Meet Olivier Legrand

With its location in the centre of Europe, the three Benelux countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg make up Sweden’s third largest trading market. As the heart of the EU and NATO, Benelux is a highly relevant market in terms of security, politics, as well as commerce, and the collective GDP is one of the largest in Europe.

What is your background and what attracted you to make a career change into becoming an Executive Search Consultant?

During my corporate career I’ve had many times the opportunity to work on building – developing – transforming teams and organizations, and I’ve enjoyed that pretty much. During those years I have always been surprised how little the understanding of my business challenges was from HR consultant and especially Recruiters: The conviction is that a better support was possible was there. I was just missing a spark! And this happens when I met by coincidence Gregoire Depeursinge (Managing Partner AIMS Int Switzerland and at that time VP EMEA) during Automechanika in Frankfurt a few discussions later, and receiving the extra support from AIMS International Greece and AIMS International USA, AIMS International Belgium was created and a new professional chapter started for me.

How is your local presence in Belgium?

Belgium by its location and history is international by essence. Like myself I am born in France and I live in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium and been working for international companies. When me and my colleagues are looking for candidates we find them in Belgium but sometimes also in France, Switzerland or the rest of the French speaking communities of the world, or if we are looking for Flemish speaking candidates we are looking in the Netherlands. We are cooperating very closely cross border with our partner within AIMS International. Me and my colleagues can for sure help locally thanks to a deep understanding of the local market, but where we can make the difference is in our ability to help our customers locally and globally leveraging the unique global footprint AIMS international is offering: wherever they are looking for talent we can help following the same process and when needed with a central point of contact who will deeply understand their culture, specificities and challenges.

What is Belgiums economy like?

The economy of Belgium is a modern economy that has capitalised on the country’s central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. My country has developed an excellent transportation infrastructure of ports, canals, railways, and highways, in order to integrate our industry with that of our neighbours. We are about 11 million inhabitants in a small area of just +30.000 sq. meters so everything is close and Belgian companies often goes international very fast. Our economy is made of a healthy mix of some large groups and a multitude of mid to small size innovative companies, highly international driven. You will find here many international companies European (and sometimes global) Headquarters and large number of production facilities in Food (not to mention Beers and chocolates!), the Pharma/Life Science or Chemical sector and an extremely high transport & logistic activity especially around Antwerp and its harbor.

Innovation is highly stimulated by each region, and by many active cities like Leuven, Gent or Hasselt, hosting many rising stars.

How would you describe the Executive Search market in Belgium?

There is currently an interesting situation: companies are in need for talents and ready to hire while candidates are difficult to attract

First reason is the global context: we went through Covid, we have the war in Ukraine, price inflation. These situations generating stress, concerns with the consequence that a large part of potential candidates are feeling it is not the right time to change

Second is that it is a big challenge to get good candidates attention as they are in great demand.

Last but not least many companies have not understood yet that that the game has changed : they need to convince candidates more than they need to convince them ( to show long term vision, to be open for home office possibilities, to offer development opportunities for instance), and they need to be « quick on the ball », long processes with too many steps with not also easily available managers / executives are losing many candidates along the way.

How specifically do you handle international assignments?

It varies with the assignment and the desire of our client: we can perfectly handle from Belgium the project if our consultant’s expertise is what counts the most (in a specific sector for instance) or hand over to our local AIMS colleague if the local expertise counts the most.

To give you an example. When a company in Sweden would like to have help with an Executive Search project in Belgium they are already mostly a client to AIMS International in Sweden. My colleagues at AIMS International Sweden are responsible to lead the project and I am responsible to set up the local team in Belgium. If we need to make a multi county search I do it by myself or together with my colleagues in the French speaking countries or my colleagues in the Netherland. It depends about preferred languages.

The main driver is to propose the solution that will be the most efficient to the customer  and with the same process.

I know you work a lot within Automotive and Industrial with Executive Search, areas where we have collaborated together. Any other areas where you also work in and what type of assignments do you do?

AIMS International Belgium is supporting companies in the Automotive, within engineering, in the Chemie, in the food, in finance and in logistics so the scope is pretty broad. We can virtually help all sectors.

You are the Global Head of our Automotive and Mobility Practice – what are the challenges in that sector and what are the strongest trends you see moving forward when it comes to finding and keeping top talent?

The industry is under massive pressure as it needs to speed up its digital Revolution, handle a technology shift (electric vehicles) and successfully go through a quick consolidation phase.

To succeed, even at AI rising time, the decisive factor is the human factor: people.

It is thus for this industry a massive HR challenge:

  • supporting their team will cope with all changes and adjust to the new normal (engineers for sure, but sales and marketing too)
  • supporting their management will adjust (managing new generations with other expectations, driving towards more gender equity and more diversity)
  • attracting talents in new technologies at a time when Automotive is less attractive than some other industries / sectors.
  • securing the next generation is properly prepared with the appropriate succession planning in place.

Göran has been active as an Executive Search consultant since 2012 and has had the privilege to help clients in different industries with leadership and specialist assignments. Since 2013 he has worked in an international context. Göran works on assignments at mainly top and middle management levels and in various specialist roles, with extra focus on IT, FMCG/Consumer and Life Science.

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