Well-kept secrets about the old-school “Secretaries Day”

The old-school “Secretaries Day” is that day of year upon which traditionally secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists and other administrative support professionals are showered with cards, flowers, chocolates and lunches as a way of recognizing their contribution to the workplace. In Flemish, there is a widely used expression: “to put someone in the middle of the flower bed”. And when it comes to “Secretaries Day”, this expression can be taken quite literally, since flowers are still the number one gift on this third Thursday of April. At the same time, however, recent research has shown that fewer and fewer employers are making the effort to celebrate this day, and that is a pity!

“Secretaries Day” was brought into existence in the United States in 1952. By 1989, the concept had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and set foot in Europe, where it became a tradition too. In the course of the decades, however, “Secretaries Day” has undergone quite a transformation: these days, we tend to refer to it as “Administrative Professionals’ Day“, a term used to encompass the expanding responsibilities and wide-ranging job titles of administrative support staff in the modern economy.

In many an organisation, administrative professionals are key figures. Considering the fact that they are often the ones making first contact with potential clients and customers, they tend to be any organisation’s “representatives”. Furthermore, a 2015 study conducted by Robert Half highlighted the rapidly changing role of our contemporary management assistants, who are being given more and more responsibilities and projects to handle.  They are expected to display substantial levels of flexibility, and a good sense of initiative and independence – all of them strengths that are in the top 3 of most important “soft skills” looked for in any administrative support professional. In a nutshell, the days that so-called “secretaries” were above all expected and required to touch type, be fluent in several languages and master MS Office to a tee are long gone.

Nevertheless, in spite of this substantially re-written job description, those who consider celebrating “Secretaries Day” discriminative and sexist, are still plentiful. On the discriminative note, their reasoning is that it is outdated to attribute such amounts of attention to what is, in essence, merely one of the many important functions within an organisation. Appreciation for a job well done is important, but the same applies to any other job well done within that same company. Doesn’t every organization equally run on the efforts delivered by hardworking accountants, janitors, sales people or even its CEO? And on the sexist note: what about our male administrative professionals? Shouldn’t we equally be celebrating them?

I, personally, can see where these critics are coming from. It is a little like Valentine’s Day: if you only celebrate your love for someone on the 14th of February, you’re in trouble… big trouble!  True appreciation deserves – and needs – to be expressed all year round, and one single token of appreciation on Administrative Professionals’ Day is not in the slightest going to make up for a lack of recognition the other 364 days of the year. Which is not to say, obviously, that that one single token of appreciation on that one special day isn’t an indispensable link in a long and strong chain of necessary and sincere moments of appreciation throughout the year, because it most definitely is: let’s not underestimate the effects of the role played by the media here! “Secretaries Day” is a hot topic and this is bound to create at least some expectations amongst your administrative staff. Secretly, many assistants will hope to be treated to that lunch, that special card, those flowers or chocolates or any other token of appreciation. So our advice is to not cast Administrative Professionals’ Day aside. Instead, see it as an additional and special opportunity to express your appreciation that vital little extra – with the emphasis on extra, because as said before: one moment of appreciation a year is not going to do the trick!

Still need convincing?

Well, let us then challenge you to try a completely different approach by going back to the roots of the old-school “Secretaries Day”. The original idea behind the introduction of this day was to take a moment to reflect on the added value secretaries bring to the table when it comes to the running of an organization, to thank them for that and to boost the public image of the job.

So, from this point of view, why don’t you just drop the whole idea of that yearly bunch of flowers and, instead, take the time to write your administrative assistant(s) a little note, telling them how and why they matter so much to you and your organization as a whole.

We bet you this will leave a lasting impression – one that won’t whither the way a bunch of flowers does!

In need of inspiration? No worries! We are happy to share with you some of our inspirational messages that are bound to help you on your way.

Every day, you do your utmost. With your smile and your professionalism, you are always there to assist not only our customers but also our colleagues. Your engagement and enthusiasm are contagious. To us, your presence is invaluable. Thank you for being who you are!

Thank you for always thinking along and for taking such good care of us all, for your engagement and for your inner strength. You are a truly valued fixture in our organization and an indispensable link when it comes to our success. For all of those things, we are forever grateful!

Thank you for your engagement, for your flexibility, for your unstoppable enthusiasm – day in, day out. Today is YOUR day! Enjoy it to the fullest.

You are our Queen / King of the Office, our tower of strength – exquisite all the way! And even though these words might sound a little cliché, this is nevertheless truly the way we feel about you. So thanks a million for everything you do for us!”

You are our anchor. You always see the silver lining and your can-do attitude is a source of inspiration to many of us. We are very happy and proud to have you on our team. Thank you for being who you are and for doing exactly what you do – day in, day out.

