Marianne Wens has been working in VITO’s HR department since the early years 2000. There she has seen first-hand how VITO’s evolution as an organisation has affected the day-to-day operations of the HR department and the effect this has had on the recruitment of new employees. “In the last few years, for example, there have been many more market-focused and commercial profiles,” says Wens. “Our international recruiting has also increased, and at the same time, we need data researchers, business developers, product developers and IT staff more than ever.”

Many sectors, including high-tech industry, are not managing to fill their vacancies. Is that something you are also seeing here at VITO?

Well, the stream of applications and CVs that flow into our office hasn't dried up yet. For research profiles in particular, we are very attractive as an employer, and in recent years our international recruiting has also been strong, which is essential when you are looking to recruit top experts. Currently, as an organisation we are fighting a 'war for talent’ when it comes to IT profiles, primarily because VITO’s reputation as an interesting (local) employer is not so strong for them yet.

VITO’s HR policy has certainly undergone great change in the last two decades. What development really stands out to you, when you look back at your 18-year career here?

I see a significant shift in focus, from an administrative organisation to a more holistic approach in which the employee takes centre stage and in which employee well-being, employee development and cultural values are important issues.

We have also followed the trend towards more data and more analysis. Our well-being project, FIT@VITO, allows us to keep our fingers on the pulse using comprehensive well-being surveys, for instance. We also carry out regular surveys to monitor how valued our employees perceive themselves to be. The results of these surveys always produce relevant insights for our HR policy and allow us to implement targeted measures.

In recent years, we have also found that it is important to ensure that the HR services join managers and employees as close together as possible. In that regard, the HR Business Partners are an important link to the business units.

The ‘VITO community’ now consists of nearly a thousand people. What do you look for in applications? What do you think is important in a future employee?

For one thing, it is important that people come to work here for the right reasons, which often prove to coincide with our core values (excellence, sustainability, innovation, fair corporation and customer focus). Many of our colleagues want to give a little something back to society, though that doesn't mean we only recruit idealistic types – the social engagement can also be entirely realistic. And of course, we also place great emphasis on innovation, and innovation thrives on diversity. This is very much reflected in the composition of our teams. Finally, in recent years we have moved more towards a client-focused orientation – a ‘sharper’ client focus. All of these factors play a role with regard to applications. Finding a good match is important for all parties.

How does VITO keep its employees sharp and up to date in the fast-moving and innovative fields they work in?

In a knowledge organisation, development has to be a mindset. In the annual development and feedback meetings between managers and employees, ‘learning and development’ is a point that is raised frequently, which is why we have a very wide range of training and coaching opportunities to help enhance competences. Technical training is often very specific, so our experts travel to specialised centres both within Belgium and abroad.