How to cope with turbulent times

Remote greetings from our professors and researchers

Vlerick researchers and faculty working from home

It goes without saying that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is not only felt by us, but also by each and every one of you. Whether employee or entrepreneur, you have no choice but to adapt to this new reality, which is uncharted territory for all of us. We would like to contribute by sharing our expertise, insights and tips to cope with these turbulent times. Here, we will bundle all our learning lessons . If you would like to stay informed, you can also subscribe to our newsletter (via the form on the right side)  - which we will be sending out more often in these times with relevant content.

People Management & Leadership

Free online course on collaborating across time and space
In this course with expert Professor Smaranda Boros you’ll learn how to collaborate successfully on projects. And you’ll get tips on how to assess and improve your virtual working practices – for both current and future teams. Register here for free »

10 self-reflecting questions in getting your organisation from chaos to control in post-COVID-19 reboot times 
We all know change cannot be mandated or forced. It has many aspects and these aspects count. As a change manager, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions before you set out to ‘shake things up’. And you must listen to the answers. In this ‘Business Watcher’ video, Professor of Change Management Peter De Prins raises 10 questions to consider, before you set out to make things better. Watch the video »

How can organisations optimise their interactions with gig workers?
The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many organisations to re-evaluate their business models and re-examine their staffing practises to stay operational within an atmosphere of financial uncertainty. Many organisations are turning to gig workers to supplement the work of their employees. As such, many managers have found themselves dealing with a different form of work arrangement. In this ‘Business Watcher’ video, PhD researcher Neveen Saied shares 3 tips to optimise your interactions with gig workers during this ongoing crisis. Watch the video »

How to negotiate in a digital way
How do you negotiate if you cannot touch and see each other? For years, the answer would have been: ‘don't’. However, these days, many of us do not have a choice. Research on negotiations via e-mail shows a negative impact both on the negotiation relationships as well as on the negotiation results. But what about negotiations via a screen, by means of Zoom or Teams? In this ‘Business Watcher’ video, Professor Katia Tieleman shares insights and tips. Watch the video »

Self-management as a way to handle the isolation when working from home
Working remotely one or two days a week can actually increase our productivity. But doing it every day can wear us out and slowly alienate us from our familiar office and colleagues. Some of us even experience a sort of grieving process we need to go through. According to Professor Karlien Vanderheyden, there are several things we can do to make the most of this ‘new normal’. Read more »

3 tips for gig workers to face the COVID-19 challenges
The gig economy is very diverse, and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected some workers more than others. Food couriers are seeing more demand, whereas graphic designers, writers and photographers may have seen potential work opportunities dry up. Although some expect that once the pandemic is under control, the need for gig workers might skyrocket as delayed projects gear up into implementation, several workers have been saying that many of their near-future projects are cancelled. In this ‘Business Watcher’ video PhD researcher Neveen Saied shares 3 tips for gig workers in the Corona era. Watch the video »

The extraordinary importance of fairness when times are tough
Employees care about fairness in outcomes, in procedures, and in interpersonal treatment. It is when the environment is uncertain and outcomes are less positive, that our evaluations of fairness become most important. Fairness shows that we can expect better outcomes in the future, that we are a valued member of the team, and that our managers have integrity. Fairness provides us with assurances regarding our future in the organisation, and makes it feel safe to invest and “go beyond the call of duty”. Read more »

Why strong leaders who communicate effectively will save lives
The UK and the US appear set to be one of the worst hit countries during the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from various other failings, both have a very clear problem with the way in which their leaders communicate. “In a time of crisis and information overload, people experience anxiety and uncertainty. Clear and enough communication does have an impact. The more simple and short your language is, the more convincing it is”, says Professor Karlien Vanderheyden in this article by Medium Magazine. Read more »

Balcony Sessions on leadership in crisis #2: stop being heroic and follow the follower
In this second part of a video series by Leadership Professor Ralf Wetzel, he advises leaders to stop downloading the idea of the heroic leader. Opposite to what you might think, nobody is expecting you to be the lighthouse, having more knowledge and being able to make decisions on the spot. Instead, you should keep in touch with the people around you, and try to spot new and especially weird ideas. Watch Part #2 of the Balcony Sessions »

