Interview with René Herremans: ”The cooperation between human and machine will be one of the biggest challenges in the coming decade”

RENÉ HERREMANS is Employer Branding&Employee Engagement Director, Albert Heijn (Olanda).
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did your relationship with HR begin?

René: I have a background in marketing and communication. Worked at Advertisers and Advertising Agencies. At one moment in time I became involved in labor market communication at the national government. There I discovered HR and experienced in HR the lack of marketing knowledge even of some basic insights. Taking a marketing perspective in HR creates huge opportunities for an employee centric HR approach. This insight has lead to my first management book, your employee becomes your customer. And it has lead Albert Heijn to ask me to start and grow the employer branding discipline at their organization.

Next to my job at Albert Heijn I also run a small consultancy business, in which I advise employers on Employer Branding, Employee Engagement and Employee Experience.

What are the HR trends that you think will define the new decade?

René: I think the employee experience will be crucial in HR coming decade. A lot of other HR issues are connected to employee experience.

Think of retention, in a period of declining loyalty, how can we retain our employees. Or think of the challenges around digital transformation. Digital transformation will change the complete employee experience. It is up to HR if we do that only from a technological system and process perspective, or if we take the human perspective into account too. To grow the working pleasure and the added value of our people. I think the cooperation between human and machine will be one of the biggest challenges in the coming decade and employee experience management will be crucial to this challenge.

And last but not least bad Employee Experiences are often at the root of burn out. A fast-growing issue at lots of companies. And there are more examples how the employee experience influences our HR ambitions, think of engagement, employer branding, brand advocacy, learning, …. It all is related to employee experience.

Moreover, employee experience has a direct connection to customers and the business. And with a data driven approach HR will finally be able to make their value for the business more explicit, fact based. For long time a difficult relationship on board level, the concrete added value of HR to the business.

How the leaders of tomorrow should look? What is your advice for them?

René: Preferably they look as real persons. Persons with talents and short comings. Their most important task is to create a human centered workplace, based on trust and engagement. Through trust and engagement the added value of people really accelerates and collaboration can grow to a next level. People will take responsibility, use their talents, knowledge and experience to the max. And the business as well as the people themselves will thrive. Employee Experience is crucial here, because after all the aim of employee experience management is to build trust. Future leadership is not based on words only, it is in the act, aligned decision making, in the experience you offer your employees and your customers.

What do you consider to be the employee benefits that could drive the highest employee motivation/satisfaction/retention/engagement?

René: There is not just one ‘killer’- benefit to drive employee motivation. Working needs and benefits can be structured like a Maslow Needs piramid. If one level reaches a satisfactory result, then the next level will become more important. And this goes up until the top-level of purpose, meaning, recognition, self-actualisation and self-esteem.

What is your message for our readers?

RenéIf you are in HR facing the challenges and uncertainties of tomorrow, for me the one thing that will not change in this VUCA world, is the taking the employee perspective, our employees are our customers too. With growing uncertainties this will only becoming more important. Therefore one basic question will stay the same with everything we are planning to do in HR: What role do we – as an employer – want to play in the lives of our people?


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