Stories#083 Jeroens faith in human resources

#083 Jeroens faith in human resources

The story of Karin's lifelong curiosity is a story of jeroens faith in human resources

Karin Paardenkooper’s mind is made up: in a few years she will stop working, but continue learning. Karin deliberately chose to leave Shaping2030 discussions to others. Not out of disinterest, but to make room. Jeroen Jansen, member of Karin’s generation, does actively work on the development of UT as Lead Individuals and Teams. He makes plans regarding recognition and rewards, for example. Yet he too misses the voice of the younger generation. ‘I don’t consider myself old, but my work is about the future. The university must create space and encourage young members of the UT-community to also make their voices heard.’

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Monday 04 july 2022 

navigation on intuition 

Karin: ‘Jeroen Jansen. When I googled your name, I got a lot of results. So I’d rather ask you: who is Jeroen Jansen?’

Jeroen: ‘Good question. All sorts of things characterize me. This little hanger of a ship’s propeller on my chain, for example. Seafaring and the ocean are deep in my heart. My big ambition was to become a mate. Until I turned out to be colour-blind during the medical examination at the nautical academy.’

Karin: ‘Why is that a problem?’

Jeroen: ‘Navigation at sea depends almost entirely on the distinction between red and green. Red is left, green is right. If you can’t make that distinction you’ll get into trouble, especially in bad weather. The fact that I didn’t go out to sea confused me deeply. This is the end of my life, I thought.’

Karin: ‘Fortunately not!’

Jeroen: ‘Indeed. Eventually I had various managerial positions at Ahold. I used to talk about revenues and profits. A colleague once asked me whether I believed in what I said. Well, I didn’t. I thought it was nonsense. So I switched to human resources (HR), also because Ahold started working with self-managing teams. I’m a big supporter of that.’

I have faith in people and I believe that they are perfectly capable of optimally using their own capacities

Jeroen Jansen

Karin: Why?

Jeroen: ‘I have faith in people. I believe that they are perfectly capable of optimally using their own capacities. We all make fundamental choices in our private lives: about studying, buying houses, getting married, having children and raising and educating them. And then, when we’re at work, we suddenly would no longer be able to make our own decisions? I find that strange.’

Karin: ‘UT is an environment with very independent people, of course.’

Jeroen: ‘Yes, at a certain point I became the classic example of the father who is always late for swimming lessons, dinner, sports or the Christmas celebration. At the time, I often pulled over by the side of the road, crying and thinking: darn these traffic jams, late again. I wanted to work closer to home. After some more wandering, I became an HR manager at ITC and later at UT.’

Karin: ‘Funnily enough, you don’t really strike me as an HR kind of guy. I’m used to hearing ‘no, you can’t’ or ‘that doesn’t fit between the lines’. You are intuitive, stand for self-managing teams and trust.’

Jeroen: ‘That’s right, I navigate on my intuition. As an HR manager it is often about the individual interest and that of the organisation. Sometimes you are torn between these two. I would regularly look at myself in the mirror in the evening and ask myself: did I make the right decision or has someone been playing games with me?’

Karin: ‘Now you are the project leader of the Shaping Expert Group Individuals and Teams. You organise round tables with people from different faculties and all kinds of support staff, right across the UT. Will this lead to a joint result?’

Jeroen: ‘Yes, it will. In fact, it’s even much broader than just UT, because we also talk about recognition and rewards, for example, which was initiated to diversify career opportunities and careers of academic staff. It affects all universities in the Netherlands, and beyond.’

I was pleased to read a paper by 170 top academics who voiced their opposition to recognition and rewards, because now we can have a real conversation

Jeroen Jansen

‘For a while, I had the feeling that recognition and rewards was mainly the concern of a small group of ‘believers’. That’s why I was pleased to read a paper in which 170 top academics voiced their opposition. Now we can begin to have a real conversation, I thought.’

Karin: ‘Yes, I understand that you approach this as a national discussion. But the fact that UT has picked up on it, is what I personally like most about it. This will really help us as UT staff.’

Jeroen: ‘That’s right. And UT is really taking the lead: we also want to apply recognition and rewards to support and management staff. I think that sends out a very strong message, because opportunities and development are quite obvious in an academic career. In other career paths, you quickly get into the domain of talent management. For many people, career development is all about promotion. But if someone wants to take a step back, that should also be possible. And we must also be honest if we can no longer facilitate someone’s talent because certain positions are filled. The question then becomes: how can we still help you? We have a lot to do in that area. But we must remember that that’s quite a big culture change.’

Karin: ‘True. The real work will have to be done once the Shaping Expert Group will no longer exist. I have contributed to previous UT vision rounds and I didn’t always see enough of these sessions reflected in the organisation. This time, I chose not to actively participate. I’m 62 and I feel it’s not my turn anymore. How are you going to make sure that good ideas are actually implemented?’

Jeroen: ‘There is always a risk that ambitious plans don’t take off. You need people in every department or faculty who are truly involved. And who make a strong case for change.’

It’s quite a big culture change; you need people in every department or faculty who make a strong case for change

Jeroen Jansen

Karin: ‘And will you still be there to witness this change?’

Jeroen: ‘Well, soon I’ll be 61, so I won’t be working anymore in 2030. And that’s a good thing, because I sometimes miss the younger generation in the discussion. Those who are at the beginning of their career. I don’t consider myself old, but we do talk about the future.’

Karin: ‘Good point. Young academics are so incredibly busy. It really is unbelievable how many balls these people have to keep in the air.’

Jeroen: ‘Exactly. The university should make room and encourage young colleagues to make their voices heard too. Before we finish, can I ask you a question? You just mentioned your age. Do you already have plans for after your career?’

Karin: ‘Oh, a million. Back to university, to brush up on the last twenty years of Spanish literature. Maybe take adult education classes in physics and chemistry. And I’m going to regularly visit my sons, who both live in France.’

Jeroen: ‘How cool. I wish we had another hour! But I really have to catch a train to talk about recognition and rewards at the Universities of the Netherlands.’

Karin: ‘Let’s continue chatting another time then.’

Jeroen: ‘I’d like that!’

Drs. Karin Paardenkoper (1959)

studied Spanish Linguistics and Literature at the University of Amsterdam and lives in Enschede. She came to UT in 2006 and worked as head of international office for seven years. After helping build the foundation for that department, she fulfilled advisory roles at international education and international affairs. Karin is currently senior advisor international partnerships and development, and country coordinator for Mexico.


wanted to become a mate on a seagoing tug boat, but did not pass the examination at the nautical academy. Instead, he became a marine engineer to still be able to go out to sea. He worked in engine rooms of ships for a short time. That wasn’t the alternative he had hoped for, so he soon set foot ashore and started working in the vegetable sector. He later held various management positions at Ahold and Prismagroep. During his time at Ahold, Jeroen completed a study in human resources. He became HR manager at Holland Casino Enschede, before transferring to the ITC and later to UT. Jeroen is now tenure track and talent management coordinator at ITC and project leader of the Shaping Expert Group Individuals and Teams.