Trends and their Reality

HR Leaders follow trends, HR Managers don’t!

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) Today, in the first part of his interview, Michel explains why and how HR Leaders know exactly how to deal with trends and trendsetters.

A business is a collaborative network of people

According to Michel, today’s changes are more radical than ever before because organisations are no longer stand-alone islands. An organisation used to be able to expand via structures and departments and allow its people to function on the basis of this ’compartmentalised’ culture. But, in Michel’s opinion, this is very much a thing of the past. Nowadays, an organisation has to be a network of people who continuously collaborate in order to sustain the company’s market position. This is also why collaborative processes and tools that offer genuine support in this context are so vital for Michel.

All employees are knowledge workers

In the past, a few specialists and experts were considered to be knowledge workers. However, this is no longer the case as far as the former HR Director of the IWT is concerned. Today, every employee must be regarded as a knowledge worker. Every employee at every level of the organisation has a specific view of the organisation as a result of his experience and knowledge within his working environment, but also with customers, personal contacts and social media.

The HR Manager is a networker

With this point, Michel inadvertently touches on the very essence of the discussion, i.e. the role of HR when it comes to trends such as ’collaborative organisations’ or resolving organisational silos. His reasoning is two-sided. In his opinion, the HR Manager must primarily function as a networker and then go on to see what the others have not (yet) seen or recognised.

Entrepreneurs within the business

According to the former HR Director of the IWT, there is still a great deal of wastage within organisations because everyone argues from the basis of their own role or position therein and spends too little time functioning as entrepreneurs within the business. An entrepreneur is always on the lookout for the changes he can make to benefit the company and, in turn, himself.

Experts stand by their views

Experts in the huge range of sectors (HR, IT, Finance, Sales, etc.) tend to remain within their set areas and view the organisation from this perspective. They were, after all, recruited for their expertise. As a result, they stand by their expert views but this often has pernicious consequences when it comes to change and investments in this context. According to Michel Vandermeulen, this is precisely where the added value of the HR Manager lies; he also argues that an HR Manager should not be automatically granted a seat on the Management Committee, but rather he should earn it.


Mediator, sounding-board and spokesperson

As far as Michel Vandermeulen is concerned, an HR Manager should recognise flows and potential within a business. He should constantly keep an eye out for what is going right and wrong in the organisation. He must see where and how people could learn from one another by ensuring all levels work together in the interests of the business and, indirectly, themselves. He alternates between functioning as a mediator, sounding-board and spokesperson within the organisation. He must convince directors as well as employees on the work floor that some things could be done differently and to be open to different perspectives.

HR Leader, not HR Manager

Michel believes it’s all about HR Leadership and leadership is not provided from behind a desk but on the work floor. HR Leadership goes much further than HR Management, which is limited to the traditional HR activities such as payroll administration, training, job descriptions, evaluation techniques, etc. The HR Manager essentially stands on the sidelines and is often reactive. The HR Leader is involved in operational activities and has a proactive attitude. This involvement means that the HR Leader not only considers but also knows precisely how to build upon the “biography” of the company.

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.


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Do HR Leaders follow all trends?

he 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.