Unconventional thinking - The National Postcode Lottery

2010 – The Dutch National Postcode Lottery puts a customized relation with every employee in the center. Characteristic of the National Postcode Lottery is unconventional thinking and hard work, combined with talent development and fun at work. The goal pursued by all employees is a fairer and greener world.

Why  this is workplace innovation
Fun and development of its employees are central at the National Postcode Lottery. This creates room for innovative ideas, which ensure that more is achieved by the employees.

For more than twenty years the Dutch National Postcode Lottery is the largest private fundraiser for charity in the Netherlands. Half of the proceeds go to charities that contribute to a cleaner and fairer world. Of the other half 30% is for prize money, 18% for marketing and 2% for organizational costs. In 2010, all 425 employees working at The Charity Lotteries (National Postcode Lottery, BankGiro Lottery and Sponsor Bingo Lottery) earn 1 million dayly for charities. Head of HR Virginie Kuijer said that the charm of the organization is found in the combination of commerce and  charity.
Around 425 people work at the National Postcode Lottery. Of these, 200 work in the call center. For a large part this group consists of students. “Despite them working here for 12 hours per week on average, we try to involve all as much as possible. This is indicative of the way in which they involve  employees. Another example is that older workers who want to continue to work are allowed to continue, even though they have reached retirement age. They get adapted work or be given the opportunity to work fewer hours. We also invest in people who have less chance on the labor market because of their physical or mental disabilities. Virginie sees it as follows: “In many companies they will say that is not possible financially seen, while at the Lottery we say: we  will cut back somewhere else." This policy has helped ensure that in 2010 the National Postcode Lottery was entered to the top 20 on the list of ‘great place to work’. The objective is to finish in the top 10 next year.
Much attention is paid to the transfer of the mission of the National Postcode Lottery to the employees. Once a month a lunch lecture is organized by one of the affiliated charities. During such a lecture employees of these organizations tell about the work they do. In addition once or twice a year, employees go on a working visit to the charities in the Netherlands. Recently, there is even a new employment condition called “hands dirty", focused on volunteer work. Employees may take three days volunteering in work time. Finally, the mission is discussed  in the assessment of the staff members. Discussed is what contribution he or she has made to a better/greener world. “The HR department itself, for example, has realized that  the pay slips are sent digitally. That saves a few trees," Virginie notes with satisfaction.

Much energy and money is invested in the development of the employees. There is an internal training institute, the Lottery Academy. Here a large number of courses are developed and offered to varying groups of employees, such as:
– The Charity Masterclass. Among other things here is discussed how people consider whether or not to give  money to charity. The impact of the money for these organizations also will be discussed.

– The Turbo Lottery Training. This is a three-day training for new employees. The aim is that people get to know the organization, allowing them to find their way well and can see the whole picture.
– The Big Lottery Training. This training takes several months and is aimed at employees who can be deployed as a generalist in multiple places within the organization. Executives candidate employees to take part here.
According to Virginie characterizing  the corporate culture of the National Postcode Lottery are: unruly, unconventional thinking and hard work. The founders have propagated this culture features from the beginning. Two of them still are on the board. Virginie says that their vision also has opened her eyes. “Precisely the separate things in which the HR department invests, make the difference, but HR people are used to make rules, policies and procedures for everything."  In the first week that she was in the service one of the founders said  to her that he was against policies. “When I say that something is not allowed  by law, then the answer is: be creative or change the law!" Virginie has always had some difficulty with her colleagues who had a mania for control  and, “because control and standardization are killing for an organization, customization is the key word." The individual staff are standing first in her eyes, not the job profiles. This does not fit with the young people in today’s job market. They expect more and more that an organization is responsive to their individual needs. According to Virginie, the strength of an organization lies in the innovation capacity of its employees. Also fun between colleagues is an important factor. As an employer, you can make an important contribution to the fun that people experience at work. A good example of facilitating fun for employees is that we fund ‘spotlight’ once every two years. This is an evening organized by the staff.  In the theater everyone has the ability to perform something he or she likes for colleagues. “By organizing this type of activities, you bring together people from different departments and grow team spirit. I see it as a task of HR that managers and employees feel good every day hard but nice to work with each other “All this is reflected in the core values of the company. courageous, sharing, sustainable and fun. The threshold to walk in to the management if you have any ideas, should be very low according to Virginie. The conventional internal reaction  therefore is: what a good idea, why did you not figured this yesterday? Virginie thinks that the Google arrangement of spending 20% of your working week on innovation, is a nice idea, but it is pretty tough to realize it. What they organize indeed within the Lottery are Pecha Kucha sessions. During such an evening participants present  an idea in about 6 minutes using a slideshow of 20 images. This offers the possibility to pass in review many ideas in a short time. To facilitate innovation, there is a permanent i-team (ideas team) at the Lottery. In this team are about three or four ‘generalists’  who work on  ideas or projects that employees cannot work on because of the daily hustle or because they are beyond their field.
Finally Virginie says that in addition to investing in people, it is also important to be able to let people go off, in a decent manner. If it appears that the chemistry between an employee and the organization is gone, then we start a conversation with the person. Always the goal is to offer support in a good continuation of one’s career. According to Virginie many companies dare not to say goodbye to people who do not perform well. However, if you calculate what the costs are of someone who still remains and what effect that has on his / her environment, then the choice is simple.

As a tip Virginie Kuijer yields: ‘look at the individual employee and  to what the company has to offer and needs, and this match those as closely as possible to one another. “

More information on The National Postcode Lottery can be found online at https://www.postcodeloterij.nl.
The article: ‘Plezier als wapen tegen gezeur en gezanik’ (Fun as a weapon against whining), (2010) by L. Huijsmans,  in Slow Management Summer 2010 is attached (in Dutch).