Or maybe, last but not least, the following fun fact might be a useful one to bear in mind this coming Thursday: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “secretary” has its roots in the Latin word “secretum”, “secret” – thus originally referring to “a person entrusted with a secret”.

In other words, this profession we celebrate on Administrative Professionals’ Day has been associated with trust and discretion since the earliest of times… surely enough, that in itself deserves some special attention, no?

Leen Joos

Building a Positive Company Culture – 3 Essentials that REALLY move the needle

Wellness programs, in-house massages, unlimited free food or even a complete office refurbishment … today, we find more and more companies coming up with all kinds of new trend-chasing initiatives, all of them having to meet but one requirement: the fancier, the better! These investments tend to be made with a view to attract and retain unique talent and skilled workers. And, indeed, building a positive workplace culture is absolutely key if that is the purpose of the exercise.

Yet, behind the scenes, I find myself wondering: what about the long term effect of these investments? At this rate, soon every organisation will be offering these kinds of fancy benefits. And then what? Because once that is the case, the question arises as to whether these initiatives will still truly make a difference and, in effect, move the needle when it comes to creating a motivating workplace where people continue to thrive?

I reckon we can already get a glimpse of the answer to this question if we carefully scan our contemporary compensation and benefits landscape. In the course of the last 5 years, a lot of companies went out of their way to optimise and enlarge their employees’ wage packages, much in the same way as the investments that are nowadays made in those fancy initiatives.

What we see in this compensation and benefits landscape, however, is not in the slightest what we initially expected to see!

What we expected to see was a league of engaged employees, who were motivated to push their limits. What we – in all reality – see is that we have created a league of cautious employees who have started to behave in an almost prisoner-like way: they conform and don’t dare to stick their neck out, because they are afraid of losing all their beloved benefits.

Where are we going wrong?
Where is our blind spot?

If you ask me, the answer here lies in the common misconception of what it supposedly takes to build a strong and positive company culture.

There seems to be a trend of relying on a predominantly materialistic approach to creating supposedly happy employees. Yet 25 years of experience in the field of recognition have taught me that improving your company culture is – above all – a matter of sheer trust. Indeed, a strong workplace culture is first and foremost built on a fundament of open dialogue, transparency and connection.

That is why, as an employer, it is so crucial to provide a safe environment for your employees – one in which solid standards are set and everyone walks their talk. Because if employers and managers practice what they preach, their people are bound to follow suit!

Based on Arteel’s expertise, I summarised here below 3 essentials which, when applied correctly, WILL move the needle very quickly and skyrocket any company culture!

1. The importance of alignment

It all starts with creating a clear vision on where you want your company to be headed and how you want it to help make the world a better place. People – and especially our millennial generation – need to feel a deep connection with the organisation they work for. They need to feel aligned with the organisation’s reason for being and its core values. They need to feel a strong sense of belonging. They need to feel they are contributing to the company’s purpose in a meaningful way. In other words, you have to make sure your employees feel unquestionably aligned with your company purpose and values! That being said, I can not tell you how often I encounter leaders and managers who, when I ask them to articulate their company mission or values, simply fall silent. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the number one thing so many companies struggle with, is getting their purpose and values imprinted in their employees’ DNA. That is why – to initiate and accelerate this vital proces – I recommend empowering every employee in the company to take part in it. Provide for a platform upon which every employee is given the opportunity to recognise his or her peers when noticing positive behaviour that is in line with the company purpose and/or values. By introducing this new approach, you will be surprised to find how quickly and efficiently the process of ‘living the company values’ is enhanced.

Find out more about this speciality of ours on RecognizePeers.com

2. The importance of social connection

In this digital day and age, we often forget that human beings are inherently social creatures – people thrive on feeling connected! A sense of social connectivity activates the production of the “happiness hormone” oxytocin and we are wired to experience it as deeply rewarding. That is why, when a person feels truly connected and has a sense of belonging, he or she will be twice as likely to enjoy good health. Good health entails more energy, and the more energy we experience, the higher the mountains we can move. The opposite, however, is equally true. As a matter of fact, a lack of social relationships at work constitutes a main contributing factor to why people fall ill or slip into a depression. Research has even shown that experiencing social connection and a sense of belonging is more important to our health than the diet we eat and – inversely – a lack thereof creates a greater overall risk to our health than smoking or drinking does. So connecting people socially on the work floor is bound to create a much bigger bang for the company than all of those earlier-mentioned trend-chasing initiatives ever could!

Curious to put this to the test? Simply contact us by phone on +32 16 499 960 to ask for our top 5 tips to increase social connectivity in the workplace.

