenny is an employment and consultancy agency in Amsterdam. In 2011 this knowledge bank recorded an item about this company; we derived that from the website of the former Telewerkforum foundation. That story has now been added as an attachment to this new item. The following new case description is based on interviews with four people from this company in 2019.
In 2000 Marianne Sturman founded Moneypenny; she still is for 100% owner of it. It is a mediation agency for people who want to work flexibly in time and place and companies that want to build a reliable flexible shell for accommodating executive tasks. Moneypenny now calls such a detachee a “Virtual Assistant" **. In 2008 Suzan Smulders and Marianne added a second company to Moneypenny; they own it together. From this new company they provide consultancy services and training in the field of “remote working".
Since 2011, the services that Moneypenny offers have not undergone major changes. There is, however, an enormous growth in the demand for Virtual Assistants (VA). Now there are 82 people working for Moneypenny at clients, of which 50 are VAs and 32 are secretaries.
Moneypenny was established to mediate the group of people on the labor market who do not want to or cannot work at a fixed place (an office) from 9 – 5 and who do want to participate for a self-determined number of hours and at a self-chosen place. It may concern people with a care task (in Mp’s practice still mainly women) or people with a substantial other activity (for example: a yoga school), hobby or sport and people with a physical work limitation. The initiative was in line with an increasing need for companies to create a flexible shell and became increasingly achievable through digitization and information and communication technology. More remote working can also contribute to alleviating the shortage on the labor market because this allows the participation of a whole group of people who would otherwise have been unable to do so. Furthermore it increases the recruitment area. Moreover, savings are made on office space and on travel costs and time and therefore on CO2 emissions as a result of commuting.
Method and control
All employees and partners still work remote. Moneypenny no longer has its own office, but they are members of a collective office on the Zuidas in Amsterdam and hire work and consultation places there.
A permanent team of 7 people, including the two partners, perform marketing, sales, acquisition and intake assignments, office management and recruitment as well as consultancy services. They manage the VAs and secretaries; they manage on output and assess on quality. They show confidence in the employees and expect transparency from their side. These 7 people work largely self-directed and as a team. Most of this core team also work part of their time for clients. They have a team call every Monday.
From the intake of an assignment, the VAs are involved in making (framework) agreements with the client about the way the assignment will be carried out. In addition, the client is made clear that it is about remote work and that he or she may not require the VA to work at fixed times or places. However, agreements can be made about, for example, daily accessibility in a block or blocks of time. The VAs are also fully autonomous in the execution of the assignment and in completing the agreements with the client. They have a point of contact at Moneypenny. At the start of a new assignment they have a bit more frequent contact with this person and regularly there is a contact moment every month and on request in between. These contacts are informal, usually by telephone and do not go through a fixed agenda.
One of the people from the core team coaches and trains the VAs. She conducts a formal development interview with them at least twice a year; she does this according to a fixed pattern.
Decision making and communication is also very open and is supported by intranet and platforms to share information and lessons or to help each other. Ideas for innovative work processes or using digital tools easily find their way up and are taken over by Marianne if they work. There is an annual Moneypenny Day; that is face2face in a nice location and with a nice program of speakers.
The consultancy services are mainly provided by Susan Smulders. She supports private and public organizations in answering the questions “how do we actually want to work, how flexible do we want to be and how do we empower employees to determine where and when they work?" And more structurally: how can we divide all tasks over new jobs (“jobcrafting") in such a way that space is created to work time and place independently. The training program includes: training in the field of communication (via digital tools) and how to provide feedback, for example.
The employment relationship
At Moneypenny, social innovation is also about renewing the employment relationship. Of the 50 VAs, 10 are on the Moneypenny payroll; 40 VAs are temporary workers. VAs who are on the payroll have an employment contract with Moneypenny, initially for a limited period of time and if both parties are satisfied, it becomes an indefinite-term contract. The temporary employees are employed by the company ‘All About Flex’. They work flexible hours in accordance with the ABU collective agreement.
The 30 secretaries are self-employed.
Premiums for employee insurance are paid for employees by Moneypenny or via All About Flex. There is no participation in a pension fund and therefore no accrual of pension for and by employees; they are expected to save for their pension or take out insurance themselves. Moneypenny does not provide equipment (“bring your own devices"), but does provide an office license.
Approach and development
Remote working and trust-based management did not have to be implemented at Moneypenny because the organization was established for this and employees were and are selected on the basis that they want and can do it themselves. The first years mainly young mothers entered who wanted to combine a part-time job with the care of their children. In the last 10 years there has also been an interest among recent graduates who, in addition to a professional career also have other ambitions, who simply require more flexibility to tackle other things, who put the quality of life above an all-demanding career, who do not want to travel to the office five days in the week, or who want to live abroad. An example of the latter is a woman who supports HR at Moneypenny lives in Germany; she conducts interviews with applicants via Skype.
Initially, a great deal of persuasiveness was needed when recruiting assignments, to make it clear that the client did not have to worry about the output of the VA and the quality of the work delivered, even though he or she could not check physically at any time weather the VA was working and how well she did. This has changed in recent years. On the one hand because it is much more common in society to arrange matters remotely and on the other hand because technically much more is possible than before. You can call and hold meetings over the internet, work on the same text with a colleague remotely, find the most recent version of a piece in the cloud, arrange matters and plan via WhatsApp or Outlook etc. An estimated 90% of executive support work can be done remotely.
Over the years, much more attention for communication with and between employees and for guidance and training, appeared to be necessary. There is now a coaching and training program for the VAs. The training courses concern, apart from professional knowledge and skills, communication skills and skills to give feedback to colleagues.
There is Intranet and there are digital platforms for knowledge sharing, use of new tools and innovative ideas. Employees also share concerns about, for example, the work-life balance: “how do you keep work and home apart", “how do you stop thinking about your work when the children come home from school?"
Moneypenny is still growing in sales and personnel and is performing well.
The employees appreciate the high degree of flexibility and freedom and especially the autonomy and control over what, how, where and when they work. During the development interview they are asked how they rate the work and the average score is 8.5.
Innovation of Moneypenny’s services
Moneypenny is always working on renewing of her service offerings. For example Moneypenny plans to offer to companies the possibility of outsourcing a complete supporting department to her and develop the work processes and provide the necessary ICT solutions. More and more Monneypenny helps companies to redesign jobs in such a way that they can be done as remote work so that staff can be recruited from a larger area.
In addition, the company is developing a concept for a “virtual professional" to second to clients. After all, even a programmer, marketer, corporate lawyer, HR employee and technician can work remotely.
Generally the interest and the possibilities for remote work are increasing and new groups such as recent graduates have been interested in them in recent years.
More and more employers accept remote working for more (as yet executive) jobs.
Attention is needed for training and coaching and for communication with and between virtual workers. With the available digital tools you can get very far in this.
A point of concern and attention when working remotely is the work-life balance and how to deal with work pressure.
This case is based on interviews with Marianne Sturman and Suzan Smulders (owners/directors) and Marjolein Richter (Coach for VA’s) and Charlotte Tee (Accountmanager) of Moneypenny by Fietje Vaas, TNO.
The new way of working at Moneypenny (2011), the first text about this company in this knowledge bank is attached.
Themes: New ways of working, Smart working, Smart mobility