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Interview with Elaine Pelisson – CHRO

CHRO – We provide our society’s daily needs
Interview with Elaine Pelisson – CHRO

We provide our society’s daily needs

If there is one thing that has shown us how necessary transporting supplies are to the world, it has been Covid-19. CHRO Elaine Pelisson talks about giving meaning to your job, work ethos and diversity.

‘In times like these — with Covid-19 leaving its mark on the world — the urgency to bridge the distance between us, our customers and the end consumer is more important than ever’, CHRO Elaine Pelisson explains. ‘During the first wave in March 2020 our mission became more significant by the minute: to provide in our society’s daily needs.’

‘In transport, we saw how luxury goods were making way for basic necessities like pasta, fish, water and baby food. And with each new lockdown in Europe, there was a huge increase in demand so supermarkets could replenish their supplies.’

‘So many of my colleagues were working around the clock to get these products moving as quickly, and efficiently as possible from one place to the other. It was really incredible to see them work together in this situation as one fantastic team.’


Needless to say, Elaine is extremely proud. ‘One of our core values is togetherness. We truly believe that we can only excel in what we do when we operate as one,’ Elaine emphasizes.

‘Did you know that Samskip is Icelandic for ‘shipping together’? We take that very seriously here, even when structuring our company to allow for open communication and collaboration. Our flat structure with an open door policy keeps us quick, efficient and transparent, both with our colleagues as well as our customers.’


As CHRO, Elaine has an important and essential role in the hiring process of Samskip. She sees and talks to most of the new hires. ‘I love to work with people who are dynamic, have an international mindset and a hands on mentality. Many of them are from around the world, and we speak Dutch and English interchangeably.’

Elaine is a management board member at Samskips’ headquarters in the Netherlands. But, she did not start off that way. In fact, she is the perfect example of how to work your way up.

For fifteen years she worked at a large logistics company until she found herself at a turning point in her career. ‘I am a woman who loves to organise — to structure, to develop new things, to create something that is not there yet and to change the things that need to be changed. I wanted to make a bigger impact. And I have found all of that at Samskip.’

‘Back in 2006 when I joined the company, we were a relatively small player in logistics, which was perfect for me. My thought was: the smaller the company, the bigger the impact I could make. And at that point, there was not even an HR function, so I was in charge of nearly everything that involved HR. It was pioneering at its finest.’


‘It is great to see that pioneering is an important part of our spirit and values at Samskip. Even though we are one of the biggest companies in multimodal transport today, we are always looking for ways to expand our horizons. Right now, some colleagues are developing ways to best service our customers in existing and new markets in Europe with as little of CO2-footprint as possible.’

‘Working in logistics is great, but we also have the responsibility to transport wisely. At Samskip, we believe it is essential to step up our game for the environment. That is why we emphasize multimodal transportation. Today, we have vessels on LNG and we are of course looking into the possibilities of transporting using biofuel and electric trucks in the future.’


Elaine grins when asked if working at Samskip is demanding. ‘Yes it is. But we are also fair and reasonable. We know what kind of value we bring to our customers, so at all levels, we work to empower each other to go that extra mile.’

‘Working at Samskip means you get a lot of freedom. And we know that with freedom comes responsibility. The world of logistics is constantly moving. Ports can close due to bad weather, trucks can get a flat tire, and so on. When these things happen, you need to be flexible and you need to be able to communicate well. That is why we not only hire people with a logistics background, but people with a talent for problem solving, who have an international mindset and a passion to supply the world.’

Diversity matters

‘At Samskip, we embrace our cultural differences. Diversity is very important to us. When working with different countries, it is essential to have cultural awareness. There is no other way to bring that into a company than by hiring people from all walks of life.’

‘But, diversity is not only defined by different cultures, it is also about gender. We still see that there are few women working across the logistics industry — and that needs to change. We believe that when an organisation like ours is more gender diverse, our business will flourish even more. So come on women, send me that resume. Do not let me be the only female management board member here,’ Elaine urged, with a smile and a wink.

Interview with Lisa Westerhuis & Erica Zini