The top strategy trends in Belgium's boardrooms

10 October 2019

Growth, innovation, staying ahead of digital disruption and winning the war for talent are according to a new study the top priorities of executives in Belgium. 

To gain insights in the strategic agenda of Belgian executives, management consultancy Berenschot teamed up with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce for Belgium and Luxembourg (NKVK) to survey over 130 participants in the private sector. 

The researchers found that growth and digitisation are the top two topics that are discussed in the boardroom – both themes were mentioned by 71% of the respondents. “Organisations are keen on taking advantage of the favourable economic climate and see opportunities for growth, both in Belgium and internationally,” stated the authors Jacques Hodeige, Marlon Drent, Pieter Strackx and Tom Vansteenkiste. 

On the shared top spot for digitisation, they write in the report; “Many organisations and companies realise that in today’s rapidly changing and increasingly transparent world, they have to embrace digital transformation. Digitisation not only help organisations accelerate growth, but also tap into new business models. Digitalisation is inescapable and digital is now the norm.”

De belangrijkste strategische themas in Belgie

Failing to do so can come with a hefty, if not devastating, cost. Strackx, a senior consultant at Berenschot: “The recent bankruptcy of Thomas Cook is a classic example – the company fell over partly due to a slow response to digitisation in the holiday sector.” 

In terms of impact on strategies, labour market challenges takes the top spot. Major trends such as shortages of skills in high-demand areas (technology, analytics, etc) combined with a flourishing economy and an ageing workforce means that Belgian companies are more than ever struggling to fill their open roles. In addition, the nature of work will evolve further in the coming years, due to continued digitisation and innovation, with 21st-century skills becoming more important. This will according to the authors require companies to revamp the way they recruit, keep and train people.

Rounding out the top five of strategic topics in Belgian boardrooms is reputation. However, while 62% of executives mention the topic, the study found they are not putting their money where their mouth is; only 8% are actually incorporating reputation into their regular strategic planning and execution process. 

“Many executives realise that negative publicity can have a disastrous impact on sales. In today's (digital) society, providing transparency is paramount. The consumer always has information available, they are able to voice their views through social media and are increasingly demanding companies to provide more insight into their business processes and supply chains,” write the authors.

Op welk manier wilt u zich in 2019 onderscheiden van de concurrent?

A rosy outlook

Across the board, nine out of ten Belgian executives surveyed expect their company to grow in 2019, with a quarter of this group expecting marked growth of 10% or above. Executives in the distribution and logistics sectors are most optimistic (91% are counting on growth), followed by those in the energy and utilities (60% expect growth) sectors.

Three quarters of Belgian executives regard domestic expansion as the most interesting and logical growth strategy. Those that eye international expansion consider Western Europe as the top go-to region (56%), followed by the US – 8% are hatching plans to grow in the world’s largest economy.