Aertssen Group: payroll department becomes business partner

15 December 2020 - Reading time: 5 Minutes

Aertssen Group is a family business based in Stabroek, north of Antwerp in Belgium. However strong it’s growth ambitions, Aertssen Group will always be a family business above all else. In order to retain that family spirit in amidst a growing organisation, a wide range of significant HR efforts have been made over the past couple of years: every employee can now count on a personalised approach supported by technology.


Aertssen Group has been around for more than half a century and is currently managed by the family's second and third generation. The Antwerp company's main international operations are in construction including major infrastructure works.

Tough HR challenges

"We currently have more than 1,400 employees. That's almost twice as many as five years ago", says HR Director Alain Bastiaens. When he joined in 2016, the group was growing fast, but was also facing some tough HR challenges.

Alain: "In HR terms, the various business units had increasingly started to follow their own path over the years. Nonetheless, the Finance department was still responsible for payroll and personnel administration."

Retaining the family spirit

We were recruiting a lot of new people, that in itself presented a new challenge: maintaining the family spirit and engagement. Alain: "The employees indicated exactly what the problem area was in a satisfaction survey. They clearly needed more internal communication. In short, we really needed a separate HR department with an overarching HR strategy."

"In order to offer our customers a personalised, quality service, we have to set the bar just as high for ourselves in dealing with every single Aertssen employee when it comes to HR. When every employee and each team feel connected, we have a solid group. 'Grow together' became our strategic umbrella concept allowing the company and employees to grow together. It was also the basis for our HR roadmap for a three-year period. HR became a separate division with a say on the board."

Alain"When every employee and every team feel connected, we have a solid group."
Alain Bastiaens
HR Director

Technology as the backbone

The HR Director decided to focus strongly on technology: "Our sector is seriously lagging behind in terms of digitalisation and automation. And yet the structural elimination of manual processes is the only way to free-up time within the HR department. This free time can be invested in talent management, learning and other more strategic HR processes from which every employee will reap the benefits and grow. And, in short, getting a personalised HR service."

Aertssen Group worked with SD Worx to investigate how to automate payroll and HR administration. Alain: "Thanks to the eBlox payroll package and the employee platform, everyone now receives a digital payslip and paper personnel files have become a thing of the past. We have also introduced Protime at a number of business units already, so their time registration and planning are completely digital. Rolling out a tool that will support training and development and allow us to build a fully-fledged learning management system (LMS) is still on the agenda in the near future."
"The automation of manual processes is the only way to free up more time for personalised HR services."

Everyone communicates

AlainTechnology is also used to offer direct support to employees and make the people in the group feel more connected. For example, we introduced vending machines with workwear and healthy snacks and we used simulators and VR glasses in a number of practical training courses.

And last but not least, every employee can now log on to the internal communication platform, Workplace, using a company mobile phone. Alain: "This couldn't be more different from the old static leaflet with company news that used to accompany our payslips. It's great to see how everyone now is enthusiastic and contributes to our internal communication."

"It's great to see how everyone now enthusiastically contributes to our internal communication."

On the same wavelength

The fact that this personalised approach resonates with personnel is illustrated by a significant increase in employee satisfaction – from 60% to 78% – in the most recent satisfaction survey. However, the HR Director is not resting on his laurels: "Flexible remuneration also matches the concept perfectly. We don't have any concrete plans on the table just yet, but we will certainly work on those in the near future. Already now, Aertssen Group is, in the middle of setting up several new offices: it has opened eight in total with the participation of its employees. It is also offering teleworking to its staff in support services."
"SD Worx is the ideal sparring partner for all our plans", concludes Alain. "They listen to our needs and requirements, and they keep an open mind in order to contribute to possible solutions, new tools or additional functionalities. We are on the same wavelength and we inspire each other. You won't hear them say very often that something is impossible.”

Would you also like an HR partner who works with you to meet your HR challenges?

Find out how SD Worx can help you.

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