“HR also needs to become more accountable”

Ivan De Witte and Marion Debruyne on the challenges facing HR, in response to the renewal of the Chair Partnership with Hudson

Ivan De Witte (Hudson) and Marion Debruyne (Vlerick
Ivan De Witte: “An HR manager who wants to be future-proof can learn from his or her counterpart in Finance”

As an HR manager, how do you generate more involvement among your staff, without extra people or resources? “An HR manager who wants to be future-proof can learn from his or her counterpart in Finance, the CFO, who was forced to stop navel-gazing some time ago. After all, HR shares the need to become more accountable.” We spoke to two experts about the importance of an open mind, cross-pollination and – of course – football.

“A lot of HR departments are still far too focused on themselves,” claims Ivan De Witte, the CEO of HR consultancy firm Hudson Belgium. “But the time when HR was assessed purely on the basis of rigid reports and surveys is long gone. Instead, HR managers need to ask themselves: how can I generate more involvement and identification among our staff, with the same people and the same budgets? I believe that that accountability – demonstrating that HR is not just a cost centre, but also an asset – is the biggest challenge facing HR in the coming years.”

Broadening your vision

Ivan De Witte (Hudson)You can’t change ways of thinking and acting overnight; a pragmatic man like Ivan De Witte is all too aware of that. He hints at where the solution might lie for HR: “To begin with, you need to get closer to the ground as a HR manager in order to find out what is going on. But you can also learn all sorts of things from your other colleagues, such as the CFO. CFOs have this kind of accountability in their blood; they had to face that challenge several years ago and so they have come a long way in the meantime.”

Ivan De Witte, CEO of Hudson Belgium: “The time when HR was assessed purely on the basis of rigid reports and surveys is long gone.”


Marion Debruyne (Vlerick)Vlerick Business School’s dean, Marion Debruyne, agrees. “That transverse movement, that cross-pollination really is a necessity, and a challenge, for many companies we work with as a business school. We also apply it to our own organisation. At our Centres for Excellence – the ‘beehives’ where our academics and partner companies conduct research on a certain theme – we stimulate the interaction between different management domains and industries. In terms of Human Resource Management, Hudson challenges our faculty to research thorny issues in daily practice in greater depth, putting them in a broad context and offering solutions.”

Strategic talent management

Over the past years, in its role as Chair Partner, Hudson has led research projects on strategic pay structures, trends in HRM and trends in performance management. Ivan De Witte explains: “Given the challenges facing HR, we certainly want to continue working on performance management, but in the broad sense: performance and people management.” This need for a broader vision of human resource management has inspired Vlerick to merge the Centre for People Performance and the Centre for Career Management into a single Centre for Excellence in Strategic Talent Management. “We saw the same issues recurring at the two centres,” adds Marion Debruyne. “By joining forces, we have been able to devote our energies to research that will benefit tomorrow’s HR manager, i.e. how to make optimal use of human capital. After all, that is one of the greatest differentiating factors in an organisation”

“By bringing two HRM research centres together, we have combined their strengths to focus on strategic talent management.” - Marion Debruyne, Dean

Follow the football trainer’s example

Ivan De Witte nods, and ends with a reference to another of his passions (Ivan De Witte is the chairman of the premier division football team KAA Gent, ed.): “A football team is more than just the sum of its players as well. If it is managed by a good trainer in the right environment, a team with a certain amount of talent can achieve more, sometimes a lot more. That is the task that awaits the HR manager.”