Buurtzorg: Innovation in Managing People

 By Shlomo Maital


   Buurtzorg Nederland is a Dutch home-care organization which has attracted international attention for its innovative use of independent nurse teams in delivering high-quality, relatively low-cost care.  Buurtzorg is Dutch for “neighborhood care”. According to Wikipedia: When they go into a patient’s home, Buurtzorg’s nurses provide not only medical services but also many support services, such as dressing and bathing, that are usually delegated to lesser-trained and cheaper personnel. Self-governing teams of 10 to 12 highly trained nurses take responsibility for the home care of 50 to 60 patients in a given neighborhood. This permits flexibility in work arrangements to meet both nurses’ and patients’ needs.  Buurtzborg employs 8,000 nurses.

   What is special about Buurtzorg? What can we learn from it?

“The organization has the most satisfied workforce of any Dutch company with more than 1,000 employees. A study by KPMG published in January 2015 shows that the company is a low-cost provider of home-care services, and that this is not attributable to its patient mix. When the patients’ nursing home, physician, and hospital costs were added to the analysis, total per-patient costs were about average for the Netherlands.”

   So why do people love working there?

   Buurtzborg has no ‘managers’. It has no hierarchy. Everyone earns the same (subject to education and seniority). Workers get bonuses if they meet their goals. The bonuses are the same for everyone. Everyone has the same clear sense of the importance of their work and their mission – caring for those who desperately need care, in their own homes. And most important – Buurtzborg is pro-nepotism. Nepotism, a no-no word for HR experts, means employing family members and favoring them. Buurtzborg loves employing members of the same family. The founder Jos de Blok employs his son and his wife in the organization, and many couples work together for it.

   Admittedly what makes Buurtzborg really work is the charismatic leadership of its founder de Blok.     Workers wonder, what will happen when de Blok retires or leaves?