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Benoît's story: From employment & labor lawyer to employee relations manager

Benoît's story: From employment & labor lawyer to employee relations manager

Benoît Hansez was working as a employment and labor lawyer, advising corporations – but never truly becoming involved in implementing ideas or creating strategy and resolving day-to-day issues of employees.


living the executive mba

“Legal teams are often at arm’s length from business,” he says, “They often don’t speak the same language as other teams in the organisation and they don’t typically get involved in the day-to-day business.”

Benoît saw that legal teams tend to be consulted only very late in a process – which often lead to blocking and saying “no”. Being a lawyer, he was finding the situation increasingly frustrating.

Knowing it was time for a big change in his life and in his career, he turned to Vlerick.

“I was unhappy in my role,” he says. “I also was facing significant challenges in my personal life. And so I knew I needed a change – but didn’t quite know what I needed to change. So I decided to complete my education and do my MBA.”

Benoît started an Executive MBA programme at Vlerick in 2017. "Doing the Executive MBA is extremely intense and challenging,” says Benoît, “But I always had support and encouragement to carry on”.

“I made friends on the programme who I still meet up with and stay in contact today.”

Benoît says he also benefitted from the coaching he received. He says: “It revealed my dominant cognitive styles and competencies – and showed me that I am happiest when I am creative and helping others and approaching work in a holistic way. It showed me that I have helping behaviours and can help to influence the behaviour of others.

“Deep inside me, I probably knew this – but before, I wasn’t able to articulate it into a direction.

“This coaching helped me to make decisions and to see that rather than being a lawyer, I wanted to be a business coach.”

learning on the executive mba

Benoît says he’s still using all the skills he learned at Vlerick today. He adds: “The frameworks, tools and approaches are all thought-provoking and extremely useful in my day-to-day work”.

“And in addition to this, you learn from your peers. Each one of us had a different background and a way of looking at a challenge, which you can learn from.”

The programme opened Benoît’s eyes in other ways too. On a Vlerick visit to Shanghai, he visited Alibaba and Cisco – and was deeply impressed with the way businesses operate in China.

He says: “For me, it was my first trip to China. Visiting Shanghai was an incredible experience. I was impressed by how technologically advanced business in China is – and how loyal and dedicated employees are”.

“There were deep levels of collaboration in these companies that resonated with me.”

And when it came to Benoît’s Knowledge-in-Action project, he was able to bring together everything he had learned – along with a desire to see the legal function become more embedded in corporate environments.

He explains: “I created a business plan for a start-up to address a challenge I knew existed in corporations. It was to build an IT platform that would enable the legal department to become more integrated with the rest of the business, to work more efficiently using new technologies and to be more focus on strategic matters. ”.

“Typically, the business doesn’t involve legal early enough. The legal team feels intimidating and the business doesn’t know how to speak to lawyers. So this platform would be a way to involve legal across the business early and strategically”.

“The Knowledge-in-action project was a great opportunity to challenge my knowledge as a lawyer with the practical experience of experts.”

making the leap

Ultimately, Benoît decided not to launch the legal platform. But by the time he finished his Executive MBA, he knew exactly where he wanted his life and career to go.

Six months after he graduated, he became a Senior Employee Relations Consultant for Coca-Cola.

“I support HR and the management at Coca-Cola,” Benoît explains, “I’m there to make the legal side more human and to find resolutions to issues before they escalate. I listen to both sides and I help to find a way forward”.

“I am busy, I have a big workload – but I am happy. It is the perfect role for me. It uses my legal expertise, and I am helping people and my role is an important part of the business.”

Benoît says his time at Vlerick was transformational. He adds: “I now know that leadership isn’t a title, it’s a behaviour – it’s your actions that make you a leader. Vlerick helped me to understand myself better and to be a better person. It’s a goal everyone should have – to be a better person, a better parent, a better neighbour and a better friend. Because of what I learned at Vlerick, I can now help other people to be the best they can be.”

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