A continuing crisis calls for network leadership and a collaborative approach
In uncertain times, we may tend to criticise our political and business leaders for not being prepared or for not having a plan. Of course, preparation is important, but it’s not sufficient. In this Business Watcher video, Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir says that organisations that embrace a network leadership structure are much better equipped to continuously adapt to an evolving context. Watch the video »

What is the organisational cost of suppressing our emotions?
These are emotionally intense times for everyone. How we – both individually as well as in organisations – work with our emotions is now more relevant than ever, and has a visible impact on our interactions, resilience and performance. Especially in the virtual world, we find it difficult to do this emotional work. That is why we very often simply choose to suppress emotions – bottle them up and pretend all is under control. But what is the cost of suppressing our emotions? And how can we work better with our emotions in organisations in this period? Watch the video »

Group emotional awareness

Group emotional awareness or how to prevent controversy turning into conflict
Just because you are not physically together with your team, does not meant that emotions are experienced merely individually. They are transmitted as easily in the virtual world, and need to be managed now more than ever. It’s all about working with emotions in the workplace, rather than suppressing them. Based on her research, Professor Smaranda Boros gives you tips on how to better manage the emotional dynamics of your teams from a distance, and in times when anxiety runs rampant all around us. Read more »

Job insecurity is contagious: how can you ensure that the work climate is not affected?
The COVID-19 outbreak is threatening the jobs of many across the globe. Regardless of the exact numbers, it is clear that many employees will at least subjectively worry about the continuity of their jobs. Research shows that such job insecurity is very contagious and may affect the overall work climate in your organisation. To maintain a positive work climate, leaders should focus on three elements, says Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir. Read more »

Balcony sessions on leadership in crisis: PLAY to let your soul survive
In this first part of a video series by Leadership Professor Ralf Wetzel, he talks about an aspect that he painfully misses in the advice issued by gurus all around the world. They talk about how managers and leaders are supposed to manage this crisis by structuring their days, by keeping in touch with co-workers, etc. Most of this is referring to how you – as a leader - satisfy external expectations. But how do you nurture yourself during this time of physical and social restriction? The answer is immersing yourself into an activity that you love to do and… get lost in it. Watch Part #1 of the Balcony Sessions »

Stability management

Maintaining organisational stability in irrational times
Even if in due time we manage to tame the Corona outbreak, other new, unprecedented and unpredictable events will arise. There is one thing you can always focus on more: keeping stability during times of change. Surely, we cannot change what happens to us today, but instead of panicking, we can work on creating a feeling of mental and emotional safety and solidity. Professor Peter De Prins offers organisational leaders in crisis mode 6 recommendations to keep in mind. Read more »

How can leaders effectively manage remote teams?
As a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, leaders are suddenly faced with managing and motivating remote teams. The team members as well feel stressed and anxious about this new way of working. In this Forbes article, Vlerick Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir – together with other European experts – shares 5 insights on managing remote teams. Read more »

Business Today: A Red Queen’s Race
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is set in a land where nothing is as it seems and where the rules change constantly. Only the Red Queen has the power to change the rules of the game. But what does a land that was invented have to do with business today? Quite a lot, actually! The unpredictable rules of Wonderland are often used as a metaphor for today’s turbulent business environment. In this white paper, Professor Katleen De Stobbeleir links a leader’s roles to the Red Queen’s Race. Download the white paper »

Human Resources Management

Remuneration in turbulent times
The crisis calls for contemplation. Decisions that directors take now can help to make companies future-proof, with the added benefit of strongly embedding them in society. Professor Xavier Baeten argues that it would be courageous to take advantage of this crisis to rethink corporate remuneration policies. Not so we can still pay bonuses in spite of everything, but in order to bring them much more into line with the company's strategy. Read more »

How Covid-19 is impacting Total Rewards
The Covid-19 pandemic is not only shaking up business thoroughly, it also has a high impact on reward management. In a series of 3 ‘Business Watcher’ videos, Professor Xavier Baeten explains how we need to (re)think about the key dimensions of total rewards, being pay, benefits and non-financial rewards. In order to turn that knowledge into action, he has developed – together with Hudson and Claeys & Engels – a downloadable Total Rewards Checklist. Watch the videos »

