Géraldine Valentini, Chief HR Officer at Isabel Group
As one of the largest fintech groups in Belgium, Isabel Group wants to play a leading role in the development of secure and user-friendly solutions to simplify the financial administration of companies, accountancy firms, banks and individuals. To realize this ambition, the group can count on a team of 350 experts. We are actively looking for new people to support further growth. Not easy in a tight labor market, but the sustainable and innovative policy aimed at cooperation and recognition has won over a lot of talent. “We want our employees to feel good at work and to be able to develop their full potential. People ask for a lot of flexibility, and we offer them that too,” says Géraldine Valentini. She has been Chief HR Officer of the company since 2018, which was recognized as a Top Employer in Belgium in 2023.
Isabel Group wants to be the most reliable and solid link between private individuals, companies, accounting offices, banks, software suppliers and governments. “You only become a ‘trusted leader’ with the right people on board”, says Géraldine Valentini, who started her career in 1999 as HR Officer at Eurocall and as HR Coordinator at IP Global.net.
In 2003, she moved to IRIS (Canon Group), the UCL spin-off specializing in optical recognition. In 15 years she grew to HR Director and made a major contribution to the professionalization of the HR function, which she allowed to evolve into a strategic partner in the company.
Innovation as a common thread
In 2018, Valentini became Chief HR Officer at Isabel Group, an organization in full evolution. The financial world then went through a real upheaval. For example, the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) came into effect in 2017, a new European directive on payment services and the unified European payment area. Electronic invoicing is also gaining ground.
In order to respond to the increasing issues of online security and the other challenges that these evolutions entailed, Isabel Group made innovation its top priority, in order to be able to continue to develop new services. That focus on innovation and diversification is present in the company today more than ever.
“We operate in a complex sector, with many challenges and opportunities. In order to evolve, we need people who have the right hard and soft skillss. That is why we have recruited a lot of new talent in recent years and acquired new colleagues through acquisitions: today we are 350,” says Valentini.
“My goal is to integrate all those new people into the organization smoothly, and to offer them every opportunity to bring their knowledge into the company so that they can create value with it. Of course I’m not doing this alone, because it goes much wider than just human resources. There is a particularly important role for the people manager of each team. That person is specifically trained for this during a multi-year leadership program.”
“Our managers embody and realize the learning culture we need in the company. They are the critical bridge between today’s employee expectations and the company’s priorities, holding the key to unlocking the potential of our employees.”
Valentini emphasizes that development and development are not empty concepts at Isabel Group. “We put a lot of effort into understanding and understanding our employees. What do they want, what expectations do they have of their job and of the group in which they function? Only when we know that can we support them to develop their skills and strengths as much as possible and to use them at work.”
Each employee can receive a personal training program that focuses on both hard and soft skills. Isabel Group received the ‘Top Employer 2023’ recognition for this highly developed and innovative HR policy.
Valentini is of course very proud of this: “It motivates me to continue this exciting process with our people, and to continue to focus on well-being and togetherness at work in addition to our positive training culture.” Because that too is a crucial pillar in Isabel Group’s HR strategy.
For example, all employees are invited at least twice a year for a personal interview with their people manager and with the HRBP (human resources business partner). “It’s not about their performance, but about their career itself. This is a must, especially for us as an IT company. Technology cycles are getting shorter and our people expect us to continue to challenge them with exciting projects. If they don’t get the chance to learn and grow, they will soon be gone,” says Valentini, who is aware that in 2023 it will be more important than ever to be an attractive employer.
With a score of 81 percent, Isabel Group definitely exceeds the IT benchmark of 80 percent in terms of engagement. Yet it remains a challenge to find new people. “In 2018, 25 new employees were recruited annually by a single recruiter. That is no longer possible.”
Despite the tight labor market, Valentini remains optimistic. “I am convinced that we distinguish ourselves through our warm corporate culture and our focus on innovation. Of those 25 hires I spoke of, an average of 20 are referrals by our employees or people who know us. We may not be a ‘sounding name’ like the Big Four, but we do have an excellent reputation.”
Continuous innovation and improvement is in our DNA, and we actively involve our people in this
“We offer numerous training opportunities and believe in a healthy, motivating work culture”, says Valentini, adding that intrapreneurship is strongly encouraged at Isabel Group. “Continuous innovation and improvement is in our DNA, and we actively involve our people in this. If you have an idea, you can come and present it to our innovation board. If it is approved, he or she will receive a budget and our full confidence to work it out.”
Another element of Isabel Group’s corporate culture that appeals to many is the high degree of flexibility the company offers. For example, employees can fill in part of their remuneration themselves with benefits in the context of a cafeteria plan. Think of buying extra days off, having their hospitalization insurance adjusted, ordering affordable hardware material for at home and much more.
Since last year, we have been offering a flexible mobility plan, where you can opt for a smaller car to free up a budget, for example to pay part of your mortgage loan.
“In addition, we have been offering a flexible mobility plan since last year, whereby you can opt for a smaller car to free up a budget to pay part of your mortgage loan, for example. This is possible thanks to the Federal Mobility Budget launched by the government. We supplement this ourselves with a mobility plan developed in-house to offer our employees as many options as possible. Some work from home for 4 days, others only 2: as a company you have to be able to provide an answer to that”, says Valentini.
Flexibility: it really exists
Recognition as a Top Employer does not mean that Valentini and her team are resting on their laurels. “There is always room for improvement. For example, we will structure our onboarding process more, with an extra dose of ‘fun’ in it. We also plan to build a more extensive feedback culture for people managersso that they can fulfill their key role in our organization even better.”
What is Valentini’s biggest ambition as CHRO, we would like to know. “Above all, I want our people to be enthusiastic and interested in the company. That they don’t ‘just’ do their job, but want and dare to take their responsibility to think along with an open mind about how the company can grow.”
“We give all people many opportunities and hear that they experience it themselves,” says the CHRO, who realizes that ‘a lot of attention to well-being’ is a term that appears in every job description and that sometimes raises eyebrows among many candidates . “Reality is often different in many companies, that’s right. But here it really is.”
Our employees work hard, but they also enjoy life. If I can continue our HR strategy in this way, my mission will have been accomplished
“I remember well how impressed I was by the company culture when I first started working here. Flexibility, the right to disconnect, involvement, respect: that all really exists here. Our employees work hard, but they also enjoy life. If I can continue our HR strategy in this way, my mission will have been accomplished.”