On Monday, we shared the photo album on Facebook of the big integration event in Belgium of Mercator and Nateus. But how did Mercator and Nateus make this event happen? What and who was involved in the organization? We talked to Filip (Mercator) and Ingrid (Nateus) about what it took to make the event a success and what actually happened on the day.
Why an Integration Event?
The integration of 3 companies – Mercator, Avéro (already integrated in Mercator) and Nateus – requires a big integration event of course. So in December 2011, the integration bureau decided to put their heads together to organize this big event. There was a big brainstorm because the event needed to be big, inspiring, motivating and especially ‘integrating’.
In the first meeting, the date was set and a few wild ideas were launched: there had to be a band, a location to house over a thousand people, maybe a video would be a great idea?…A professional event organizer was needed.
Launching wild ideas….
Many meetings and numerous proposals from different event planners later, the theme ‘Noah’s Ark’ in Planckendael was chosen as a metaphor: Baloise Insurance will offer a safe haven for all employees of Mercator and Nateus.
In the following months, the scenario for this big party was determined. Discussing and worrying about rucksacks, early lunches, snacks, pink busses, possible thunderstorms, iPhones, team captains, platforms, T-shirts with Baloise logo and umbrellas. Different scenarios were worked out to make sure that everything was covered, all wishes were fulfilled and everybody was brought to the event location on time and got safely back home.
Through teamwork to a spectacular event
Ingrid Witvrouwen (Nateus) and Filip Van Der Poorten (Mercator) delivered a great piece of teamwork. Mutual respect for each other’s expertise and willingness to look for solutions together, were the base for this successful and spectacular event.
Filip and Ingrid, you were responsible for the organisation of the integration event in Belgium of Mercator and Nateus. Could you shortly explain what this was all about?
Filip: It is always a challenge when two companies with a long and rich history decide to unite. So we tried to find a formula wherein everybody would recognize themselves. It was our aim to bring the companies together in one story on an equal basis. So we chose for a metaphor: Noah’s ark. Everyone is different and often unknown to each other. With this metaphor we wanted to express our aim to go to a new future together. A future in the big Baloise family.
Ingrid: This event is ‘the milestone’ in the whole process of the merger of the different companies and is organised to officially launch three important messages to all the members of the staff: our mission (translated into 4 focus themes), the 3 behavioral values of the Baloise Group and last but not least our new corporate identity.
What activities had you planned for this big integration event?
Filip: Teambuilding with colleagues from different branches of the two companies seemed to be the best source to challenge the differences in the culture of both companies. As Belgium is a bilingual country, Dutch and French speaking colleagues were mixed.
Through different games, the values of Baloise were introduced to everybody, in an informal but clear way.
Ingrid: The event took place in the zoo of Planckendael in Mechelen, located just in between the cities of Antwerp and Brussels. We not only created mixed teams based on language, we also made sure the colleagues of different departments were part of one team. This was the easiest way to meet new colleagues and to get to know each other better.
What are your personal highlights of the day?
Filip: The performance of the Baloise Music Band and the presentation of the lipdub. It was such a nice experience to see the results of working together on an unusual project.
Ingrid: My personal highlight of the day was to see the happy smiles on the faces of my colleagues as they went home feeling proud to be a part of the Baloise family.
How was it for you to organize this event? What experiences have you made?
Filip: That it makes it easier to organise such a big event with a colleague you never worked with before, as long as you respect each other and you keep listening to each other. It was also magnificent to see how people are willing to work together on a project when they are motivated for it in the right way.
Ingrid: The key to the success of this event was the respect we mutually showed for each others opinion, working methods and experiences in the past.
Have you ever done anything comparable before?
Filip: Yes, on different occasions. Last time was 3 years ago when we celebrated the 90th anniversary of Mercator. With a motivated “festivity comittee” it resulted in an unforgettable evening at the Hilton Hotel in Antwerpen.
Ingrid: At Nateus, we also had some experience in organizing these kind of events. In 2007 we have organized an event to celebrate the merger of the companies Nateus and Belstar for a mixed audience of insurance brokers and colleagues in the museum ‘Autoworld’ in Brussels.
What do you usually do at Mercator/Nateus?
Filip: As an event manager the answer is quite easy. I organize different and various events for colleagues as well as for brokers at Mercator.
Ingrid: At Nateus, I am responsible for the operational marketing communication of which the organization of events and incentives is one of my main tasks.
Filip and Ingrid, thank you so much for this interview! – Michèle