“People are our most valuable asset, now more than ever before”

In the context of the renewed Chair Partnership with Hudson, Ivan De Witte and Marion Debruyne discuss the challenges facing HR

The ‘war for talent’ in the field is fierce at the moment. “Companies need to look for ways to get more out of their own talent pool, now more than ever before. We still have a long way to go.” A double interview on standing out, knowledge development, social impact and - you guessed it - football.

Hudson Chair

“We have made a conscious decision to renew our partnership with Vlerick Business School”, says Ivan De Witte, CEO of HR consultancy Hudson Benelux. “Today, after having been part of an American listed group for more than 15 years, we are fully independent again as Hudson Belgium. I teamed up with several internal and external co-investors to buy my brainchild back. Our partnership with Vlerick is one of the longest yet. It is based on great mutual loyalty, but we are also supporting this intense partnership with our own resources, which says it all.”

Ivan De Witte: “To us, this partnership is the ultimate way to stand out on the market in terms of what we have to offer.”

A serious and reliable partner

Ivan De Witte - Hudson“Look, the fact that the Flemish government and countless renowned companies use our salary survey and rely on us for many other assignments shows we are doing a good job. It’s a bit of a quality label. I am proud of that”, Ivan De Witte continues. “But we do need to stand substantively out from our competitors and ensure our consultants rise head and shoulders above the rest. And what better way to do so than by teaming up with an academic partner like Vlerick?” Dean, Marion Debruyne, agrees: “Yes, and it works both ways. Our academic input raises Hudson to a higher level and breathes life into our research, not only financially, but also through direct market impulses. What’s more, the long-term perspective of this partnership allows us a deeper, more substantive insight.”

Ivan De Witte, CEO of Hudson Belgium: “Apart from financial capital, human capital is the main asset a company holds.”

Human capital

In recent years, as Chair Partner, Hudson has conducted research on strategic remuneration and strategic talent management. Ivan De Witte continues, “When it comes to strategic remuneration, we have managed to establish our position on the market and earn the trust of a key stakeholder: trade-union organisations. In terms of talent management, I feel there is still a long way to go all over the world. However, generally I have noticed that HR services are rapidly evolving from an administrative approach based on satisfaction surveys to real strategic added value. Internally, we need to thoroughly explore talent management within each business line, so that we can become a truly valuable HR partner for our clients. After all, apart from financial capital, human capital is the main asset a company holds.”

The management of top talents

Marion Debruyne - Vlerick Business SchoolMarion Debruyne continues. “That's right, and at Vlerick, we are well aware of that. In fact, we have applied the reward strategy tool that we developed in collaboration with Hudson to our own organisation, which resulted in some interesting insights. The question is, how do you ensure that strong individuals also perform to the best of their abilities within a team?” With Ivan De Witte, football analogies are never far away (he is chairman of the first-division football club KAA Gent, ed.). “That is no easy feat and I hope I am doing well myself, not only at Hudson, but also at KAA Gent. You could say a professional football club is a bit like a talent management lab, because leading top talents in such a small and manageable talent pool results in a some very interesting findings”, he says.

A global perspective

“Or you could look at it the other way around: instead of focusing on a small group, you could broaden your horizon and analyse what is happening on a global level", Ivan De Witte continues. “And in those terms, I wish everything would move faster and that we could give our insights a social dimension too. An open perspective has nothing but benefits. Companies should not shy away from brainstorming on major issues like the refugee crisis without holding on too much to their own interests. I also feel that competitive thinking, a practice we have developed at Hudson, can be relevant in drawing up smart migration policies.” Marion Debruyne continues, “At Vlerick we also think about the role we play in society. That’s why we try to give talented students who lack the necessary financial resources access to grants to boost their opportunities, and we are also working on an entrepreneurship fund.” Ivan De Witte concludes, “I can only applaud such initiatives.”

Marion Debruyne, Dean: “The question is, how do you ensure strong individuals also perform to the best of their abilities within a team?”