Do HR Leaders follow all trends?

The driving forces behind trends are not just social and economic changes but also new technological developments. As HR Director of the former IWT, Michel Vandermeulen has his own take on change within organisations. (You can see his CV below.) In the first part of the interview, he explained how HR Leaders know how to deal with trends and trendsetters; in the second part he elaborates on why HR Leaders do not follow all trends and how HR itself has not changed, but the technology that is used for HR has.

No need for strategies and stringent guidelines

In answer to the question of how Michel sees HR Leadership within a large multinational, he refers to the risk that corporate HR is tempted to issue (excessively) stringent guidelines for local entities. He does not believe in the effectiveness of strategies written by experts from their ivory towers. In this context, he reflects on his task as a lawyer and then HR Director of the IWT Agency, to align the personnel statutes to the guidelines issued by the Government of Flanders.

A sense of reality

The juxtaposition of the “one size fits all” concepts of the Government of Flanders with the daily reality of the IWT was, for him, a genuine revelation. He refers, for instance, to the job descriptions or processes such as the evaluation system. For Michel, nowadays it’s all about one important principle and, simultaneously, the title of a book that he recently bought; “With a sense of reality”.

Building on ambition

Michel Vandermeulen has two bits of advice for corporate HR organisations. First, take the time to check the reality among local HR Managers before setting out a corporate HR strategy. Then dare to build upon the ambitions of local HR Managers in order to achieve strategic targets from the context in which they work. The more detailed and stringent the prior planning, the less people tend to want to cooperate.

Trends versus company biography

When it comes to trends and trend-setters, the entrepreneurial HR Leader Michel Vandermeulen is very clear. “It is important that an HR Manager stays abreast of and is interested in new trends in organisational management and new technologies.” The time limits for implementing these innovations are just as clear to Michel. “The basic rules still apply. Every potential innovation must first be checked back to the company’s biography.” In other words: “What is the added value for the business? To what extent is the organisation ready for this?” and last but not least “How can you organise and keep these changes on the right track?”

Technology for HR Leadership

Michel provides an answer that is just as clear and resolute to my last question, “Has technology changed the HR profession?”.

The HR job is still the same and technology has not changed anything. Technology is still there to serve people. Nevertheless, there has been a fundamental change with respect to technology. Until now, the added value of technology for HR has been in the automation of HR processes and data management. Typical examples include payroll administration, recruitment and training, job categorisation and career progression. The motto was “Time gains for HR Leadership thanks to automation”. Nowadays, however, technological support for the HR profession has reached a new level. The latest software tools focus on supporting the collaborative processes that correspond to HR Leadership. The conclusion is therefore: “The HR profession has not changed, but the way in which technology supports HR definitely has.”

To conclude, Michel Vandermeulen adds a final message to all HR Managers who share in his HR Leadership vision:

You are not doing your job to serve your own ends. Do what I do. With a sense of reality.
Always be genuine; always a person among people.


Michel Vandermeulen


Michel Vandermeulen is a lawyer with the heart of an entrepreneur, with a belief in the power of collaboration, and a networker with a penchant for HR Management as a driver within an organisation. With a doctorate in law gained in 1971, Michel carved out an exceptional career which was topped off with professional experience as a member of the Management Committee for the government agency, the IWT (Innovation through Science & Technology) which has now joined forces with NL Agency, under the flag Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship. For over 20 years, Michel functioned as their HR Manager, employing his unique personality to constantly strive to give the HR profession a new, more far-reaching and higher dimension.

Michel will not retire in 2013, but will continue to follow his passion of HR and offer his unique cocktail of expertise and experience as an HR consultant and founder of the limited company 14ALL.


Trends and their Reality

The driving forces behind trends are not just social and economic changes but also new technological developments.


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