Aukje Reinders (Coloriet): “Collaboration can extend the pole vault and increase societal impact.”

Instead of standing still, CEO Aukje Reinders insisted on formulating a new strategy for Coloriet in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. She believes that with all the challenges facing the organization, there is a need for renewed momentum and energy.

1. What was the issue for which Turner was engaged? And what made it complex?

Summer 2020. Aukje Reinders, CEO of Coloriet, faced a difficult decision. Society had come to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 crisis, and Coloriet, with locations in Lelystad, Dronten, and Zeewolde, was naturally confronted with the profound consequences. Reinders, who joined as CEO in 2015, had to decide whether to initiate a new policy cycle, including a strategic course plan, in the midst of this turbulent time. She felt her responsibility towards the clients, the 1,400 employees, and society. “It doesn’t weigh on me, but I am responsible for the continuity of this company,” she says. “If you don’t anticipate in a timely manner, if you don’t know where you want to go in a timely manner, things will happen to you. And that’s something I don’t want for our organization. You need to know what you’re doing, be in control.”

Reinders, who started her career as a nurse, sees the profound consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, but they are not the only challenges for the future. There are five other developments that will have a significant impact on the organization.

The atypical population structure of the Flevoland region. While some areas in the Netherlands experience a double aging population, Coloriet’s work area experiences triple aging. Furthermore, Flevoland plans to build many houses, which means many more clients in the near future.

The HR challenge. Like the hospitality and construction sectors, the healthcare sector faces an imbalance in the inflow and outflow of healthcare professionals. Coloriet continues to attract new colleagues, partly due to its favorable location between Amsterdam and Friesland. The village of Urk also always offers Coloriet many new colleagues. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find sufficient personnel.

Coloriet acknowledges that it has not adequately addressed technical and social innovation. The organization’s target group has a relatively high number of people in their eighties and elderly individuals with dementia.

There is insufficient innovative real estate for the many clients in their home environment and insufficient bed capacity to serve the large influx of clients.

The extra hundred million euros allocated by Minister Van Rijn in 2017 for nursing home care turned out to be a redistribution of funds. Coloriet received an additional six million euros for three years, but there are significant shortages in the healthcare sector at the macro level, and the rates will be substantially reduced in the coming years.

So yes, Reinders strongly felt the need to address these (and additional) issues with a new strategy. She wants to give her organization renewed momentum, new energy.

She therefore sought the assistance of an expert in strategic matters. Someone who could become her governance partner, an advisor, and a sparring partner who supports her in this complex process. Steering alone ensures speed, but this journey is of a different level. In late 2020, she came into contact with Edwin Schippers from Turner, who, as a strategy specialist, has extensive experience in the healthcare sector and deep knowledge of the industry.

2. What led to the breakthrough? Was it in terms of content, change management, and/or project management?

Perhaps there was not necessarily a breakthrough. Reinders and Schippers simply embarked on a well-considered journey. Reinders referred to it as an “expedition” in the process. They formulated three key directions.

The first direction is the client journey, the care path of the clients. Coloriet aims to be a one-stop-shop where clients can access their complete care career. “We don’t organize everything ourselves, but we ensure that when something arises, we provide the solution, from household assistance to palliative care. We are always by your side to provide warm and safe care.”

The second direction is for Coloriet to enter into a collaboration with another VVT provider (nursing home, care home, and home care). “We have explicitly abandoned the competitive model and chosen collaboration. This has led to a follow-up assignment for Turner: Edwin is facilitating the discussions. Hopefully, we can pop the champagne in the summer.”

And the third direction is to be and remain an attractive employer for the employees. “We cannot conjure up people, but we want Coloriet to be known as an attractive employer.”

3. How was the execution achieved?

The second point, the decision to form an alliance with a suitable collaboration partner, was particularly challenging. Reinders stretched her managerial responsibilities for that purpose, as she calls it. “Edwin supported me in that by standing by my side but also challenging me firmly: ‘Is that really the case, Aukje?’ he would ask. Then I would pause, and two days later, I would make a decision.”

Reinders and Schippers formed an advisory group consisting of two members from the Supervisory Board, two members from the Works Council representing the staff, and two representatives from the Client Participation Council. They discuss every step they take with the advisory group. It is not easy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when physical meetings are sometimes not possible. However, it helps to create support for the idea, which eventually gains broad acceptance. “It was almost a logical consequence of taking the right steps with the right people at the right moments.”

4. Are there benefits for all stakeholders? For customers, shareholders, employees, management, and society?

Coloriet takes the social mission so seriously that Reinders deliberately sought a way to contribute to it maximally. She has the ambition to take social responsibility and ensure the survival of the healthcare organization. It used to be easier when healthcare was financed through the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act (AWBZ). Nowadays, there are three funding streams: the Social Support Act, the Long-Term Care Act, and the Health Insurance Act, which need to be interconnected. Due to each funding stream having its own processes and incurring personnel costs, this construct becomes much more expensive. Reinders would rather see the money being spent on the clients.

“Collaboration can be truly complex,” says Reinders. “But it can extend the pole vault, increasing societal impact.” Turner has consistently sought to establish connections between the two organizations. This has greatly helped us, both in the exploration phase and in determining the substantive agenda.

The new strategy also has a positive impact on management focus. Each member of the management team has their own responsibilities, but now they are aligned in the same direction. “Structure follows strategy,” says Reinders. “We now have a robust, clear strategy. We have gone through this process together and speak the same language. Everyone feels ownership; we want the same thing.”

5. What was the main dilemma, and how was it addressed?

A dilemma? Perhaps it was how to find sufficient time and energy to completely revise the strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Reinders. “Like other organizations in the healthcare sector, we have had many sick people, which requires a lot of time and attention. Time has been the biggest dilemma. We may have needed more time than we initially thought. However, when making such a significant decision as establishing a strategic alliance, that may not be so bad. It’s not yet a marriage or a merger, but rather a strong courtship with the neighbors, as Edwin puts it. The decision itself was not a dilemma because we have become convinced that this was the best step to effectively respond to the demands of society.”

“Turner has consistently sought to establish connections between the two organizations. This has greatly helped us, both in the exploration phase and in determining the substantive agenda.”

Aukje Reinders, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Coloriet

Photo: Peter Arno Broer

Edwin Schippers, practice leader Healthcare Turner

Picture: Peter Arno Broer

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