Working for Unilin for 20 days vs 20 years: what are the differences and the similarities?
Working for Unilin for 20 days or 20 years: a huge difference in terms of experience. But are there similarities as well? And can new arrivals and old hands learn from each other? We asked Katrien and Lore.
Their track record
Katrien Catteeuw (47) is a Talent Development Specialist at Unilin Flooring in Avelgem (Belgium). She was recruited in 2002 by what was then IVC, at the same site in Avelgem. Since then she has built a long track record at the firm. “In the beginning I spent some of my time working at reception and the remainder assisting other departments. There were no other options because there were so few of us back then! After two years I indicated I was ready for something different and they took it to heart. I became the assistant of a technical manger, a job that taught me a great deal.”
Meanwhile the organisation kept growing and it became impossible for Katrien to keep working for multiple departments. “Again I had to make a choice and I opted to join Unilin’s HR team as a Training and Development Specialist. We need people who are able to keep developing their skill set. Training is a cornerstone to realise our objectives because it helps people excel at the job they carry out with so much passion. In my current role that is where I want to contribute as much as possible.”
Lore Leman (22) has only just joined us. She was recruited just a few weeks ago as a mechanic in the garage of Unilin Panels in Wielsbeke. She came to Unilin Panels through a temporary employment agency. “Previously I had worked for several other companies, always as a temp, but I was really looking for a permanent position. My initial interview went really well and during the follow-up interview they immediately offered me a permanent role, at a nice salary and with attractive career prospects.” Lore is still extremely enthusiastic. “Not just because I have a permanent contract now but most of all because I love my job. No two days are the same and that really appeals to me.”
Lore works with a team leader almost twice her age whereas Katrien’s team is full of youngsters in their late twenties to mid-thirties. But in both cases there’s no such thing as a generation gap. Katrien: “I have 21 years of seniority and the next team member in line has three (laughs). But there’s a nice balance in the team. My younger colleagues tell me I bring serenity to the team. That’s because of my experience. I think before I act. My colleagues frequently call upon the knowledge and experience I’ve built over the years. Again: there is a great deal of respect.”
Lore has a somewhat different personality: “I’m more of the impulsive type whereas my immediate superior adopts a calmer approach. Like Katrien he is the ‘think first, act second’ type. Meanwhile I’ve learned to dissect a problem with him instead of just going at it right away. I do think it’s very instructive to work with an experienced colleague. Conversely, he’s happy with my work because I can stay on. 😉”
Katrien really likes the mix of generations: “Every day I myself am still confronted with situations that have me scratching my head. When this happens we consult with the team. My colleagues may be younger but they do bring with them their experience from other companies. Very enriching.”
Respect unites people
Several times Katrien has pointed out how important respect is to a good working relationship. Lore agrees wholeheartedly. In her case, respect has yet another dimension because of her personal story. “As a transgender everyone treats me with respect here. I just threw it out there from the very beginning. I am very open about my transition so if my colleagues have questions - and they do! - I’m happy to answer them. I’d rather do that than have them talk behind my back. Meanwhile we’re all on the same page and all preconceptions have been brushed aside.”
Katrien reacts enthusiastically: “It’s so great you can just be yourself here!” “Absolutely”, Lore confirms, “and that was the case from the initial interview. In other jobs I did have to deal with prejudice and gossip but here I could just be me right away. I can be so open about my transition thanks to the respect and open-mindedness of my colleagues. That’s why I’d like to stay here.”