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The Employeneurship Model, ever heard of it?

Employeneurship consists in thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, while at the same time benefiting from the security of an employment contract. This is a model that has shown itself to be particularly well adapted to the activity of TMC, a technology consultancy company that employs consultants who are also engineers.

The neologism “Employeneur” was invented by the TMC group, which originates from the Netherlands. It is a company for the secondment of engineers and specialists in high-tech industries. It has a total staff of 1200 in 10 countries and revenues of more than 100 million euros.

When he was contacted by Thijs Manders, founder of TMC group, Emmanuel Mottrie went there out of politeness, because his intention was actually to create his own consultancy firm. He discovered people who completely shared his views on what technology consultancy should be, together with his values in relation to the organization of work. He has been the company’s CEO for four years.

A model that offers fulfillment and security

It is a model based on a twin philosophy. The principle is to add to technical qualifications (hard skills) entrepreneurial competences (power skills) that were not taught to engineers during their studies. This additional competence is both fundamental and differentiating to the relationship with the client, and can make it more fluid, as well as more creative. The second part of this philosophy consists in enhancing the value of engineers, who are somewhat undervalued on the social and economic levels of our society. TMC is a platform that offers engineers an environment that values them.

The five pillars of a unique organization

No. 1 – Profit-sharing and transparency…

Every Employeneur knows exactly how much he costs and how much the company will invoice the client for his service. He is therefore given a fixed remuneration on the one hand, while TMC will share with him part of the profit generated by his assignment on the other. The company is alone in practicing such transparency in this sector. It is a brave principle, as it is well-known that the question of salaries is a delicate one and often the last point to be resolved in organizations that aim to be horizontal and transparent.

This represents real added value in terms of a “great place to work” and it is a practice that ranked first among essential values in an internal survey at TMC.

No. 2 – YOUniversity training and coaching

Every application to TMC starts with an online test in which a candidate’s entrepreneurial potential is assessed. In order to be “admissible”, it is necessary for a person to achieve the average of the results obtained by the members of the company. Once he has joined the company, an Employeneur will benefit from support, coaching and training to support him in his entrepreneurial progress. The Employeneur manages his budget as he sees fit, with external professional coaches of his choice. Each person has his own coach – a form of individualization in a shared process.

No. 3 – Business Cells

TMC is organized into centers of expertise – very autonomous entities where colleagues meet regularly. “We call them impact session or pizza session”, but the quality of the exchanges that take place there has made them real “knowledge technology tanks”.

Employeneurs share their know-how, talk about what they see in the market, benefit from these discussions in their personal development, and help their clients to benefit…

No. 4 – The permanent contract

Benefit from the independence of the entrepreneur, without suffering the associated stress and uncertainty: a status that needs no supporting arguments in order to be convincing.

No. 5 – The entrepreneurial lab

This is an opportunity for Employeneurs to work on personal ideas: a service to offer to clients, a new technology or a start-up to be launched… Because becoming an entrepreneur after having been an Employeneur is greatly encouraged. Emmanuel Mottrie has been pleased to see around a dozen companies created in the time that he has been CEO.

It’s all in the name: the Member Company

Employeneurship is a unique model, created by TMC and scientifically endorsed by the Dutch University of Technology on this ownership principle: liberty, autonomy and responsibility. Participants manage their own budgets and courses, with complete transparency.

The employee-employer relationship is a relic from another century. And Emmanuel Mottrie is not thinking of the 19th century: “If one treats a person like a child, he will behave like a child… If one treats him like an employee, he will behave like one.” Engineers are intelligent and clearly very competent in their discipline, but they are capable of doing things far beyond their technical know-how. By creating this status of Employeneurs, TMC stimulates those who work with the firm and benefits fully from their potential, while they are fulfilled. A win-win situation.

A HR team – what for?

With its particularly horizontal organization, TMC does not feel the need for it. The drawback of a HR policy is that it will tend to create a model for an average employee. However, the “average employee” does not exist!

By giving people responsibility, we make them capable of managing their own careers. The company’s success is the sum of these individual careers and the synergies created. Transparency and sharing makes the lives of managers much easier, as everyone is headed in the same direction. This creates the impression that there are only virtuous circles.

One example is the transparency of remuneration. Because Employeneurs know their remuneration, if they think it is too low, they themselves will negotiate a rise and, if necessary, go in search of new clients. An ideal situation!

Meetingitis, presentationism, yearlies: to be avoided!

“We have two diseases in our company that we need to tackle: meetingitis and presentationism.”

A presentation is frequently a waste of time. It is much easier to attend a presentation that will be of no use to us than to pick up the phone to call a client, recruit new staff, etc. All activities that do not contribute to the company’s core activities should be minimized, according to Emmanuel Mottrie. There are memories of meetings with PowerPoint presentations of 35 slides and with figures all over the place. At TMC, it is five slides max and unless there are particular problems to solve, everything is wrapped up in 30 minutes.

The same harsh judgment applies to the principle of annual appraisals and set targets to be achieved. An employee who is a long way from reaching his objectives after eight months risks throwing in the towel, while one who is on target will think mainly of improving his Key Performance Indicator, rather than considering the real usefulness of his work. At TMC, the Employeneurs determine their own objectives and what they want to earn in the coming year.

If you share the values, you don’t need the rules.

How many companies have lost their horizontal structure as they have grown, subsiding gradually into hierarchical systems and silos? Emmanuel Mottrie has lived through this himself in the companies for which he has worked.

TMC intends to continue expanding: 600 Employeneurs four years ago, 1200 now, and the aim is to reach 2500 in five years and 5000 in 10 years’ time. No worries about the durability of the model and its ability to maintain itself. There is one simple reason for this: it is made up of autonomous individuals, so their growing number is not a problem. It is a model, not a rule.

“I hate rules. Rules create frustration”, says Mottrie, and a vertical structure, and one ends up “needing a management to manage the management”.

The principle of Employeneurship is based on sharing values. These values can evolve; it is the fact that they are shared that is important, and this enables an organic organization, which will be able to adapt to its expansion as well as to its environment and the evolution of techniques and markets.

This is not far from Darwin’s theory of evolution: a model tested over billions of years.

This interview, conducted by Luc Bretones, organizer of the “The NextGen Enterprise Summit” event with Holaspirit, Maif and Manpower, and president of the Institut G9+ think tank, is an extract from a book being prepared about leaders from 30 countries who have instituted new forms of governance, recommitted their energies to a unifying purpose or experimented with a major managerial innovation. Source: Bretones, L. (2019, August 16). ‘L’Employeneurship Model, Vous Connaissez?’ Forbes.

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