3. The importance of the human touch factor

One of the greatest gifts we can give our employees is the gift of appreciation, compassion and encouragement.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody – I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat” – Mother Theresa

Up to 75% of people report that the most stressful part of their job is their interaction with their immediate supervisor. What a shocking eye opener! This entails that tremendous amounts of stress stem from people going through their days with a feeling of not being appreciated for who they are and what they do. So how about if we simply made the effort to truly care about the people whose lives we are privileged to lead, and send them home in the evening feeling respected and valued? Imagine what a difference that would make! Not only would it improve our employees’ quality of life, it would equally positively impact the company’s financial results by reducing the health costs that arise from absenteeism. Not to mention the far more positive impression left on customers and all the benefits that would flow from that! Unfortunately, what I have noticed time after time in the course of my career, is that more often than not people struggle to give recognition. Somehow, the act of recognising and expressing their appreciation makes them feel very uncomfortable.  And they cope by doing nothing, rather than running the risk of losing face. That is a problem, however, because if employees feel they are mere meaningless numbers instead of valued individuals, their work is unlikely to matter to them much. As a result, chances are that it won’t take long before they start looking for a job that feels more fulfilling and interesting to them. And the company is left looking for yet another employee to fill the gap… Luckily, experience has taught me that there is an easy and accessible way to start turning this tide!  Simply begin by adhering importance to the more ‘formal’  occasions upon which employees can be recognised. I hereby think of years of service, on-boarding, safety milestones, other special achievements or family moments such as a wedding or a baby shower. Letting people know they are important and cared-for, as well as increasing the number of moments of connection, are two of the most important components of a thriving company culture. On top of that, honouring wins and milestones improves the in-house morale in a significant way, something which is always a bonus!

Discover how companies such as Deloitte and Nike increased their human touch factor simply by restructuring their recognition approach via an email on info@arteel.eu.


A positive workplace culture makes for a world of difference when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled and talented workers, increased levels of productivity and an improved in-house morale. And we guarantee you that if you put the above 3 simple rules to the test in your very own workplace in a consistent way, you are bound to be surprised by how quickly you will able to move the needle – without spending too much money or time.

Good luck!

Nathalie Arteel
Recognition & Motiviation Expert
Leading Angel Arteel Group

Best approach for culture-based recruitment

If you want to support a strong company culture, it’s logical to start with recruiting and selecting applicants who will share the organization’s beliefs and thrive in that culture. But what hiring practices best ensure cultural fit? And how to avoid the biggest drawback?

What are practical steps to hire for values?

1. Translate values into behaviours
You need to understand the cultural DNA of your organization. Describe your company’s values and behaviours that form the core of your culture. Sometimes it is even valuable to define specific values-based behaviours for a given role or group.

2. Develop interview questions for each of those values and behaviours
Draft questions that ask the applicant to give specific examples of past behaviour you can link to your core values. For example, if your organization values initiative and proactive team behaviour, you can ask “Can you give me an example of when you saw an issue outside of your direct scope that affected team performance and you stepped in to address it?”.

3. Design the interview process
Consider conducting the skills and values part of an interview by different interviewers or at a different time. This way you are sure the values part will get the separate attention it deserves. And be sure not to start talking about company culture yourself. First, listen to what they have to say about their experiences and beliefs. This tactic will reveal more candid responses to help determine whether they are a fit for the organization. Specially to gauge the core values and beliefs, it way be worthwhile to involve two or even three interviewers. Different people will see and hear different things. These varied perspectives give a clearer understanding of the person being considered for hire.

4. Use best practices during the interview
Use the STAR acronym to collect all relevant information: situation, task, action and result. Also ask for the learning they derived from it. Ask for the impression a candidate makes with all people they interacted with. As an example, look at the ‘nice guy test’ as explained by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. At Zappos the recruiter asks the shuttle driver who drive in the candidate to their offices how he or she was treated. Abd listen for values alignment in the questions candidates ask. Try to really notice the kind of questions that they’re asking and think about the values that underly them.

5. Decide how strict you are going to be
Every decision to hire is based on an assessment of a mix of job requirements. Cognitive ability, personality, skills, attitude and cultural fit. In a context where there is a pressing need to fill a position, you should agree beforehand what importance you attach to the perceived cultural fit. My advice would be to do yourself and the candidate the favour to be rather strict on cultural fit.

The biggest downside of hiring for cultural fit is that you limit diversity.

It is human for recruiters to – at least unconsciously – select those most like themselves. Take for instance introverted versus extraverted personality.

Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extraverts. – Susan Cain

But if you have a very outgoing company culture, does that imply that someone who isn’t very extraverted will feel not happy in your company? After all, you don’t want only perfect matches that risk turning into too-cozy cliques in the workplace.

So, in the end, what should you do?

Think about how candidates might fit into your company culture, but also how they can add to it. And to what extend they proved capable to adapt to a new culture while staying true to themselves.