Covid-19 and our quarantined workforce
Remote working has become the new normal. What systems do you need to make this possible? And how do you ensure security when remote workers access sensitive information from home? In this article by the technology news website Silicon UK, Professor Dirk Buyens comments on how it will be difficult to go back, now that employees have had a taste of some of the benefits of constantly working from home. Read more »

Temporary unemployment

Let top management set an example for pay cuts
Applying pay cuts in the form of temporary unemployment measures is a good idea, says Professor Xavier Baeten. However, we should not underestimate the negative effect they have on attitudes to work. It helps if employees trust management, but managers do need to set the right example. Read more »

Video: The new way of working
The Corona virus has an enormous impact on our daily work and the way we work together. Most of us are no longer allowed to physically go to the office and are now full-time working from home. This is radically changing our HR policies with trust becoming a crucial factor. In this Business Watcher video, Human Resources Professor Dirk Buyens gives practical advice on how to address issues emerging from working at home. Watch the video »


What are entrepreneurs’ top priorities in times of corona?
While they are essential to get companies through the crisis, the role of entrepreneurs threatens to be overlooked. Entrepreneurs not only need courage, clarity of mind and perseverance, they also need to be able to transform these into concrete actions and measures. Professor Hans Crijns explains how the entrepreneurs and owner-managers of the iGMO-network are handling this crisis and are helping to shape the future with a healthy dose of entrepreneurship. Read more »

Entrepreneurs and the Covid-19 crisis: what did they do and what did they learn?
The Covid-19 crisis has impacted firms severely. By taking quick action and by implementing the lessons learned, entrepreneurs try to minimise the damage. A research report by lecturer and Senior Researcher Yannick Dillen summarises 220 responses from a survey with members / entrepreneurs from the Impulse Centre ‘Growth Management for Medium Sized Enterprises’ (iGMO). They share insights on the impact of the crisis on their companies, the actions they took and their learning lessons from the crisis so far. Download the report »

Retailers need an entrance strategy

Retailers need an entrance strategy
Now that many shops have been forced to close for more than five weeks, we have been hearing loud calls for economic activity to be quickly resumed. However, the most important thing every entrepreneur needs to ask themselves is whether they can reopen profitably. To do profitable business, income obviously needs to be higher than costs. That is why, while the government is implementing a clear exit strategy, shopkeepers should come up with their own ‘entrance strategy’, says researcher Yannick Dillen. Not starting back up at full strength and with fewer staff might be part of this strategy. Read more »

How a global crisis is accelerating entrepreneurship
We say of entrepreneurs that they see an opportunity and create a company to turn that opportunity into reality. The multitude of entrepreneurial ideas arising from the current crisis offer solutions to concrete problems that require real solutions in the short term. Because everything is constantly and rapidly changing, we see a process that is more focused on action than on brainstorming. According to Professor Hans Crijns, the unbridled creativity of young, enterprising people gives us hope to beat this crisis. Read more »

Entrepreneurs between damage control and responsible leadership

 Entrepreneurs between damage control and responsible leadership
SMEs are feeling the impact of the corona crisis at all levels. By linking a long-term vision with a decisive limitation of the short-term damage, they can emerge stronger than before. That's the opinion of Entrepreneurship Professor Hans Crijns, researcher Yannick Dillen, Daan De Wever (CEO of Destiny) and Herman Van de Velde (Chairman of Van de Velde NV). Read more »

Operations & Supply Chain Management

How can supply chains recover from the Covid-19 bullwhip?
Even a small but sudden change in consumer demand may lead to large demand variations upstream. This bullwhip effect is observed in today’s supply chains. The inventory dynamics downstream in the supply chain will determine how the recovery from the Covid-19 bullwhip will look like. At the same time, it is vital to keep an eye to our upstream supply companies, as they should remain resilient to the large swings in demand. If they collapse, it will create supply shortages and prevent us from fully taking advantage of the market recovery when demand picks up again. Read more »

COVID-19 vaccines: What if we don’t have enough of them?
Vaccines usually have complex manufacturing processes and long production lead times. It is likely that we will face acute shortages in the initial period after the vaccine is produced. We will then have to rely on good targeting and rationing strategies for the quantity of vaccines available. Traditional inventory management systems using backlog or underage costs are generally improper in the human life context. Research by Professor Behzad Samii weighs out other inventory allocation mechanisms. Read more »

