Edwin Verlangen

Director AAFM, Avans College of Higher Education

How the collaboration with How Company started
Schools tend to have hierarchical cultures, meaning lots of things are organized top-down, which can restrict how much space a teacher has to develop themselves. Edwin “I see it as my responsibility as director to put the teacher in the driving seat rather than telling them what to do. We wanted to give the academy back to the people who work there. “ The staff in his organization really care about the students and are passionate about what they do, but between colleagues this passion wasn’t so evident, he explains. “Our teachers are great, but they weren’t communicating with each other, some issues got neglected and there wasn’t much sense of a collective drive.” Avans AAFM wanted to see staff communicating with their colleagues with the same passion and engagement they showed towards their students.
  • Personal leadership
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Custom made programs
  • Organizational change
  • Incompany
  • Team development
  • Lean and Agile
I would advise anyone looking to create a lasting change in the attitudes of people to run a program like this.
Avans AAFM chose for a joint approach between How Company and their business partner Perficio Advisors. In this so-called Why How and What program How went to work on the personal leadership in the team, with an emphasis on attitude and behavior. Perficio focused meanwhile on the business processes in the organization. The management team was the first to take the 3-day Personal Leadership program, together with the opinion leaders and skeptics from the teaching teams. They then went on to take the Practical Leadership program and a two-day strategic session to set the mission, vision and core values. Every single person working in the organization was invited to give his or her input on this document, which ensured there was buy-in for the change process. After six months 90% of the organization had taken the program. During the culture day all employees were again invited to give their input on the core values, helping turn them into practical agreements concerning day-to-day behavior. All new employees were also given the chance to take the Personal Leadership program. Together, all those who participated took their learnings back into their day-to-day work, inspiring their colleagues on the work floor.
The effect of the program is clearly visible in the academy, and this is supported by the results of the customer satisfaction survey. “Student satisfaction (conducted across one thousand students) rose from 77% in 2013 to 84% in 2015. With this kind of survey any increases are usually marginal. Employee satisfaction also rose significantly from 6.2 to 7.3, while sick leave dropped in the same period from 7% to 1%!” Other aspects noted by Edwin are the pride he now sees among the staff in his organization. “Problems now get picked up and solved by members of staff rather than by the managers; people are more responsible and take more ownership.” The power of the program lies in the quality of the trainers and the professionalism of How Company, he says. “Really good trainers speak from personal conviction, and at How Company they do. You really see that they have gone through a long and intensive training. Meanwhile they speak the language of the education sector. That’s important in our line of work. Training teachers is not easy, because they are used to being the ones teaching others. But the How Company trainers manage to get the message across in such a way that they create a lasting attitude shift, “ stresses Edwin. Asked how he would sum up How Company in five words, he says “professional, different, ability to get to the heart of the matter, powerful and humor.”
About Avans College of Higher Education
Avans provides higher education in seven different locations in Breda, Den Bosch and Tilburg. They have a dynamic network of students, teachers, lectors and professionals who work together to create a sustainable society. Avans is one of the leading colleges of further education in the Netherlands.