Your organization’s success hinges on its people, especially during periods of scaling up. Even before assuming the role of Managing Director at NRF, Frank Toebes prioritized the development of individuals, adopting a long-term approach to nurture and retain talent.

It all began in 2013 with a series of specialized training programs. Initially, there was a focus on enhancing the interpersonal skills of young managers, followed by a shift towards honing sales abilities. A pivotal moment arose when the need for stronger ownership within operations became apparent during coaching sessions with the management team. This prompted a revamp of the management development program, incorporating experiential learning alongside formal training in both technical and interpersonal skills. This was 2019 and from then we facilitated the development of about 12 employees annually. Through the introduction of mission-critical projects assigned to these program participants known as the Network, there was a noticeable enhancement in business acumen, transcending mere task execution. For both the Network members and leaders at large.

The original objective of talent development evolved to include a minimum retention period of three years post-Network involvement. This necessitating the establishment of an Alumni program. Remarkably, the initiative was not solely driven by management but also stemmed from the enthusiastic feedback and desire for continued engagement from the Network participants themselves. They eagerly volunteered to host events, proposed ideas for team-building activities, and offered support to new project teams.

Despite ongoing efforts, it took time to officially launch the NRF Alumni program. Thanks to the groundwork laid by Nuria Bonet and Krystian Poltrok, a program and Sharepoint platform were created. During the 2024 Network Event in Prato/Florence, a cohort of 30 Alumni convened in an online session. Underscoring their commitment to contributing to the community. The platform serves as a space to exchange best practices and stories, fostering a culture of continuous learning and cooperation.

Active participation demands proactive planning, ensuring comprehensive involvement during each Network year. This facilitates Alumni engagement in international events, seamlessly blending sessions with networking opportunities and business engagements. For instance, Alumni joining for business meetings and taking the lead in an internal training.

The results speak volumes. An impressive 78% of Network participants since 2019 remain with NRF, with one-third of them having advanced their careers within the organization. Feedback from Alumni underscores NRF’s strong profile and culture. Characterized by; growth opportunities, international collaboration, and organizational transparency.

Programs like the Network and Alumni initiative serve as pillars of employer branding and reflect NRF’s growth trajectory. It also appears to be a good indicator of the growth stages NRF goes through. With a 10 years history we see 2 transition years; 2018 and 2023. As referred to in books, NRF has broken the ceiling a few times. Those are selection moments; some feel comfortable, some leave for another setting. Which is a vital part of transformation. And still…  even after switching to another employer, Alumni remain connected to NRF. One indicator is that whenever I post about the NRF Network, they are the first to like it. And I like that.