15 years of ORMIT Belgium: A trip down memory lane

The birth of a new concept
Good ideas sometimes come from places we would not immediately expect. This was true of the ORMIT concept, which was conceived of on a golf course, somewhere between the eighteenth and nineteenth hole.

Directors of Ericsson, Delta Lloyd, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (the Dutch Railways) and Ordina were playing a round together and discussing how difficult it was to find people with leadership skills and connect them to their organisations. Young graduates often lack the requisite practical experience, do not have a clear idea of their own abilities and do not yet know what they really want to do. They all came across plenty of trainees who, after costly internal training, were never seen again. Lost investment, lost talent. By the time they came to the eighteenth hole they had an idea for a new concept.

The idea was for graduates to be rotated between various organisations for two years. In this way, the trainees would get a clear picture of the corporate culture and role that best suits them and gain different experiences. On the other hand, it would give organisations the possibility of screening talent for a smaller investment. The ball got rolling and the Multi-Company Programme was born.

The emergence of ORMIT and the road to Belgium
Ordina took the lead with this unique idea and incorporated a subsidiary in 1994 with the name ORMIT. The purpose of the organisation was to select and develop young people with the qualities and attributes to become leaders. In a two-year programme, ORMIT developed their personal leadership skills and involved them in cross-cutting business projects. At the end of the development programme, customers were free to recruit them. In 1999, it was decided to also introduce the concept in Belgium. The Belgian facility grew rapidly and after two years, the organisation already had around 45 employees. Companies were clearly attracted by this new trend in talent and leadership development.

“In 1999, I started at ORMIT as one of the first Belgian trainees,” says Thomas De Wulf, the current Managing Director of ORMIT Belgium.

The search for an identity
With the changing economy, ORMIT looked for its place in the market. The bursting of the ICT bubble in 2001 and the resulting economic recession was a difficult time. Companies were no longer investing in young talent and the labour market shortages seemed suddenly to be a thing of the past. Companies still turning to temporary external staff were looking for expertise rather than long-term investment in the development of management potential.  It was against this backdrop that ORMIT Belgium made its move and subsequently positioned itself as a seconder of expertise in certain functional areas (ICT, logistics, finance, etc.). The original talent development philosophy was not abandoned but less emphasis was placed on it.

The economy recovered, but ORMIT Belgium failed to keep pace with the average growth seen in the secondment sector. The fact that ORMIT positioned itself more conventionally meant that the nature of the business and the service provided were less unique, resulting in increased competition from competitor secondment and consultancy firms. Consequently, ORMIT found it more difficult to play its trump card on the labour market, and therefore had more difficulty attracting talent.

“It was time to refocus on developing talent,” says Thomas.

Focus on finding, developing and connecting talent
In 2008, ORMIT decided to go back to its roots, talent development, and repositioned itself as a specialist in talent and leadership development.
With this renewed path, ORMIT wants to help organisations find, develop and connect talent. Its aim is to make organisations and people more successful by recognising their unique talents, and supporting and developing those talents. The starting point is sustainable development based on personal leadership.

The approach worked and ORMIT was again on the up.

Further developments
In addition to the Multi-Company Trainee Programme, two other services were set up in 2008. Firstly, the In-Company Programme, which develops tailor-made management traineeships for companies. Secondly, the Tailoring service, which advises companies on their talent and leadership issues.

In 2010, there was a management buy-out from Ordina. The company’s shares were acquired by the management team, led by Hetty Van Ee and Thomas De Wulf, and by Van Lanschot Participaties and Berk Partners.

Ormit now operates as an independent company and has been able to extend its market position in Belgium, despite the challenging market conditions, while creating added value for its customers and employees.

What we can be proud of
We are very proud of what we have achieved over the last 15 years. Here are the things we are most proud of. We have:

  • Enjoyed sustained growth. The number of employees, our service offering and turnover have risen without impacting on quality.
  • Already recruited and developed 250 talents, most of them have been put to work in our customer network and fill various positions at management level.
  • Built up a strong partner network with our customers.
  • Made contributions towards society. We also put our trainees to work for good causes, having already cooperated with various charity organisations such as Max Havelaar, SOS Kinderdorpen, VOSEC and Habbekrats. We likewise support charitable initiatives suggested by our employees, such as the Ekiden Run and Oxfam Trailwalk.

In addition to work and performance, made plenty of room for fun and happiness. We are proud of our corporate culture. Everyone is closely involved in the organisation. The proof: the numerous awards we have won in various employer surveys.


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