Koen Schreurs
Helping HR & Management to boost company culture & engagement

About FIKA and the importance of coffee corners in cultural change

Obviously communication is an essential ingredient of every company culture initiative. But it is an illusion to assume people leaders are the sole players in helping people adapt to change. Coffee corner talk is more important than top down communications by management. In the coffee corner, stories are shared that greatly influence how people think about culture transformation or any change program. Exchanges between peers that trust each other often outweigh the impact of official communications.

So what can you do with coffee corner talk?

1. Get feedback from the front lines
What is said around the coffee machine is a reflection of your company culture. Culture transformations should start from the top, but company culture is defined by the behaviour of the majority of people in your organization. Use tools such as anonymous employee surveys, focus group discussions or talk to people who have a personal connection to what’s being talked about in the coffee corner. Whatever you do, make sure to find ways to take the ‘coffee corner pulse’ on how people are feeling and talking about your change initiative.

2. Change your perspective on coffee corner talk
Talk in the coffee corner is not idle chitchat or gossip. It represent the authentic thoughts of employees towards your company culture. Identify influencers: people not in a managerial position but that have an informal network and typically enjoy more trust from their peers than people leaders do. Actively involve them in shaping the culture transformation program. And ask for their verbal support. Their talk in the coffee corner will significantly speeds up your implementation. So use this powerful resource to ensure your culture program execution is effective.

You have no coffee corner? Read on about FIKA!

Fika – which roughly translates from Swedish as drinking coffee, eating sweet treats and chatting – is as much a part of the working day in Sweden as having meetings and emailing. Many Swedish firms have mandatory fika breaks and employees are given free hot drinks. At IKEA, it is described as:

More than a coffee break, fika is a time to share, connect and relax with colleagues. Some of the best ideas and decisions happen at fika.

Afraid that all these regular coffee breaks make for an inefficient workforce? No worries, according to the OECD productivity index, Sweden enjoys a very respectable seventh place, well above the G7 or EU average.

Next break, take time for a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the chatter!

Koen Schreurs
Helping HR & Management to boost company culture & engagement

This must be read by every parent

Seeing your child jump out of bed every morning when the alarm clock goes off – impatient to go back to school. It happened to me last school year when my son Tim (10) was with schoolmaster Peter in his fifth year.

In the past, it used to be a different story. When I think back to the days when my daughter was young. Every morning was a battle.

What makes master Peter so special? What does he do so that even former pupils still speak about him, thirty years later? Why do almost all children cry when they have to say goodbye to him at the end of the school year?

I would like to share with you my surprising insights and how amazingly closely his approach fits in with our business world.

1. Have a single mission

“Ensuring that every child likes to go to school.” That was the reason for schoolmaster Peter to opt for education. Everything he does or every initiative he takes contributes to this mission. He wants to create as many positive and unforgettable moments as possible together for his pupils.

What is your mission, what gives you energy? Is it clear why you are doing what you are doing now?

2. Firmly belief everyone has talents

This belief is why he wants to do everything he can to bring the talents of every child to the surface and to develop them further. This is his absolute priority and is more important to him than achieving top scores.

For example, he organises a musical every year in which all pupils are invited to show their talents by singing, dancing, acting and being creative. If there’s one thing that master Peter’s students will never forget, it’s the musical. So beautiful to see how children blossom during the musical and how talents emerge that nobody knew they had.

What are you doing to encourage your employees or colleagues to bring their talents to the fore?

3. Never punish

Schoolmaster Peter wants to bring out the best in his pupils and does this by focusing on the positive. He understands the art of giving every student the feeling that he or she is the most important person on earth. He constantly expresses his amazement at them, and encourages them to keep pushing their limits. If children do something that hurts him emotionally, he will also show this by showing himself to be vulnerable.

How many times do you give a compliment when someone from your area does something right?

4. Break the script every now and then

What makes it very difficult for master Peter is the overload of administration he is confronted with. That sucks a lot of energy away from him. The lack of trust between the government, teachers and parents also means that he will think ten times as much before taking the initiative. All of this makes a teacher’s job mentally very demanding.

He will always give priority to the wellbeing of the pupil and less to reporting on his lessons down to the smallest detail, even if this is expected of him.

Sometimes he also breaks the script and chooses to go out with his students – if he notices that they are mentally tired – instead of filling their heads even more with teaching material because this is prescribed by law. “Let a child be a child” is his slogan. At the end of the school year, for example, he went swimming with his pupils and they sailed down the Dijle river instead of teaching the last few days.

In order to achieve all this, he invests every day in his physical and mental health, so that he can give the best of himself in the classroom. He also regularly stands up at 4:30 am to prepare funny initiatives and to ensure that he can master his other tasks.

Do you sometimes break your script to create a special moment of connection in the organisation you work in instead of hiding behind your computer? Do you also consciously invest every day in your physical and mental health so that you can give the best of yourself every day?

