TMC: ‘Technology can make our world better, but it’s people that drive that technology.’
Nov 27, 2018 4:20:55 PM. By: High Tech Campus
One year ago TMC, the Dutch high-tech consultancy firm, moved its Eindhoven office to the High Tech Campus. We asked Ronald van Gerwen, CEO of TMC The Netherlands, about his experiences so far and why TMC’s model of ‘Employeneurship’ is becoming so popular.
Numbers don’t lie. With a global turnover surpassing 100 million euro’s this year and a workforce of over 1200 people worldwide TMC - an employment and secondment agency for highly schooled engineers - is experiencing double digit growth. TMC delivers highly skilled engineers to clients like ASML, DAF, FEI, NXP, Océ, Philips and TNO.
The rapid growth was one of the reasons TMC decided to move their Eindhoven office to the High Tech Campus, where they erected a brand new building overlooking a patch of heather and the roaring A2 highway. Ronald van Gerwen is pleased with the new location. “One day when I was looking out from my office window I even saw sheep grazing here,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.
Why did you choose High Tech Campus Eindhoven as your new location? “Our pay-off is ‘People drive technology’, so when we were looking for a new location, the smartest square kilometre of Europe was an obvious choice. The infrastructure here is great. Also a substantial number of our employees are working for companies at the High Tech Campus, so it’s easier to keep in touch.”
What has been your experience in your first year on Campus? “We are more visible here, both for potential and existing employees and for customers. When you go to the Strip to have lunch, you always run into people you know. We also love being close to the startup community with all its entrepreneurial spirit. And a lot is happening on Campus with all the events being organized. The threshold to connect and to share or bring knowledge is very low. We love that exchange.”
What distinguishes TMC from a regular employment agency or consultancy firm? “We believe in what we call ‘Employeneurship’, where our employees - we call them ‘Employeneurs’ - have an entrepreneurial spirit without having to carry all the risks and costs of running their own business. They have a permanent contract with us but at the same time they are constantly working on their personal development and career path. We believe everything starts with people. So we try to take care of our people by letting them excel as well as have fun. When welcoming new engineers to our company, I always tell them, ‘I hope you didn’t come here only for the job you’re starting on tomorrow.’ Because at TMC that job is only a tool to help you take the next step in achieving your life’s goals.”
What kind of goals are you talking about? “Research has shown that people who have a plan and a goal in life and take responsibility for it, are happier and healthier than people who don’t. That’s why we encourage our Employeneurs to think about what they want to achieve in their life. It could be a career, a position or realizing an innovative technological idea, but we also have people that resign with us in order to travel around the world. If we can show our Employeneurs that we are there to help them achieve part of their life goals, then we have a win-win situation. Because I have an engineer who is extremely motivated, since he knows he is working for a greater cause. And an intrinsically motivated employee makes our customer happy as well. That’s our secret. The fact that we do that in the form of secondment and billing our customer per hour is only the practical form in which that is realized.”
How do you encourage and nurture that entrepreneurial spirit? “Our model of Employeneurship is based on five pillars: a long-term relationship, individual profit sharing, working in business cells, our YOUniversity and the TMC Entrepreneurial Lab. We are transparent about the individual cost price of Employeneurs and make individual agreements with them about how we divide the profit they generate. Yet we also focus on the development of soft and entrepreneurial skills. As part our YOUniversity each of our employeneurs has a personal coach that he or she talks to every six to eight weeks. And in our Entrepreneurial Lab the Employeneurs are offered the space and means to transform any business or tech ideas they may have into a product or service. For instance, one of our engineers has developed a monitoring systems for bees, inspired by his neighbour who is a beekeeper. Another one made a throwable robot to collect data in dangerous areas. Someone else built a unique lighting installation, 3Beam, that was part of the recent Glow Light Festival. Fun things like that. We have a wild dream that one day there will be a second Apple or Google company in the world that is started by a TMC Employeneur.”
How does this benefit the companies where your Employeneurs end up? “We get very positive feedback from companies about our engineers. I think their quality is a combination of knowledge and behaviour. When you have two engineers that both scored an A on mathematics, it’s their behaviour in the workplace that makes one more successful than the other. Our Employeneurs make a difference in the companies they work for because of their entrepreneurial skills. They think outside of the box, are aware of the impact of their work and go beyond what’s expected of them. By doing that eventually you’re going to end up with a better world. Technology can make our world better, greener, safer and more beautiful, but it’s the people that drive that technology.”
Do you see Employeneurship as an ideal labour model for the future? “Absolutely. For the new generation a sense of purpose, autonomy and the opportunity to choose your own career path are very important. These elements are all provided in the system of employeneurship. People don’t want a 9 to 5 job for 40 hours a week anymore. We don’t believe in clocking hours. We look at the end result and we don’t care how you get there.”
What kind of person does TMC look for to hire? “People who are okay with not knowing where they are going next Monday. There are people who love taking their packed lunch to the same office every day, and that’s fine. But for TMC a certain adventurousness is needed. If you work for a company like ASML you need to be able to cope with the pressure and dynamics of a big corporate culture. You can be an excellent physicist or optical engineer, but if you can’t handle the pressure it may not be the right working environment for you. On the other hand you could end up at a start-up or scale-up tech company, where you will be working new ground with no existing framework to lean on. So as an Employeneur, apart from the entrepreneurial spirit you also definitely need to have flexibility and independence.”