Financial services provider Rabobank Nederland introduced Rabo Unplugged, an integrated style of working inspired by the New World of Work. Products and solutions from Microsoft ensure that staff have the latest technologies to enable them to work independently of time and place.
Rabobank was set up at the end of the nineteenth century as a federation of small farmers’ banks. After all this time, its cooperative structure and local connections remain its principal characteristic features. The aim of Rabobank is to look after the economic interests of its members and customers. Respect, integrity, professionalism, and sustainability are of paramount importance to achieve this aim.
Rabo Unplugged is the integrated style of working of Rabobank Nederland, inspired by developments at its subsidiary Interpolis and by the New World of Work principle, where people are the focus in a flexible work environment, supported by innovative technology. Information becomes independent of time and place, which
creates a way of working with fewer rules, greater independence, better cooperation, and a more entrepreneurial spirit. Staff are provided with the latest ICT (information and communications technologies) facilities and mobile equipment and make their own decisions as to where, when, and how they can achieve the best results in the most efficient way. “Rabo Unplugged means putting your trust in people, letting them take responsibility for their own work and create a work-life balance in their own way,” says Piet van Schijndel, Member of the Board of Directors of Rabobank Nederland.
By introducing Rabo Unplugged, Rabobank wants to provide an attractive work environment which fits in with the spirit of the time. “I predict that over the next ten years, one of the biggest problems we will face is how to get good people to join our company. If you have something to offer where people can balance their work and their home life in a modern way which suits those people, then that would naturally be a way for our company to attract people,” says Piet van Schijndel. Although Rabo Unplugged follows the New World of Work principle, by introducing this style of working, Rabobank is also reverting back to its cooperative past: working together to enable better results, but still retaining individual independence. “People will have to identify their own qualities again and see how they can help the organization to achieve its aim by collaborating with colleagues,” explains Henny van Egmond, Program Manager for Rabo Unplugged. “Where Rabobank is concerned, Rabo Unplugged actually means reverting to its old cooperative style of working but in a new form and with support from the latest technologies.”
Rabo Unplugged requires a flexible technological platform as employees need to be able to access the information and resources they require to be able to work together safely and securely anytime and anywhere: at home, on the road, or in the office. Microsoft® technology makes it possible for Rabobank employees to work independently of time and place.
||Rabo Unplugged means putting your trust in people, letting them take responsibility for their own work and create a work-life balance in their own way.
||Piet van Schijndel
Member of the Board of Directors, Rabobank Nederland
The Windows Vista® operating system and the 2007 Microsoft Office system provide optimum support for mobile work, creating a single transparent workplace for users. What users don’t see is the underlying infrastructure such as management, enhanced security—provided by Windows® BitLocker™ Drive Encryption—and storage. However, these components are crucial when it comes to enabling the new style of working as they provide a reliable connection, an application which is always available, and the knowledge that information is safeguarded and only authorized users can gain access to it.
Alongside the Microsoft Office Outlook® messaging and collaboration client, Microsoft also offers a solution for enabling effective virtual communication: Office Communicator 2007. This product enables employees to locate and contact each other easily, wherever they may be working. To enable easy information and knowledge sharing, Rabobank uses the Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007. “With Office SharePoint Server, all your information is located in the same place, which makes collaboration much easier. It is no longer everyone for himself and that is a really good thing,” says Stan Petit, ICT Consultant at Rabobank.
Rabobank also provides mobile equipment to support the new style of working. This equipment can range from a smartphone to a laptop, depending on the employee’s needs. However, it is not only the technology which enables people to adopt this new style of working. “It comes down to the people themselves. They have to push the button and choose to adopt a different way of working. Once they have made that decision, the technology will help them to do this,” says van Egmond.
Since October 2008, a number of Rabobank employees have had access to a new physical location. Beneluxstaete is a modern and innovative working environment that provides optimum support for the Rabo Unplugged style of working. Here, 250 flexible workplaces have been set up where employees can work on their own or with their colleagues. They can log into the network anywhere within Beneluxstaete and access all the information they require via a wireless network. But Rabobank is not only focused on the physical environment—the ‘mental environment’ is of equal importance. “In order to work in accordance with the Rabo Unplugged way of working, people have to push the button themselves. This can be difficult for employees who have worked in accordance with traditional methods for years. We can help them make the change by holding meetings with all our staff and describing how they can create a good work-life balance, for example,” says van Egmond.
Following the introduction of Rabo Unplugged, changes quickly became noticeable within the corporate culture. “At Beneluxstaete, we have noticed that managers and employees are finding it easier to locate each other. There is more interaction between the different departments. I believe in the potential of these chance encounters. Rabo Unplugged puts people who would not normally work together in contact with each other. This can lead to tremendous innovations,” says van Egmond.
Although Rabo Unplugged means having to make changes, reactions have been encouraging. “People consider being able to make their own decisions as an extremely positive development. They like to be given more responsibility and feel much more connected to their work than before. And that leads to better results,” says van Egmond. “Employees also like getting to grips with new technologies. They like the fact that they are gaining so many great tools which will give them so many possibilities. It inspires confidence.”