5. Be guided by your compass

In order to accomplish his mission, master Peter works with a compass so that he continues to generate the necessary positive energy even in difficult times. Because even after 34 years in education, he occasionally doubts himself. His compass is formed by his personal values and his mission.

It is through the positive energy and love he receives from his disciples that he feels deep in his heart that he is doing a good job. Because often he only hears when something goes wrong.

Do you have a value compass to navigate your life? Do you also mention the good things about someone or do you only focus on the things that go wrong?

Happiness and sorrow

As I wrote this blog, I often felt a sense of happiness and sadness flowing through me at the same time.

Happiness because I am grateful that my son has master Peter as a teacher in his fifth and sixth year of primary school.

Happiness because in this chaotic world there are still such people as schoolmaster Peter. He is an example of someone who has followed his vocation by working every day to bring out the best in our children.  Thus, when our children grow up later, they will in turn be able to promote the right values and make a positive difference in this challenging world.

Happiness because I myself have grown into a happy, healthy and enterprising woman thanks to my mathematics teacher, Miss Sys.

Sad because I realize that both in education and in our business world there is a great need for people like master Peter. People with a mission, people with the right values, people who are mainly guided by their hearts and who continue to invest in themselves. People who occasionally dare to break the script.

In our business world, we can encourage this behaviour by building a positive culture. A culture in which people feel safe, a culture of trust in which people are encouraged and challenged, a culture in which people are valued for their commitment.

Thank you master Peter and thank you to all the teachers for dedicating yourself every day and for giving the best of yourself. It is also thanks to you that our children will later grow into wise and loving people.

My appeal to you who reads this blog: I would like to invite you to express a word of thanks (orally or in writing) at the end of this school year to someone who has made a difference for you.

Nathalie Arteel
Mommy of Tim and Michaëla
Leading Angel Arteel Group
Recognition Expert

6 tips for the most amazing summer holiday

How do you organize a summer holiday that every member in your family truly enjoys? As a female entrepreneur, mother and spouse, this is one of my biggest challenges too: I have a 11-year old son who loves gaming, a 22-year old daughter who loves partying, a hard-working husband who loves playing sports and an overly energetic dog who loves running.

And in the course of making a holiday memorable for each of them, it’s an equally big challenge for me to make sure that I myself come back home fully energized too!

Does that challenge sound familiar to you? Experience has taught me there are lots of women out there trying to deal with that exact same situation…

That is why in this blog I would like to share with you six simple tips to help you create unforgettable moments with your family, while at the same time managing to free up enough time for yourself.

1. How to pick the right holiday destination?

In this day and age, we are seduced by so many offers of great holiday destinations that we tend to forget to define what we are actually looking for before we make our booking. So the perfect place to is by having every family member write down what his/her fve most import holiday values are.
These can be values:
a. Related to basic needs such as food, level of comfort, family time, friends, …
b. Related to physical needs such as sports activities, wellness, …
c. Related to other surroundings and activities such as culture, nature, shopping, …
Find common denominators and pick a holiday destination that allows you to combine most of them.

2. Good agreements make a good family

On our first vacation day, I tend to ask everyone to list three things they definitely want to do or visit during our stay there. By sharing those priorities, it is clear for everyone what everyone else loves to do, and what is important to them. So we plan out our stay based on a pick-and-mix, making sure we include something for everyone.

And there is something else we tend to do to make our holiday a success: we set some general dos and don’ts for our youngest son. To make it very clear to him which type of behaviour we, as parents, expect of him during our stay, we set up a recognition program with stars. We define 8 things for which he can earn stars on a daily basis. For example, things like eating healthy food, always being polite, displaying a positive attitude during sports activities, doing 2 pages of schoolwork, participating in activities organized by the Children’s Club, …  At the end of our stay, the earned stars are converted into a gift voucher which he gets to spend to buy a gift in the gift shop of the hotel. I can guarantee you this tactic generates a lot of extra energy, not only for us parents but also for the kids themselves.

3. Plan every day

Every morning at breakfast (or sometimes even the night before, at dinner) we plan our upcoming day.  Our plans take into account the weather forecast for that day and are based both on everybody’s preferences and on the activities organized by the hotel. By clearly planning out our day, we are all much more focused, we don’t lose time arguing about what to do and we all have the same mind-set.

Really, it is just like at home: if you are able to manage your time well and plan things carefully, you are able to enjoy your holiday more intensely, with the sweetest memories to cherish afterwards!