Flexibility is your best weapon to limit the damage from unforeseen, unexpected change
How should we react best as a society, business or individual to the many challenges that the coronavirus poses? The extent of the impact is not only being felt in terms of health, but clearly also in the economy and society. According to Professor Brecht Cardoen, flexibility is the best weapon to limit the damage, irrespective of the change or the level at which the change is introduced. Putting flexibility into practice is most visible in the healthcare sector. However, it can also be a good strategy for other companies that are looking for suitable adjustments to the workplace. Watch the video »

The global consumer electronics supply chain is under threat
Since many components to produce consumer electronics and telecom equipment are produced in China, the coronavirus epidemic is heavily impacting the global supply chains of hitech and electronics companies. However, the level of disruption depends on how they operate, says Vlerick Professor Robert Boute in this article by International Finance Magazine. Read more »


Organisational Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty – the good, the bad and the ugly
Government and business responses to the Covid-19 pandemic have been varied. It is important that we learn from their successes and failures. Though everything may appear to be changing, some old fashioned strategic solutions remain effective. This paper which is co-authored by Professor Simon Ashby argues that, in some cases, there has been a failure in strategic foresight and adaptability. Resulting in an over reliance on lean production and just-in-time continuity planning over redundancy and maintaining slack in the system. Read more »

Reshuffling strategic priorities without losing your balance
In times of unexpected crisis, attention to the core and protecting the essence of one’s business is clearly paramount. Yet, you also want to rebalance your future priorities: which elements of the strategy do you need to boost, slow down, add or scrap? One simple and powerful way to go about that is to map different possible scenarios. Professor Carine Peeters shows you how you can do so by following five key steps. Read more »

Board resilience

Boards should look beyond regular risk management to focus on strategic resilience
Effective risk oversight in the context of a major disruption requires boards to rise above their traditional monitoring role and develop a strategic stance to dealing with risk, says Professor Regine Slagmulder. Companies whose board members consider risk as an integral part of their business strategy rather than as an after-thought, are bound to have a competitive edge in building resilience for the future. Read more »

How to devise and implement winning strategies in times of digitisation
This research report together with PwC Belgium offers a new perspective on strategy-making in times of digitisation. By presenting concrete practices, it provides actionable insights that companies across industries can implement to devise and implement winning strategies in turbulence. Overall, we hope these insights will positively contribute to firms’ strategic transformations in these challenging times. Download the research report »

Financial Services Management

Rumble in the FinTech Jungle
No banking crisis, oil shock or war but a pandemic that is shaking up our lives. In this time of turbulence, business leaders have to switch on their hyperdrive. In the article 'How to Thrive in Turbulent Markets’, the American Professor Donald Sull draws the parallel between the characteristics of fighters, the boxing match and how companies deal with turbulence. Fighters can train, study, simulate and mentally prepare for a match but it is never anything like the real thing. Professor Bjorn Cumps applies this comparison to the FinTech sector. Read more »

Covid-19 is Infecting Markets as well as People: how can Equity Investors Respond
Financial market investors are not normally concerned about viruses, as their effects are usually temporary. However, there is no other modern pandemic against which the economic effects of Covid-19 can be compared. In a volatile market, it is tempting to cash in your equity investments and leave. However, with central bank interest rates falling, there are few options available that will offer an inflation busting return. Professor Simon Ashby shares some strategies to consider. Read more »

Accounting & Finance

The digital CFO: 10 key steps to success
Covid-19 has forced companies to accelerate their digitisation efforts. Further digitisation is necessary because it allows us to do things smarter, faster and cheaper, thus boosting our productivity. However, a recent CFO study shows that the productivity of most finance departments has decreased by 60% to 80% since the start of this pandemic. Covid-19 has been the first real test of how far finance departments have progressed in their digital transformation. So, we can learn a lot from successful digital CFOs. Professor Kristof Stouthuysen explains the road to digital success in 10 key steps. Read more »

