Pieter Haen became the new president of World Federation of People Management Organisations (WFPMA) at HRIZON in September.
You are 15 minutes into your two-year term as WFPMA president. How does it feel and what do you plan to do next?
It feels wonderful but the real work starts now. We have ambitious plans but our means are limited, especially as we work on a global scale. Now we are working on our strategy for the next five years, where we will focus on research, networking, conferences, best practice and a set of global HR standards. On the operational side we will focus on Africa. There is a new African association – the African Human Resources Confederation, a merger between north and south. The Middle East and Gulf organisations are also knocking at our door and we are really eager to help them develop.
Why is it important to have a global HR standard?
Every profession needs a frame of reference so that you know what is expected from you. There are several associations around the world working on standards but we work with a lot of different cultures and developments and as a neutral body working beyond country borders, who better to construct global standards than the WFPMA? We have already formed a small project team to work on the first outline and are looking at inviting business and HR leaders to join us, such as HRIZON speakers Dave Ulrich and Mary Robinson, who is the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and patron for the Institute of Human Rights and Business.
How did you begin your career in human resources?
I have always had a huge passion for people. I started as a lawyer and a banker. During my national service in the Dutch army I was a secretary to the military court and started to develop an interest in what drives and motivates people and that fascination has never left me. I joined a food sector industry association as a general manager and for eight years I was responsible for industrial relations and the collective labour agreements.
Then I became the HR director for a retail chain. I consequently started my own HR consultancy with offices in Eastern Europe, where I was excited to work with cultures and countries that were developing at that time; the people were eager to learn about Western-style approaches to management.
What are you most proud of?
My children and grandchildren, but in my career I’m not proud of any one thing. It’s a creative journey where I’ve enjoyed working with people to make successful projects. When I was leaving the finance sector the bank staff created a cabaret about me and I think that sums up my attitude to work – it has to be fun. To work with a sense of humour and a smile is a basic fundamental.
What are the three most important things a HR professional needs in their toolkit?
Everybody hates toolkits, but there are basics that we need in our profession. My brother had a business of 80 people where he was handling all the HR himself. He asked me, “What do I need to know?” I told him: people need to know what is expected of them; they need someone to talk to; and they need feedback – it’s basic but at its heart that is HR.