Amrop is a CEO search company active in around 54 countries and Benoit Lison, Managing Partner based in Belgiumworks within the company’s global digital practice group.
His focus is on recruiting digital CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and chief security officers. “We work on all these roles and more, but always position number one or number two in a company,” he says.
As part of Amrop’s global digital practice group, Leeson participates in discussions on global trends and strategies in hiring people with digital profiles for leadership positions, but his main geographical focus is Europe. Naturally, he pays special attention to his native Belgium. Because he only hires top-level executives, he has a bird’s eye view of how young people can one day reach these heights.
One aspect of the overall business climate in Belgium is the rapid change in organizational structures. In the past, almost every company had its entire structure in the country – including the CEO, human resources, finance, marketing and all other major departments.
Today, there is a mix of structures, with main parts of companies based in Belgium, and support positions located in shared service centers in other countries – often in Central Europe, such as Poland, where shared service centers are becoming an important part of the economy. .
“In the past, all of these people were based in legal entities in Belgium,” Leeson said. “It simply came to our notice then. Now what we see is that business activities are based here – and level C managers are here – but transaction activities are in shared service centers. Anyone working for a Belgian company must learn to work in these new virtual structures.
Changing the work environment
Of course, another reason for the work environment to become more virtual is because of Covid-19. Two or three years ago, very few companies were convinced that working from home would be possible. Today, almost anyone can work from home – and some of the latest technology makes this more feasible than ever.
Coming out of the pandemic, many companies are taking a step back and considering the importance of staff coming to the office and working with their colleagues. This concept is particularly important for young workers in service-based economies in countries such as Belgium.
“There’s always been a kind of pyramid in consulting companies,” Leeson said. “Before the pandemic, young people always worked for the client on the spot. They worked together in small groups of four or five. When they worked together, they adopted the same culture, the same way of working – and exchanged know-how. It was on-the-job training.
“Today, when you see these young people working from home, they don’t have the same connection with their colleagues. It’s less intense. It’s also difficult to develop culture and exchange know-how. “
Many companies are looking for the optimal hybrid formula, with people working partly from home and partly in the office. But the challenge is to coordinate schedules so that the people who need to be together come to the office at the same time. “These are new parameters that will affect our daily working lives,” says Leeson.
Rising but complex wages in Belgium
“Overall, wages are rising,” Leeson said. “But wages are a complex issue due to the high tax regime in Belgium. Companies needed to be more creative in offering compensation packages. Many companies offer a fixed salary and bonus, complemented by a huge range of benefits, including a company car, insurance package and intellectual property distributions.
“An unusual advantage that is common in Belgium is the bicycle surcharge, where the company pays the price of a bicycle.”
Stock and warrant options can also be included in the benefit packages. The warrant is a theoretical value for private companies and is taxed at far lower rates than normal wages.
“There is another strange thing in Belgium,” Leeson said. “We have indexing. If the cost of living rises by more than 2%, several categories of people receive an automatic salary increase of 2%. In the last year we had three indexations. This means that people in certain categories of jobs – such as civil servants – received a 6% salary increase last year. Moreover, we will probably have a fourth indexation in the coming months.
But Leeson added: “This indexing increases the cost of labor. This means that economic activity in our country is becoming much more expensive than in neighboring countries, which puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to close neighbors such as the Netherlands.
Leeson’s first piece of advice for young people just starting their careers is to focus on well-funded companies. “When you’re developing new technology, you really need a lot of resources,” he says. “You see a lot of start-ups that don’t recover after the first year. They never last. “
His second advice is to always keep up with technological developments. This is true for young people, but more generally for people of all ages. “I think there is a huge chance for people over the age of 45,” he said. “They already have a lot of know-how, but they need to make sure they stay sharp. Otherwise, they may no longer be relevant to emerging technology companies.
“The world is changing every day. There are so many new things to come. We have to stay open and take in a lot of new ideas to keep up with the news. ”
The third piece of advice that Leeson offers to young people – this time specifically for young Belgian citizens – is to orient themselves to the international environment. “I think it’s really important to work with international cultures, to learn to communicate with people from different parts of the world,” he said.
“This is certainly a challenge for Belgians because they stick to their homes. There is a huge difference, for example, between Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch always go abroad. They stay at home in Belgium. ”
Leeson added: “There are many opportunities everywhere, but it is especially interesting for young people to see what is happening in big countries like India and China. It will be very important to keep an eye on these places in the coming years. People in India and China are very well trained, speak English and are open to work abroad. People from these countries will take jobs from young people in Europe.
“In the coming years, we will have a more competitive labor market. Young people need to prepare. ”