Belgian acquisitions market in lockdown due to Covid-19
The Belgian mergers and acquisitions market experienced a good and stable year in 2019. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, merger and acquisition activities are expected to decline by more than 30% in 2020. In addition, 60% of Belgian experts also expect a price drop of more than 10%. Liquidity problems in many companies could also put buyers in a strong bargaining position. Finally, the expected impact of an acquisition on future employment appears to be positive. These are the main conclusions of the seventh edition of the M&A Monitor, an annual survey of around 110 Belgian merger and acquisition specialists. Download the report »

How artificial intelligence and the CFO can guide us in uncertain times
The CFO has a twofold role in the Covid-19 crisis. On the one hand, to stabilise in the shorter term and on the other, to prepare the company for recovery in the longer term. According to Professor Kristof Stouthuysen, artificial Intelligence can help CFOs in this important role. Those who are still relying on Excel to determine and predict their liquidity position are unfortunately missing out. Read more »

Weathering the financial challenges of your business during – and after – times of crisis
Unlike during the 2008 banking crisis, both supply and demand are currently compressed, and therefore many organisations see a plunge in revenues. This makes that even economically healthy enterprises may currently be at risk of financial stress or, worst case, bankruptcy. But what can businesses do themselves to avoid or minimise financial hardship? There is no magic in corporate finance, but our Professors Wouter De Maeseneire, Mathieu Luypaert and Sophie Manigart offer various options that firms may need to consider. Read more »

Marketing & Sales

How do salespeople try to sell in times of Corona? 
The Covid-19 pandemic does not only affect businesses in general, but also the sales organisation. In this Business Watcher video, Visiting Professor Deva Rangarajan shares insights from a survey on how sales professionals are trying to do business in Corona times and what it means for the future of the sales profession. Watch the video »

Correctly assessing risks – or how we ignore the denominator
In general, people are not very well equipped to correctly assess a risk. This is because we ignore the denominator in the fraction and only rely on the numerator. Thus we overestimate the chance of dying from coronavirus. But alongside this, there are a number of characteristically human mindsets that further accentuate this denominator neglect. Professor Barbara Briers explains the difference between our quick and slow way of thinking and how that can help entrepreneurs when assessing business risks. Read more »

Why is €100 for a bottle of hand sanitiser not an acceptable price?
Hand sanitiser was one of the products that experienced a steep spike in demand at the moment of the corona outbreak, which led to stock ruptures. Some opportunistic merchants saw an opportunity and started selling (online) at a multiple of the original price – but retailers and authorities undertook actions to stop these types of practices. Professors Koen Tackx and Barbara Briers explain why these types of price increases are perceived as unfair. Read more »

Why people stockpile toilet paper en masse
It is evolutionary adaptive behaviour to follow the crowd in times of uncertainty. However, when it comes to stockpiling toilet paper we are not solely following the social norm. A rapid sale of the same product also creates a striking emptiness in the store shelves. That leads to the creation of a vicious circle of scarcity and social norm. Professor Barbara Briers explains how such a persuasive mechanism works. Read more »

General Management

The end of social media (as we know it)
Due to the current health crisis, our lives have become digitalized at an overwhelming speed. Despite of this new digital literacy, we have also developed new, potentially more demanding needs for satisfying digital connectivity. According to Professor Fredrik Hacklin, we may not necessarily experience a fatigue from the digital medium per se, but simply from the type of content. We seem to be on a transition of silently moving away from a one-to-many based social media, broadcasting easy-to-consume content, that is of mere informative intent and accessible to a large audience. Instead, we are embracing one-to-one or one-to-fewer interaction: direct connection, longer periods of engagement, deeper levels of insight. Read more »

How the Covid-19 crisis creates opportunities for a greener and more sustainable Europe
Last December the European Commission announced the Green Deal to make the European Union carbon neutral by 2050. In this ‘Business Watcher’ video, Professor David Veredas explains how Covid-19 creates enormous opportunities for a further reduction of CO2 emission. Watch the video »

Healthcare Management

Covid patents and R&D races will save us, not the WHO
Making vaccine technology freely available to everyone sounds good. According to Professor Walter Van Dyck, patent prohibition however will slow down access to vaccine technology and, worse still, dry up innovation. To tackle the debilitating battle with the virus, you need a small number of global, capital-rich pharmaceutical companies at the heart of an ecosystem that builds on initial university research and has the scale to lead global distribution. Read more »

& Rankings

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