4. Discipline yourself

One of my personal challenges during my holiday usually is to control my weight as I tend to gain weight easily when I am in a more relax state of mind and being. That is why I get up at 6am almost every morning to go for a run in the mountains. I can assure you this is tough most mornings, but I can also assure you the rewards are endless! Every time I am out there in the mountains running through the forest, I get to enjoy the most beautiful sunrise, the most delightful smell of herbs and plants, the most peaceful silence of being out there all alone, … I even run into a deer sometimes! Those experiences are beautiful beyond words and I benefit from that effort of getting up for a long run during the entire day: I feel completely in balance, and my day is much longer because I get up early. As a result, I am able to do more activities with my children and spouse, while still having enough me-time. So continue with your good habits during your vacation. And even if you end up skipping a day or two – which happens to me too sometimes – don’t let that throw you off track to start again the next day!

5. Spend some time together at home after you get back

It is important to take some time to “adjust” after you get back home – the mere idea that you can come back and know that you still have some days to spend together with your family before going into work again, creates a valuable peace of mind. It gives you time to do some groceries, to organize certain things, to fix things that need fixing at home, … in short: to slowly get into the flow again. And by slowly getting into the flow, your mind will be much more open to new ideas and delight you with inspirational flashes that would not have appeared if you had immediately started work again. Indeed, it is better to have a shorter holiday stay but to leave some days to spend at home afterwards, than to extend your holiday stay to the last day of your vacation, and then start working again – this generates so much more unnecessary stress!

6. Make the transition to working life easier by planning in things to look forward to

For lots of people, the mere thought of being pulled back into the hectic business world is very tiring.

That is why I think it is very important to already schedule in some small, fun things to look forward to in the months that follow your vacation – things of which the mere thought already creates energy! This doesn’t have to be a trip to Hawaii… no, I really mean small things such as planning an evening out with your spouse or a good friend, or treating yourself to a massage, or planning to take an afternoon off to go shopping, or going to a concert, or organizing a party, or… It is all about quality time, and the mere idea that you have new inspirational events to look forward to will make it easier to step into the sometimes-crazy carousel of daily life again.


These six tips may all be common sense to most of us, but they are not always common practice. That is why I took the time to write them down for you, so they can prompt you to experience the greatest of holidays with your family, return fully energized and even look forward to starting work again – sharing that positive summer energy boost with all of your employees and customers!

Enjoy your summer holidays!

Nathalie Arteel
Leading Angel Arteel Group

A new look at employee motivation

Motivating employees seems easy – in theory. But while the concept of motivation may be straightforward, motivating employees in real-life situations is far more challenging. This Harvard Business Review article explains why Carrots & Sticks do not work.

As leaders, what can we do then to motivate individuals in our teams? In this respect, it is important to respond to the expectations of employees. And they change.

Employee’s expectations shifted in three ways

1. Company purpose
More and more, employees expect more from their jobs. Especially millennials find purpose important. An organization’s purpose defines how company strengths interact with societal needs.

2. Emotional connection
Employees increasingly connect via digital technologies. At the same time, opportunities for face-to-face interactions with colleagues and customers diminish. But connections are crucial for commitment, for the bond employees experience with their organisation and each other.

3. Directional clarity
Employees face never-ending transformations. VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) has become a trendy acronym. You often hear people say “Hey, it’s crazy out here”. New technologies, competitors or market opportunities. Change has become standard. Hence the need for people to have a clear guidance, all pulling in the same direction.

Combine motivators

The shift in employee’s expectations makes it even more difficult to motivate them.

I’d like to suggest a new view motivation that speaks not only to the head, but also the heart of employees. One that keeps extrinsic motivators and focuses more on intrinsic factors.

Ideally you combine different motivators for optimal engagement. Combine extrinsic and intrinsic motivation: people work best when meaning and reward go hand in hand. Appeal to rational elements that guide behaviour but don’t forget emotional needs.

How to do it in practice?

A peer recognition program makes it easy to tick three of the four boxes above. When one’s work or effort is singled out for praise by colleagues or a boss, we feel strongly connected and affirmed. These emotional motivators are very strong. The rational, extrinsic motivators are triggered as well. When we can save for a team treat or experience for instance, we feel truly rewarded.

Do you know how to foster motivation at work?

Koen Schreurs
Helping HR & Management to boost company culture & engagement

Of Cows and Corporate Cultures

I have just returned from Austria. Land of Nature. Land of Friendly People. And I discovered a weird analogy between the behaviour of cows and employees!

Every summer, we travel there as some sort of cure for both our body and our mind. And every summer, we choose to stay in the same beautiful spot: a family-run hotel that started its business 40 years ago, when a farmer and a hairdresser shared a dream, a great amount of perseverance and a rocklike belief in their vision.

