New Vice President HR Katrijn takes over from Luc

On 1 June VP HR Luc Lemarcq passed the torch to Katrijn Clement. 

03 June 2024

Should we expect major changes in terms of policy? “No. As HR Director Flooring I’ve been contributing to the HR policy for many years but naturally I’ll want to add my own touches”, says Katrijn. What are their thoughts on the transition?


Luc, you’ve been VP HR since 2007. What were your personal highlights?

Luc Lemarcq: “Seventeen years is a long time and it’s hard to choose but if I had to pick one particular moment I’d go back to the start of my career. Two years prior Unilin had been acquired by Mohawk. We evolved overnight from a sturdy SME into a large listed company. Obviously, the new context also required a fresh HR policy. In terms of HR the various divisions still operated as separate entities at the time. Remuneration policies were different, the shift systems were not aligned...  the list was endless. I really enjoyed the complex process of streamlining all these aspects. The structure we set up then is still the foundation that we continue to build on today. We developed a policy that was revolutionary at the time and we are still front-runners today.”

The streamlining process undoubtedly came with many challenges.

Luc: “Definitely. It was a very labour-intensive process to map out all the differences and in consultation with the unions develop a standardised system, one that all parties could live with.”

What were the biggest lessons you learned?

Luc: “That a quick fix is not always the best approach. Sometimes a quick solution only makes the problem worse because it causes new problems. So you must always be aware of the impact of your decisions. Sometimes the cure to a problem causes more damage than the symptom itself.”

Something to keep in mind, Katrijn?

Katrijn Clement: “Absolutely, it’s already on my list. It’s a crucial one too because I’m a perfectionist by nature. The most important thing I learned from Luc is to put things into perspective.”

Luc, will you miss it here?

Luc: “I really loved working here and I worked with so many people over the years so my colleagues are what I will miss the most. Still, I’m also looking forward to what lies ahead. More time to travel, ride my motorcycle and, more than anything, more time for family and grandchildren.”


Katrijn, you’re not exactly new to the company.

Katrijn: “No, I’m not. I was hired almost two decades ago as an external consultant to help oversee the takeover by Mohawk and I stuck around. I was a Global HR Specialist back then. A jill-of-all-trades, in other words. Several years later I was promoted to HR Director of Unilin Flooring, a job I did for fifteen years. In that time the division has grown from some 1,400 staff to a team of 4,300. I learned so much during those years, such as managing the full spectrum of HR domains, with HR teams in 9 countries. In addition, I had the opportunity to oversee several takeovers in Sweden, the Czech Republic, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil (joint venture), Malaysia and India (joint venture) and build experience in starting up new production, sales and distribution entities. Those were highly educational experiences that will certainly come in handy in my new role!”

You’ve just taken over from Luc. Exciting times?

Katrijn: “Of course, healthy nerves (laughs). I thoroughly familiarised myself with every aspect of my new role and I can always fall back on my excellent team. When it comes to the ‘core’ HR areas such as payroll or compensation & benefits, I’m very grateful for the strong foundation that’s in place.”

Luc: “The big advantage is that Katrijn has had a seat at the table in recent years to help define the policy. She is very much up to speed in terms of content and she has a broad vision of HR. Another asset is the fact that we’ve been able to build a strong HR team, both centrally and in the divisions. What’s more, we boast an excellent reputation as well as a very strong employer brand.”

Are there any differences in leadership style?

Luc: “Katrijn is very straightforward. You immediately know where you stand with her and she has the gift of addressing the elephant in the room.

Katrijn: “It’s true, I do strive for a very open and transparent way of working. It helps to detect problems early and tackle them, even if it’s a sensitive subject. I’m quick to sense that something is brewing and I’m not afraid to get to the nub of things.


Katrijn, what themes are important to you?

Katrijn: “For me it all starts with having the right employee in the right place in the organisation. This way both employee and employer are happy. We want to avoid mismatches because then everyone is unhappy. Sometimes people have ambitions that don’t necessarily match their strengths and when this happens you have to start up a dialogue and explore the options together. That is why we place so much focus on lifelong learning. Not learning for learning’s sake but honing your skills as a function of your strengths and ambitions. This creates a win-win, both for the employee and for Unilin.”

Are there any changes you’d like to make?

Katrijn: “I want to continue to roll out and perpetuate our current policies. I attach great importance to our company’s values and culture, for instance. In recent years we’ve invested a great deal in this culture. In the next phase, we will also train our entire management line to translate those values into their daily leadership activities. Our culture is what binds us all, in an international and multicultural context. In te future we will place even more emphasis on our international character. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we operate in over 30 countries with more than 75 nationalities.

You want to get everyone on the same page?

Katrijn: “Exactly. We have to strive for an Olympic minimum in all divisions worldwide. It is crucially important that we all implement the same set of values in our approach but without losing all sense of individuality. Every country and division has its own culture that must be respected but at the same time we look for what connects us all.”

Until recently you were HR Director at Flooring and you took the same approach there.

Katrijn: “Unilin Flooring is our most international division and it is true that we have also taken major strides there in bringing everyone together. We try to involve everyone, from all parts of the world and not just from Wielsbeke. Incidentally, I’ve also noticed that Wim (Messiaen, the new CEO) emphasises this. That’s also important. For me it’s crucial that top-tier management also genuinely believes in our policy. That fuels my optimism for the future.”

What do you consider the greatest challenges?

Katrijn: “Finding the right people. Across the globe, fewer and fewer technically schooled people are graduating. What’s more, their skill level is lower than some years ago. Our people are a crucial asset if we are to remain leaders in our market. They drive our innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to permanently upskilling our current staff in an increasingly complex environment, finding the right new colleagues is and will remain one of our biggest challenges in the years to come. The Dive, our vision of lifelong learning, will be a massive help in this regard.”