We talked to Heine Z. Larsen, Senior Director, People & Development of DONG Energy, about his experience of an innovative combination of sports training and business networking. The result? Improved fitness, useful contacts, interesting information and great enjoyment – along with potentially lower health insurance premiums and greater business success.
Swiss Life: You experienced a new way of networking last year. Could you tell us about it?
I took part in a business network organised by our tax advisors, Deloitte. They wanted to try a different way of interacting with their clients, and created a network of people who trained together for the triathlon in Vienna. We were around 50 individuals who mostly didn’t know each other beforehand. So we had an opportunity to make completely new business contacts. There were specialised trainers in each discipline who supported us throughout the preparation phase, which lasted from January to June.
Swiss Life: What triggered the idea to participate in such an adventure?
I was interested to try a different way of interacting with business partners. Health is a very important topic at DONG Energy, and we run several health initiatives, so it was natural that I wanted to be part of this.
Swiss Life: How was it for you and the team?
It was a very good experience. First, on a personal level, people did something they had never done before and we all had to step out of our comfort zone. Secondly, relationships have improved a lot. When you meet someone in sports clothes it’s different from when you meet them wearing a suit. From the first moment you have common topics to talk about as you’re sharing the same experience.
Swiss Life: What are the main advantages of such informal networking in comparison to conventional business networking? Do you see any challenges?
Conventional networking can be quite difficult: you don’t know the people well, you don’t see them very often, and it takes time to develop good business relationships and gain confidence and trust. You share information, but you normally don’t share experiences. This is what made our networking unique: we shared experiences, and met outside business hours early in the morning or after work. It means you’re not in competition with your business diary, but with your private agenda. You can feel that everyone wants to take part and they’re prioritizing their time because they want to be part of the network, not because they have to be there.
My biggest challenge at first was to defend my participation to my own company. As this was a new concept, people doubted it was serious or could add value to the business. Another challenge was that some people just participated out of personal interest and not because they wanted to be part of the team, which didn’t fit the philosophy of the network.
Swiss Life: How did the sport enable or improve the networking?
It was an ice breaker, and networking was much easier because we had something in common. At first sport was always the main discussion topic, but over time we started to share knowledge on business situations in smaller subgroups.
Swiss Life: Will you continue in this networking group?
Yes, we will continue this year with almost the same team and some new joiners. This time we will take part in the Mallorca triathlon.
Swiss Life: In light of what you have experienced, what would you suggest the Swiss Life Network do to remain a successful network in future?
It’s difficult to transfer this experience to the Swiss Life Network as people are not physically close. However, I think it’s important to try new ways of networking. Companies gain from getting people together in a non-traditional manner. For example, why not re-design the Network Conference and go for a long walk during the day, and have the business information and speeches in the evening?
Mr Heine Z. Larsen, Senior Director, DONG Energy.
Heine Z. Larsen joined DONG Energy in 2002 prior to the Danish 6-fold merger consolidating the
|About DONG Energy|
Founded in 2006, DONG Energy is one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, involved in procuring, producing, distributing and trading in energy and related products. DONG Energy has around 6,500 employees and is headquartered in Denmark. The Group generated DKK 67 billion (EUR 9.0 billion) in revenue in 2012.
Health initiatives at DONG Energy
DONG Energy places great emphasis on health and safety, and its numerous health initiatives help to attract and retain a sustainably productive workforce. In a virtuous circle, its healthy workforce ensures lower premiums and benefit savings that can be further invested in health initiatives.
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