In the course of time, we developed a close relationship with the entire Pirktl family. So, while we were enjoying our stay at their resort earlier this month, Herr Pirktl Senior kindly invited us to join him for a visit to an exceptionally beautiful alpine pasture – all the way up in the mountains – where he lets his herds of cattle graze over the summer months. While we were soaking in the breath-taking beauty of the view up there, Herr Pirktl shared with us a most peculiar fact:

Year after year, more and more cows are starting to show aggressive behaviour towards the people hiking through the alpine highlands. At first sight, there seems to be no obvious or immediate cause for this change in behaviour: the cows are being given everything they could possibly need in terms of food and dietary supplements, as they have been for centuries. The only thing that has changed in the course of the last years, is the farmers’ attitude towards their cows: more and more do they treat the animals in view of their production capacity – milking them electronically, without any time or effort put into “sweet little nothings” or attentive caressing like in the old days. Strange as it may sound, the older and wiser generations of local people are convinced that this is the reason behind the peculiar fact that the cows have started to turn against anybody trespassing their meadows. Indeed, for them, the only plausible explanation for the remarkable change in the cows’ behaviour is to be found in the fact that the farmers simply have no more love or time to spare for their animals.

While this makes for an entertaining story, there is at the same time an alarming undercurrent here – all the more because I come across the exact same phenomenon in a lot of companies these days!

Management and HR departments are continuously looking for ways in which to further and further increase employees’ benefits in terms of wage-optimisation, perks and any trend-chasing initiative you could possibly imagine. Yet, ironically, at the exact same time, more and more employees seem to become more and more stressed and fall ill more and more often, for longer and longer periods of time.

Some would consider this to be a contradiction in terms, but experience has taught me differently: most companies these days make company life far too complex and, as such, miss the obvious! Constructing abstract financial schemes tends to be put at the top of their list of priorities. Yet while doing so, they overlook the fact that what people basically need most in order to flourish and be happy, is some of the management’s time, recognition for who they are and appreciation for the work they do. And one can’t accomplish fulfilment of these basic needs by relying on even the best of schemes, plans, tables or spread sheets!

Even when it comes to the tradition of end-of-year gifts, many companies nowadays choose to stick to giving an uninspiring voucher, just because this is the most convenient option. Or they simply convert the value of the end-of-year gift into a sum of money, just because this is the fiscally preferred option.

In his book “Leaders eat last”, Simon Sinek discusses this prevailing mindset of “destructive abundance”, where the fear of losing what has been achieved holds sway over all corporate management decisions. As this mindset continues to prevail, hidden costs are steadily but strongly increasing. And in its wake, the popularity of the self-help industry is reaching an all-time high…

And indeed, it hurts to have to confirm that, in this day and age, our corporate culture has become tainted by indifference – personal involvement is far to be found! What I see all too often reminds me of the song by Gilbert Bécaud, in which he sings “L’indifférence, elle te tue à petits coups”.

So how about you? Do you believe this path we are on is what will make people happier and healthier in the long run?

Luckily, once in a while, CEO’s with a different mindset cross my path, and I see companies steer a different course – a course where people take the centre stage, where a positive business culture is a conscious choice, where company values truly live in the day-to-day running of the company and where employees are treated as people instead of purely in view of their production capacity… and that observation does me a power of good!

May I invite you to step up too? To show courage and create an inspired “thank you” – moment this year, one your employees will always remember? I can guarantee you this will not only surprise your employees in a positive way, but it will equally reinforce your employer brand!

Nathalie Arteel
Recognition & Motivation Expert
Leading Angel Arteel Group

P.S. Luckily, as you can see on the photo above, there are also still a lot of friendly cows out there, just as there are also still a lot of warm-hearted people! 🙂

Securing your company’s future – major HR trend & top priority for 2018

major HR trend & top priority for 2018

It may sound counterintuitive, but by 2030, many of the world’s largest economies will have more jobs than adult citizens to do those jobs . We are headed for a global workforce crisis, which is why today, more than ever before, it is no longer enough to pay a decent salary and heap on some compensation & benefits. The only companies that will manage to hold on to their ticket to success for decennia to come are the ones that start securing their future right now…

How do I know this?

As Sales & Marketing Director, I have been meeting top company CEOs on a daily basis for more than fifteen years. I walk through the corridors of their headquarters, and I see what I see. I listen to the stories they tell me during our meetings, and I hear what I hear.  And what I see and what I hear is crystal clear: we are facing a total make-over of our corporate landscape and the companies that will make the cut in years to come are the companies where you experience a strong and positive company culture.

No more. No less.

I’m not alone

This personal experience of mine is backed up by both numbers and statistics, and viewpoints of other experts in the field. In his striking, data-filled TedTalk – “The workforce crisis of 2030 and how to start solving it now” –  HR Expert Rainer Strack, for example, presents us with some seriously intriguing numbers, statistics and insights!

