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ATD Blog

Q&A with Learning Leader Eivind Slaaen

Friday, June 12, 2020

Tell me about where you grew up and how that has shaped who you are today.

I grew up in a small village an hour north of Lillehammer in Norway. I spent most of my free time outdoors in the mountains. Growing up in Norway shaped me in a few ways—it gave me a strong need for independence, gender equality, and respect for people due to who they are but not based on hierarchy. Being out in nature continues to be a big source of energy for me.

Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re committed to in your work and life?

Not really—I have gained a lot of inspiration from readings.

How and why did you end up working as Head of People and Culture Development at Hilti Corporation? What led to this job?

Hilti is my first and only company. I joined the company when I graduated in Switzerland for two reasons: Hilti was frequently mentioned for its best practices, and it was one of the few companies that could get me a working visa back then. The company gave me challenging opportunities at its headquarters in Liechtenstein and international assignments, including working in the United States. Almost 20 years later, I had a chance to create my current role as we established a global structure in HR. I was able to do this as I had done my homework and defined what I am passionate about and how I could play to my strengths and how the company could profit from that.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?

Initiate, design, and employ concepts that allow people to grow and the whole organization to move forward. Create a truly inclusive environment where people can be the best they are and play to their strengths. Install a mindset of “moment” as in what is happening in the moment now. I want to help leaders transition from parenting to more grandfathering. It is a never-ending story. The further we go, the more opportunities we see.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

My passion for having an impact—on people, teams, and organization. Seeing people, teams, and organizations grow is wonderful. I am also excited about taking complex topics and developing pragmatic solutions that people understand and want to apply.

How would friends and acquaintances describe you?

They would describe me as a balanced, calm, creative, curious, strategic thinker with strong opinions and insights who can make sense of the world and its challenges through stories and anecdotes, which helps others; a genuine, active listener; open for other views and opinions; and loyal and caring. Principled with a heart.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

I am most proud of having established and leading a process called Our Culture Journey. It is a process where we asked ourselves on a regular basis what is working well and what do we need to change in our culture to be more successful—as individuals, teams, and organizations. We discuss the same topics with all teams worldwide—globally and vertically—starting with our executive board and board of directors. We take it seriously and invest close to 30,000 working days annually.

What would you do differently in your career if you had a chance?

The one thing I would do differently is to live and work in a completely different part of the world than I am familiar with, to learn a different culture, language, way of thinking, and to gain new perspectives.

Describe your vision for the future.

A world where we all pull together to solve the essential problems to the benefit of all and not to protect what we have. This goes across generations and countries. The current trend of nationalism and dividing society is devastating as is the way we treat our planet.

What’s next for you in your work? What are you looking forward to?

We are going through fundamental transformations in our company, which provide a unique opportunity to take leadership to the next level—to get our leaders to be less prescriptive, less directive, less parenting, and more grandparenting. The key to the future is not to have all the answers; it is to ask the right questions that lead to insights, new opportunities and growth. Addressing that topic through various initiatives is a nice challenge ahead of me and my team.

About the Author

Eivind Slaaen is head of people and culture development at Hilti Corporation and founding member of CTDO Next, ATD’s exclusive membership for talent development leaders who are shaping what’s next in the profession.

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