February 28, 2023

The Business of Meetings – Episode 155 – Cultural Diversity As An Asset with Gijs Hillmann

We are delighted to be speaking with Gijs Hillmann from CultureBeatz today!

Gijs has spent many years working in an international environment, and has had some unique experiences! He joins us today to share his journey, discuss cultural diversity, and dive into working with different cultures within the same organization.

We hope you enjoy listening to today’s captivating conversation with Gijs Hillmann!


Gijs (Gys) Hillmann is an international corporate management trainer focused on organizational development and cultural diversity, primarily within industries that work regularly with labor migrants, economic migrants, or transient groups of international workers.

Gijs’s work is inspired by his experiences growing up and seeing migrant workers in positions that they were severely overqualified for, for organizations that didn’t care about them; he has seen them treated inhumanely and dehumanized and he is determined to be an agent of change. Gijs dedicates his work to ensuring migrants’ voices are heard in an effort to end the unfair treatment they so often receive. Gijs specializes in building and retaining High-Performance and High-Impact Cultures for international organizations.

Described as an inspirational and pragmatic speaker, Gijs combines local and world-class examples with practical case studies. In his keynotes, training, and consulting, managers and employees learn how to lead, develop themselves, build teams, manage conflicts, and communicate effectively on how to create inspiring workplace cultures. Gijs has trained multiple teams and individuals in the skills they need to be more productive and successful in a wide range of countries across Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Gijs’s journey

Gijs was born to Dutch parents in a mining town on the Zambian Copperbelt. His parents struggled to readjust after returning to the Netherlands, so they returned to Africa two years later. Gijs spent the next nine years growing up in Namibia. Toward the end of the apartheid years, he and his family moved to a conservative town in South Africa. After completing his schooling, Gijs joined the South African military, where he experienced a stark contrast to the multicultural Namibian environment. Several years later, he returned to the Netherlands, where he spent almost two years working on the lines in the logistics environment in a warehousing supply chain and living in migrant labor locations with his mostly Polish colleagues.

Working for an international temporary labor migration agency

Gijs spent the following 18 years growing up and developing while working for an international temporary labor migration agency that specialized in relocating people from Eastern Europe to Western Europe.

A corporate trainer

Gijs became a corporate trainer in 2010. He spent much of his time dealing with blue chip clients, discussing diversity and ways to integrate people from diverse cultures onto the work floor. On the work floor, he noticed that people often failed to understand each other, and there was a lack of fundamental understanding that everyone has the same capacities and capabilities. As a result, the economic migrants got a very raw deal.

Motivated by people’s struggles

Seeing the struggles people had with integrating on the work floor, and the struggles operational leaders across all sectors had in integrating with the people, motivated Gijs to take action.

Migrants pay a massive price

Migrants pay a massive price to work in a different country. They have to leave many things behind, including family, way of life, and sometimes even their studies. Gijs believes that when working with economic migrants from other countries, he must treat them in a way that they do not have to pay twice the price for their freedom. (For the first time when they leave their place of origin, and for the second time on the work floor, when they perhaps get misunderstood and are not appreciated or valued, and get treated in a menial way.)


For Gijs, diversity is much larger and more encompassing than just cultural diversity. He feels that diversity also encompasses generational diversity, gender diversity, and diversity in people’s values or belief systems.

Understanding the context

Gijs believes that if you would like to challenge one aspect of any business, it is essential to understand the context of the larger business and approach it from multiple angles.

Helping companies work better

Gijs runs training programs to help migrants deal with workplace challenges and helps operational leaders understand those with whom they are working. He also trains HR leaders to understand that shaping and changing a company culture requires more than change management. It is about doing the right thing for a larger group of people. He teaches them about what they need to put in place to ensure that their workplaces are equitable, and he helps them understand that everyone working there must have a voice and be able to add to the tapestry of work.

How Gijs helps economic migrants

Gijs helps economic migrants understand the expectations of the work environment. He also helps them understand that the work environment is not yet ready to accept all the baggage and experience they have brought with them.

Creating a safe environment for conferences

The most important thing to remember when creating a safe conference environment is to be curious and sensitive about the backgrounds of everyone across the floor- whether they are speakers, hosts, or attendees. It is also essential to create an inclusive environment.

Connect with Eric

On LinkedIn

On Facebook

On Instagram

On Website

Connect with Gijs Hillmann

On LinkedIn


Books mentioned:

Taken for a Ride by Bill Vlasic and Bradley A Stertz


About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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