Leadership development remains top priority for HR departments

The main priority for Belgian human resources departments continues to be the development of the competencies of managers, i.e. leadership development, as the HR Barometer study by HR consultancy Hudson and Vlerick Business School reveals. Talent management – the attraction, development and motivation of talent in the organisation – is still ranked a clear second.

Last year’s HR Barometer showed that diversity was less of a priority, but that the HR departments surveyed did feel that they had the issue under control. This year, too, we see the same trend. The recruitment of older employees, foreign members of staff and people with disabilities is – despite the social focus – not an objective in itself for HR departments.

Quantitative impact

Human Resources often want to think more strategically when drawing up policies within their organisations. But we see that the use of HR analytics is still not established enough in our companies. Compared to a traditional policymaker such as the commercial or financial departments, the HR policy is often not based on quantitative data and this reduces HR’s impact. So far, the mapping of and looking for connections between a variety of HR data and subsequently using this information to draw up policy have not been a daily priority for HR departments. However, the companies themselves have indicated that this may change in the future.

Setting priorities

This year, the HR Barometer looks more closely at leadership development and here, the results do deviate somewhat from the literature. ‘Our study shows that managers today acquire 42% of their knowledge on the job. This is completely out of line with the 70-20-10 model, which recommends learning 70% of the job primarily by doing, 20% through coaching and 10% through formal training courses,’ says Professor Dirk Buyens, head of the Human Resource Management Centre at Vlerick Business School. ‘The biggest difference can be seen between courses and training, with our HR Barometer reporting 33% compared to the proposed 10%. The remaining 23% of the learning process is made up of coaching by an internal or external person who supports the (future) manager in learning their job,’ according to Professor Buyens.

Bright future

Leadership development is mostly applied to middle or senior managers or high potentials aged between 35 and 45. ‘But we do have to ask ourselves a few questions here,’ Ellen Volckaert, manager within the Research & Development department at Hudson, clarifies. ‘The young managers of tomorrow also have to be given enough opportunities to develop. What’s more, a great many managers who are coming to the end of their careers are experienced experts in their fields, but they also need to have the people skills to be able to pass on this knowledge. That said, the HR managers surveyed do report that they are preparing their companies for growth. Good news then, because company growth equals economic improvement and positive prospects.’


About the HR Barometer
The HR Barometer is a collaboration resulting from the close partnership between HR consultancy Hudson and Vlerick Business School. Ellen Volckaert, manager within the Hudson Research & Development department, and Professor Dirk Buyens, Head HRM Centre at Vlerick Business School co-wrote this report, for which they surveyed HR managers of the BEL 20 and the 200 biggest Belgian companies in terms of number of employees. 46 organisations participated in the study; together, these companies represent about 150,000 Belgian employees.

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