The power of talent development: How Rabobank helps young talent to grow

More than just the beginning of your working life, Rabobank’s Young Professional Program can also be a springboard for your career. After completing the program, the door to further development opens wide. How is talent development organized at Rabobank? What growth opportunities are available after the program? We spoke to Fouad Ben Masoud (former Young Professional IT) and Christina van Zanten (Head of Talent) to learn more.

In addition to traineeships, Rabobank offers a program for young starters which is divided into separate fields: the Young Professional Program. Fouad took part in the IT program, which he was able to join partly because of his master’s degree in Economics. The Young Professional Program in IT was the perfect chance for him to experiment and to grow at the bank. “In a program that lasted a year and a half, I developed a relationship built on trust with my fellow trainees. I truly got to know myself, both the successful side and the stressful side. Combined with the professional coaching, the program was like a playground where I could experiment, safely fall down and get back up again. It anchored the path for my development within the bank.”

Young talent Fouad Ben-Masoud working on laptop

Talent programs at Rabobank

How does Rabobank organize talent programs like these? As Head of Talent and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), Christina van Zanten is one of the people responsible for that. She and her team supervise the young talents who are participants in the programs. “There is a variety of Young Professional Programs or traineeships you can apply for. We provide coaching for trainees and focus on their personal and professional development.” Coaching is an integral part of the program to which specific time is allocated (in addition to the content). Christina elaborated, “In some programs, participants change jobs within the bank every six months. We help trainees to make the right choice. For some other programs, our coaching focuses on relevant skills such as story telling or stakeholder management.”

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Take advantage of the opportunities

Rabobank has so many development opportunities, said Christina. “There is a CareerHub where you can talk to career specialists, you get a personal development budget, and there are all sorts of development programs for after your traineeship.” During the program, the young talents get a mentor, receive one-on-one coaching, and participate in “circle coaching” groups with seven to eight other young talents. According to Christina, if you want to get the most out of your young talent development at Rabobank, “it helps to have a good deal of healthy ambition. And the ability to respond to new challenges quickly and flexibly. That way you can deal effectively with uncertainties and changes in the market, to technology, or to client needs.”

Coaches who match with you

Receiving personal coaching from someone who matches with you is another important factor for a starter or trainee’s robust development. During his program, Fouad was supervised by a talent manager who helped him in many ways. But after a while, a voice in his head began to exclaim, “I want more!” Fouad explained, “My focus area extended beyond IT and I wanted to broaden my horizons. So once I’d finished my YPP program, I went looking for a new coach.” After a number of conversations with a French colleague, he felt a click. “She asked me profound questions like, ‘what is your unique selling point?’ She led me to consider that sort of thing.” Fouad and his coach don’t have set meeting times, instead they talk when the need arises. “That way there’s no obligation, just meaningful conversation.”

Learning from yourself and each other

In addition to his coach, Fouad also learned a lot from his fellow trainees. Every Friday afternoon they got together, 12 Young Professionals with completely different backgrounds. “That’s when you quickly learn that there isn’t just one truth. We are peers, but we all view our work from our own perspective.” As a result, discussions sometimes arise, Fouad explains. “We would talk about everything, but we never took any action. I couldn’t stand that, so mentally I switched off during the meetings.” That is, until a fellow trainee asked him about his absence and, after Fouad explained, reminded him that it was his responsibility to address it. “I realized that despite all the coaching, taking action is my responsibility. You are not a passenger in your own traineeship, you have to take responsibility and act accordingly.”

Talking to each other, having discussions, making mistakes, and learning from them: these are the main ingredients for a safe working environment. Christina underscores the importance of that. “This is also part of our focus at DE&I: psychological safety at work. In other words, you should be able to talk about many different topics and have an open dialogue without it becoming polarized. That’s something you do together, with your supervisors, your team, and the bank.”

Two colleagues having a conversation
Your traineeship is such an amazing time in which you learn a tremendous amount, so enjoy the ride!
Fouad Ben-Masoud

From trainee to coach

Learning from yourself and others, discovering and developing new talents – it doesn’t stop after your traineeship. Fouad is a case in point. He is now a.i. head of CRO Strategy Office and Business Manager to the CRO and is again participating in a leadership program. Here he has a new assignment every six months and is gaining broad experience within Rabobank. And – to complete the circle – he now coaches Young Professionals himself. One of the lessons he passes on to his trainees is not to wait until someone hands you an opportunity, but to sit in the driver’s seat of your own career. Conversely, Fouad also learns a lot from them. “I find it admirable how this new generation is averse to the existing structures within a bank and approaches the hierarchy like a wrecking ball. I myself was more cautious in how I delivered messages and was very concerned with organizational sensitivity. That’s always important, but it’s nice if not all the rough edges are removed during a traineeship like this. I can see that now as a coach. I can really enjoy trainees’ authenticity.”

Stop and notice your development

The various programs and traineeships offer young talent from all backgrounds the chance to get to know all sides of the bank and develop from starter to specialist. Fouad worked in a restaurant kitchen as a 16-year-old vocational school student. He started studying, kept looking around, asking questions, reflecting, and occasionally, he deliberately took a break. “That’s my tip for Young Professionals: take a step back sometimes and reflect on your own actions. During my traineeship I thought a lot about the next step, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the here-and-now. Your traineeship is such an amazing time in which you learn an enormous amount, so enjoy the ride!”