As creators of the first Dutch scaleup traineeship within SaaS, Omnia Retail is changing how newcomers to the industry can learn and importantly grow.
When COO Vanessa Verlaan first pitched the thought of a scale-up traineeship for new employees at Omnia Retail, some of her first words were, “This is not a quick fix to finding and retaining talent”. Then came the idea of an 18-month traineeship for new employees who had recently graduated with massive potential, which then became the foundation for Omnia’s talent acquisition shake-up, in 2020.
In a niche industry scale-up, it has proven difficult to find candidates who are both commercially strong and have specific qualifications or experience, and more importantly, have the ability to fit in with Omnia’s core values. “The candidate needs to be able to work in pricing, e-commerce, with data, while feeling aligned with Omnia’s values,” Vanessa says.
“By looking inward, we noted that we already had talented people that had the potential to grow exponentially within the company. And so, we reverse-engineered the process of hiring,” says Vanessa. As creator and designer of the traineeship, Vanessa saw that team members in the tech support department were already learning the ins and outs of the organisation and the products Omnia offers. It offered foundational knowledge and experience that would ultimately lead to chosen team members entering an exciting chapter to kickstart their careers in SaaS (software as a service).
Co-building the traineeship and the organisation at the same time
Each trainee will learn about different aspects of the company, including three rotations within the customer success, sales, and tech support departments. They will also work with our new Knowledge and Scalability Department as well as marketing, and will be contributing from day one. Once they have met specific milestones within each rotation, they are ready to move onto the next one, depending on the needs of each team. “We look at the desires of each rotation’s team. If the team is ready for the trainee to move onto the next phase or if there is still something to be learnt, this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Vanessa added.
“This is not an internship for students, but a traineeship for graduates who are co-building the traineeship and the organisation at the same time,” says Vanessa. There is an emphasis on personal development with workshops tailored towards personal effectiveness, communication, commercial and analytical skills.
Martijn Crooijmans, a fairly new member of Omnia’s sales team, completed the traineeship 5 months ago and has entered a permanent role as an Account Executive. Martijn, who studied management and consumer studies and has his Masters degree in business development and entrepreneurship from Utrecht University, applied for a spot in the traineeship because of his interest in innovation management. When he first started, he admits the experience was like a rollercoaster. “I feel like I learned more in the first six months at Omnia than in the couple years studying prior. From the start I got a lot of responsibility and had a lot of coaching for all the different commercial roles I was in during the traineeship,” he says.
Stemming from that point, Martijn shared that some of his most exciting and fulfilling milestones was implementing real-world strategies for Omnia. “I was able to close several enterprise customers as an Account Executive, and managed a portion of our SMB clients as a Customer Success Manager. I also ran a full implementation of our solution at several enterprise customers as a solution consultant,” says Martijn.
Saskia Mueller-Herbst, who is a Solutions Consultant in the Knowledge and Scalability department, started her journey within Omnia in business development after completing her Bachelor's degree in International Business and her Masters in Marketing Management before the traineeship was established. Saskia was then offered an opportunity to join the traineeship. “I saw it as a great opportunity to get to know several sides of the business. I was further excited about this possibility as I wanted to collect as many insights as possible to define where I saw myself in the long term,” says Saskia. Saskia shared that one of the challenges she faced was learning to manage the many moving parts of a scale-up. “While I enjoy having different responsibilities and tasks to work on, I realised that it’s very important to work in a structured way. The work is never done and I needed to be good at prioritising my work,” Saskia shares. However, one of Saskia's biggest triumphs was noticing her own growth. “During the traineeship you constantly improve and all the skills you learn you can make use of in the next rotation.”
Within every rotation you learn something different
A new member of the Customer Success team that completed the traineeship is Suzanne Meinders, who has her Masters in Marketing. Suzanne applied to take part in the traineeship, similarly to Martijn. Because of how the traineeship is set up with various rotations, Suzanne agrees this is the best way to learn 360 degrees of a business. “Now I have completed all rotations, I feel I truly know the product really well. Within every rotation you learn something different, and I think that truly sets you up for success within any position you will choose in the end.”
To new or future trainees, Martijn offers some sound advice: “When you start, you are not just learning to perform well within your role, you are also learning how the SaaS product works. This means a lot of new information is coming your way and it might feel like you have been thrown in the deep. There are, however, a lot of people around that will gladly help you out and will pull you out of the water if needed. So, don't be afraid to ask for help, and soak up as much information as possible in the beginning.”
Saskia shares similar advice, saying, “It’s important to be open and communicative. If you are passionate about something, there is a good chance that you can pick up a project related to this topic and make it their own.”
Suzanne says, “Be ready for the moment where you rotate and go from ‘I know this’ to ‘I don’t know anything.’”
An important aspect of working at Omnia is aligning with and committing to its three core values - never stop learning; obsession with excellence; and free to be you and me - and Omnia’s traineeship is no exception. Trainees “never stop learning” by working with managers, senior team members and actual customers. They are “free to be you and me” by the fact that an applicant’s race, gender identity, or even their university is not looked at when they apply. Finally, trainees have an “obsession with excellence” when they achieve each milestone in each rotation in order to complete their traineeship.
In a period of two years, Omnia has hired 11 trainees, of which three have already graduated and accepted a permanent position within Omnia. “Our goal is to hire eight trainees each year; there are no fixed deadlines and we’re hiring all year round,” shares Vanessa. Two years on, the graduates from Omnia’s first completed traineeship are working in mature roles. “I am incredibly proud of Saskia, Suzanne and Martijn who have all grown so much on a personal and business level,” says Vanessa.