Agility is a priority, but knowhow is still missing

Results of the HR Barometer 2019

Dirk Buyens

By Dirk Buyens

Professor of Human Resources Management

23 September 2019

For the fifth consecutive year, Hudson and Vlerick Business School have joined forces to organise the HR Barometer, a survey that analyses the trends and challenges in the Belgian HR sector. So what are its main findings? Firstly, HR focuses on many different things, going beyond mere recruitment and staff administration. Secondly, HR analytics is not a priority for Belgian companies (or at least not yet). Lastly, HR managers would love to focus on agile working, but meet with resistance, even from senior management.


The HR Barometer is a joint initiative by Hudson and Vlerick Business School. Its aim is to provide a yearly overview of what is going on in the HR departments of Belgian companies by means of a survey among the HR directors of the 200 largest Belgian companies. This year, 61 companies from a variety of sectors took part, representing a total of nearly 250,000 employees.

Selection and recruitment are still the biggest challenge

The results show that, as always, HR has many aspects that it needs to focus on. As Dirk Buyens, Professor of Human Resources Management at Vlerick Business School, explains, “The number-one priority is selection and recruitment, followed by leadership development and talent management. That leaves little time for aspects like diversity and HR analytics, which are languishing at the bottom of the list.” Preparing the organisation for stagnation also turns out to be anything but a priority. On the contrary, growth is still the main focus.

Agile working meets with resistance

Every year, the HR Barometer also focuses on a topic put forward by the HR managers. This year, they chose agility. Virtually all the respondents (93%) agreed that agile working methods have become more important in recent years. Nevertheless, it remains a thorny issue. The concept of “agile working” also proved difficult to define, with only 18% stating there is a generally accepted definition. Moreover, resistance to change, even from senior management, hinders the introduction of new practices, such as agile recruitment, dynamic organisational structures, flexible rewards etc. It is also interesting to note that one third of all respondents believe you are born with an agile mindset, while an equally large group feels it is a skill that can be developed. “On the one hand, the majority of participating companies state that it is very important for everyone in the organisation (regardless of their level or role) to be able to work in an agile manner, and to be encouraged to do so. On the other hand, most organisations do not yet feel ready for this shift. The mastery is still lacking”, explains Ellen Volckaert, R&D manager at Hudson.

About the HR Barometer

The HR Barometer is research resulting from the close collaboration between the HR consultancy company Hudson and Vlerick Business School. Ellen Volckaert, a senior manager at the Hudson Research & Development department, and Prof Dr Dirk Buyens, the Head of the HRM Centre at Vlerick Business School, jointly drew up the report based on a survey of the HR managers of the Bel 20 companies and the 200 largest Belgian companies in terms of staff base. 6 organisations took part in the study, jointly representing about 248,000 Belgian employees.

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Astrid Vandenbroucke

Astrid Vandenbroucke

Manager GPtW®