A “People Strategy” as the only key to survival

While I would say the entire TedTalk is “compulsory watching” for any management and HR department, what it in essence boils down to is this: we are headed for a global workforce crisis that is approaching much faster than most of us realize, and the only way to make it out alive for any company will be to implement what Strack refers to as a “People Strategy”.

A strategy in which workforce planning becomes more important than financial planning, and companies give it their all to attract talented employees, manage and upskill their talent, and manage to retain the best ones by realizing an appreciation and relationship culture within their company.

Because YES: a global survey carried out by BCG amongst no less than 200 000 men and women from 189 countries showed that, when presented with a list of 26 topics and asked about their happiness on the job, “salary” only ranked in 8th place! The top 4 topics which people deemed most important were all related to company culture, with the top priority worldwide being “appreciation for your work” – and this not only once a year at Christmas, but every day of the week!

High time to get started!


Right now, we are at a turning point, and the companies of the future will be those companies that not only cite a company mission and a set of company values on a plaque in their entrance hall or on their website, but those who equally have the know-how to create a true and lasting connection between this mission and these values on the one hand, and their employees on the other: the employees of the companies of the future are the ones that feel truly appreciated and happy at work, and as such LIVE the company’s vision, mission and values – day, after day, after day.

The essence of success lies hidden in the essence of your company culture… what then are you doing right now to secure your company’s future?

Nathalie Arteel
Recognition & Motivation Expert
Leading Angel Arteel Group

P.S. As an entrepreneur, I myself came across a lot of pitfalls in the process of developing my own People Strategy, assembling my own team of co-workers that give their professional all. And experience has taught me that most other companies come across those exact same pitfalls! Therefore, in the course of the last 15 years, I have been studying what it is that turns particular companies into lasting success stories, and how these companies go about composing their teams of dedicated and committed employees.

I first applied the knowledge and expertise I gathered to my own company; on the basis thereof, me and my team then set out to develop a set of tools and solutions which could equally be applied in other companies, and which we now export to no less than 39 different countries!

If you are interested in finding out more about our People Strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of my team members on arteel.eu. We will be delighted to help you!

Why cultural change fails

In the post on company culture problems, we identified five warnings signs for a culture that negatively impacts the company. But very often a toxic or broken culture is in fact a confused culture. A culture is confusing when employees receive conflicting messages. Sales guidelines are inconsistent with performance objectives. Leaders’ behaviour does not match with expected employee behaviour. Inconsistency breeds confusion.

Culture change programs often focus on one or a few aspects of company culture.

Ignoring alignment of all culture drivers is why most culture change fails. Initiatives that change only some cultural aspects either have no impact or – worse – have a negative impact by adding conflicting messages. Executive teams must look at the culture holistically and address all primary drivers that need alignment.

But what are the main drivers of corporate culture? There are five drivers of company culture.

1. Leadership and communication

The way leaders define and communicate the company’s purpose and direction, influences whether employees will exemplify those values. Since actions speak louder than words, the most influential messages are broadcasted by the behaviour of leaders. They should walk the talk and act consistently with the values.

2. Talent practices

Organizations should hire, onboard, develop and engage employees aligned to the company values. Throughout the employee life cycle, organizations must be consistent on why someone gets hired, called a performer and receives a promotion.

For example, advocating autonomy as a core value on your website and in your onboarding program, but allowing or even praising managers that micro-manage employees creates a confused culture.

3. Work organization

Structures, processes, teams and tools should support the desired culture. Most organizations base their operating structure on what worked in the past. They fail to see that organizing internal teams can greatly promote the desired culture. It can ensure that communication flows quickly and naturally, that ideas and responsibilities are shared between entities…

For example, when you advocate a focus on customer service, but fail to organize in such a way that issues can be solved immediately, you put a customer first culture at risk.

4. Shared values

Core values should be the compass that guides employees in their daily actions. Common ways to interact with colleagues and client, set standards for expected behaviour. The issue is not so much that companies don’t have or communicate values, but more that they fail to link values to individuals’ daily work. Employees should believe in and apply the values in their work every day. They should live the values. Luckily there are powerful tools to help you achieve this.

5. Praise for performance

One of the most powerful influencers of human behaviour is recognition. All employees should be both held accountable for and receive praise for their efforts and results in supporting the company goals. All performance, reward and recognition management practices should be aligned with the values and the desired culture.

Unfortunately, almost all research indicates that employees do not receive enough ongoing feedback, do not receive enough aligned incentives and do not receive enough recognition for their work.

To change culture, you must pull the right levers within these five drivers.

The best way to approach any culture transformation project is to assess all cultural drivers in your company and ensure the alignment of message they send to employees.

How do YOU use the culture drivers to accelerate culture change? Drop me a line at koen@arteel.eu and I’ll be happy to share some further insights.

Koen Schreurs
Helping HR & Management to boost company culture & engagement