Who are the power people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Annelies van Erom

Who are the power people behind Popay? Today, let’s meet: Annelies van Erom

Published on

20 Oct 2023

Shortcuts and quick fixes are nowhere to be found with this Popay lady. Annelies is all about long-term solutions that significantly reduce the client workload. It is for good reason that organisations come back saying, ‘Because with you, magic happens’. How does she manage it all? You can find out here, as Annelies shares unique insights into her working life.

Let’s start with your roots: where are you from?
“I’m originally from Leopoldsburg, where I was born and raised. I started studying Office Management in Limburg and then went on to complete a follow-up study programme in Human Resource Management in Leuven. And that’s the environment I’ve remained in.  Now I live with my husband and young daughter who is nearly two years old in Boutersem, which suits me well.”

Nice and close to Popay, then. How did you end up at this company?

“That was almost nine years ago now, time certainly flies. I was working as a recruitment consultant and was looking for a new challenge. Something less commercial with more HR content. It was then that I came across a job vacancy from Popay that appealed to me. Especially because of the project-based work and consultancy activities. I also found the link between the soft side of HR and the hard side of IT interesting. I deal with technology a lot, but at that time I didn’t know that you could tie all these aspects together in one job.”

A nice combo! How would you describe your position now?
“My job is incredibly varied, you can’t really put a label on it. I mainly work on projects. This ranges from functional analyses and configuration of HR software tools to being project lead for HR projects. That change of pace keeps it exciting and challenging.”

So, lots of variety. What does your ideal work week look like?
“I prefer to be surrounded by colleagues or clients, so I almost never work from home. I think that social interaction is important. It keeps you up to speed on what others are doing and allows you to help each other efficiently. There is less of a barrier to asking questions when you see each other face to face. I’m usually in the office 3 days a week and at client offices 2 days. It’s a good balance in my opinion, because I think it’s important for the customer to know us.”

So you regularly work at customer locations. How do you empower them?
“By looking at a broader perspective rather than purely on what they ask for. We don’t just examine the issue, but want to know how the entire process works. Are there other points that could be improved? That’s true most of the time. This is something customers appreciate immensely. By doing more than just what is down on paper, we are building a partnership.”

How do you ensure here that clients can in turn empower their own employees?
“We not only look purely at HR software but also at the human aspect. Not only should the process be well embedded in the tool, but working with the tool should also be seamless for employees. That’s why we always consider what support will be needed after implementation. That could include documentation, workshops or being available for questions. It’s not like the project just stops with: ‘Hope you enjoy it’. We’re very approachable and stay accessible. We like to explain things and continue making small improvements afterwards. This really gives HR teams the chance to do their jobs better and more efficiently.”

What would you say is ‘typical Annelies’ in your work? When do you feel a sense of satisfaction?
“Customers know me as someone who doesn’t just stick to the tool, but who looks at the entire process. I always try to actively contribute in terms of solutions there. ‘No’ doesn’t exist, I always look further along. That’s why I also want to know exactly why organisations work in a certain way. Since I visit customers on a regular basis, I hear what is going on and where improvement is possible. Of course I’m satisfied when the customer is happy, but also when I see that the processes we’ve implemented are being used effectively by employees. That they are truly saving time, reducing their workload and are able to focus on other things.”

What is the biggest compliment you have ever received from a customer or colleague?
“Coincidentally, I just received a nice compliment from a customer last week. There was a problem that other parties had looked at before they came to me. ‘Because with you, magic happens,’ they said. That was very nice to hear.”

Wow! Those are wonderful words. How do you work together with your colleagues in this?
“As colleagues, we are always there for each other. We don’t just sit and work in our own little corners, we work across projects. Everyone has their own expertise and knows who to turn to for certain questions. That is typical of us as a team. That kind of approachable contact is nice. I also want my colleagues to know they can count on me.  If I say I’ll do something, I do it.”

That’s teamwork. What gives you energy and what is something that you really can’t stand?
“What I really get a lot of energy from is when we’ve been able to come together as a team to enhance the client experience and reduce their daily workload. Tackling a problem together. The interaction between people, sharing knowledge and finding that solution together is incredibly energising. What I can’t stand is when someone only sees problems or doesn’t take responsibility. I’m also allergic to shortcuts and quick fixes. I always go for long-term solutions. Even if a manual process only takes 5 minutes of work a week, I still want to find the right structural solution.”

You’ve already achieved many great things. What would you like to add to that list?
“I would be keen to roll out our vision in terms of HR transformation for multiple clients. I think the need is there in many companies, but they haven’t realised it themselves just yet. I want to give Popay an even bigger place on the map in this area. For myself, I’d like to utilise our new colleagues as efficiently as possible and support them as best I can with my experience. Popay is growing and I think it’s important for new people to also find their own place in the team.”

Nice goals! Do you have any final thoughts to add?
Popay may very well be an atypical employer. We work with a small team in Belgium and place a very high priority on job satisfaction. That has always appealed to me. We work hard, but we also intentionally take time out to have fun. Every Friday afternoon, we bring the week to a nice close with drinks. And we celebrate our successes so they don’t go unnoticed.”