Portsmouth Patch, December 26th, by Jim Cavan
Here in the U.S., a business’ growth is almost always couched in terms of improved efficiency and productivity, and the never-ending challenge of bolstering the bottom line.
But for Mirjam IJtsma, careful accounting, creative marketing, and effective business-to-business strategies aren’t the only things a company needs in order to take its product or service to the next level – as crucial as all of these elements no doubt are.
Just as important, she claims, is an effective “cultural chemistry,” or the fostering of a positive, dynamic, and forward-thinking workplace environment . Instead of simply giving people individualized “jobs” or “tasks,” she argues, employers and managers should instead be looking to empower workers towards a collective, organizational purpose.
The result is not only a more positive environment; but tangible growth as well (30% average savings and a 40% increase in productivity are not uncommon for businesses which heed IJtsma’s program).
But to understand the deeper meaning, origins, and implications of cultural chemistry – and its role as a potential business strategy – it’s important to know a little about IJtsma herself.
A native of the Netherlands, IJtsma came of age in a country whose business customs – while similar on their face to those of any other Western country – yield upon deeper reflection a somewhat different perspective.
“In Europe, Human Resource strategies are more focused on the culture of an organization, and how one can most effectively align the two,” explains IJtsma. “In the Netherlands, the goal of someone in Human Resources (HR) is getting everyone to feel like they’re apart of something bigger than just their own individual job or tasks.”
Specifically, IJtsma says that HR education in the Netherlands tends to mine more from the social sciences, whereas in the U.S. the focus is more on economics and business administration.
“In both instances the approaches are ingrained in the culture,” she says.
After receiving dual bachelor’s degrees from University of Professional Education in Rotterdam, IJtsma would spend the next 10 years working for both water sports resorts, as well as in the small business training industry.
Having developed during her academic tenure a keen interest in group psychology, IJtsma was eager to try her hand at helping some of the largest companies in Holland foster more dynamic, goal-oriented environments. In 2004, she would get that chance, taking a job with Randstad, a globally recognized company specializing in outsourcing strategies and helping organizations in need of change.
In 2006, IJtsma decided to try her professional hand across the Atlantic, working for U.S. companies including Bosch and Accenture – just to name a few.
While she relished the challenges posed by some of the world’s foremost companies, IJtsma slowly realized that, for as much as she still believed in the concept of company culture, she was much more passionate about helping smaller business achieve those ends.
Now fully settled in Southern New Hampshire, IJtsma launched Cultural Chemistry – a one-woman firm built around a philosophy now years in the making – in July of 2011.
“When I was working for the large multinationals, I felt I couldn’t make as big of an impact on the employee level as I wanted,” recalls IJtsma. “On the other hand, with smaller businesses and organizations, my skill sets translated better and more effectively.”
Though only a few months into her new endeavor, IJtsma has already brought a number of local companies into the fold.
IJtsma’s unique services mimic what a traditional Human Resources department might be tasked with, but at a fraction of the cost. The result is an affordable, unique, dynamic look into a company’s most complex inner workings, and the strategies and solutions that can help them take it to the next level.
But if you think the reduced cost necessarily means sacrificing expertise, think again: IJtsma has been certified by a number of prestigious HR organizations, and is thus able to track cultural changes in an organization using reliable, tried-and-true metrics.
Her newest client: The Green Alliance, a Portsmouth-based organization which certifies and promotes sustainability-minded businesses throughout the Seacoast. Being the only business of its kind anywhere in the region, IJtsma sees the GA as a showcase for how her unique approach to business development might be further implemented throughout the Granite State.
“I’m excited to work with businesses who find themselves at a critical crossroads of growth – businesses looking to go to the next level,” exclaims IJtsma. “There are a lot of innovative companies in Maine and New Hampshire – companies who are open to new ideas, and who are changing the way things are being done – so there’s definitely a lot of opportunity out there.”
For IJtsma, it might still be a new and different country, with new regulations and a vastly different socio-economic structure guiding a far more diffuse business environment. But when it comes to helping organizations achieve growth and success, the path — regardless of continent – remains largely the same.
“What we’re trying to do is get businesses and organizations to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, and align people towards that goal,” says IJtsma. “When people feel better about their roles, when they have a better context for what they’re doing and why – when they aren’t just given tasks –they can better contribute to the culture and success of their organization.”
This article was published at the Portsmouth Patch, December 26th, the author Jim Cavan