How Circet continues to create the best possible workplace in 2024

Solid growth creates both opportunities and growing pains. In the social pillar of our ESG strategy, these come together, but above all, we look for ways to capitalise on the opportunities and mitigate the growing pains. CTO and ESG lead Patrick Block and Chief HR Officer Hilde Boschmans explain. The common thread? Circet is a people organisation.

Health and safety first

Of all the topics within the social pillar, safety tops the agenda. Rightly so, according to Patrick. "We have hundreds of workers on sites or in people's homes every day who face potential danger. That they return from their working day in one piece is essential for us."

"Safety cannot be insisted on enough in our industry" - Patrick Block, CTO Circet Benelux


"That is why we are investing heavily in this. Right from training, we focus on thorough risk analysis, clear procedures and instructions, education, workplace inspections and the use of appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This is supported by a team of safety and prevention advisers. Our quality and safety policies go hand in hand, as confirmed by our ISO 9001, 14001 and VCA** standards. For the coming period, we will also strive to obtain ISO 45001, the standard around safety management. This is not mandatory for a company like ours, but it is worth the investment. The results are there:

Mental well-being is also covered in Circet's social story. Hilde Boschmans: "Providing a safe workplace where employees feel at home is crucial. This is why we remain committed to burnout prevention: in Belgium, for example, we are organising a course on recognising burnout. We are also continuing the expansion of our buddy system. In doing so, we introduce new employees to our organisation in an accessible, informal way. Personal performance also depends on being able to rely on your manager. Coaching for healthy leadership will therefore remain on the agenda in 2024 and the years to come."

Armed in the battle for talent

Fun fact: last year, Circet in the Netherlands and Belgium have hired someone new almost every day. "A huge effort from a relatively small team," Patrick says. Finding the right people does remain a challenging task. Hilde: "There was a time when CVs came in automatically and you had plenty of choice. Now the inflow has to be organised differently, and we have to stand out against competitors. That also means constantly keeping up with the latest hype on social media. For instance, we launched our first TikTok movie last year ."

"Through the usual channels, such as various job boards, we are unable to find sufficient people," she continues. "So we will also start looking for candidates in other, less obvious places. We recently started a collaboration with MolenGeek, a digital ecosystem in Brussels that offers underprivileged job seekers, through courses and training, for example, the chance to start as a Telecom Technician at Circet. We will continue with that in 2024."

Circet has another important weapon in the battle for good candidates: the Circet Academy. Hilde: "For 20 years, we have been training people ourselves. Background, education, origin, language... it does not matter. By 2023, the Circet Academy accounted for 60,000 training hours in Belgium and the Netherlands. The foundations of our Academy were laid a long time ago, but it remains a work in progress: to meet a changing labour market, we need to keep offering new training courses, including in different languages."

"We are now reaping the benefits of our years of investment in the Circet Academy " - Hilde Boschmans, CHRO Circet Benelux

Working on soft skills, continuous training and certified courses: Here you can discover the building blocks of the Circet Academy

2023 11 14_ARFO_Circet_Academy Hedel_LR_005
Diversity in our DNA

Hilde: "For years, Circet has had a mix of people from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. It may sound strange, but for a long time we did not have an active policy with a focus on more diversity. Our organisation has grown organically towards that mix: we always simply looked for the best person for the job, regardless of origin, age or gender."

"Part of Circet's strength lies in that diversity," Hilde adds. "With more than 20 nationalities in the organisation, everyone can learn from each other. Within our mobile or fibre network construction activities, we support our employees with training in several languages. "

"With more than 20 nationalities in the organisation everyone can learn from each other " - Hilde Boschmans, CHRO Circet Benelux

The proportion of men versus women remains an issue that is harder to resolve. Hilde: "This is typical to the sector: for physically tougher jobs, such as that of technician, women are a lot less likely to apply. It remains a man's world out there, but in our offices the balance is completely different." Patrick: "Gender equality is high on the agenda: our target is to have 30% women in our senior management by 2030 . "Further growth is also a strong focus for us," Hilde continues. "We have an active flow-through policy, so several colleagues have already come in for a specific role. Through enthusiasm, coaching and the right training , they evolved towards another position in our organisation. Circuit continues to support these and other stories."

Retention: the challenge of 2024

Bringing in candidates is difficult. Keeping them is even more of a challenge. Hilde concurs: "An organisation that is growing rapidly is also constantly evolving. So it is important to take care of the newcomer, so that they enter into a long-term partnership with us. Despite training and coaching efforts, it sometimes happens that there is a mismatch between the employee and the job." A wrong idea about job content is one cause of this.

Some jobs are also much tougher depending on the season. "In the Netherlands, we use e-cargo bikes," Patrick continues. "In spring , riding a bike can be pleasant and people like it: the sun shines and they are applauded. But it can be cold and wet in autumn and winter. Not everyone is fond of that. So it is important to always keep your finger on the pulse and make time to follow up with these colleagues and make adjustments where necessary."

"We need to create the right expectations among our starters,"
- Patrick Block, CTO Circet Benelux

To respond to this, the onboarding procedure was further expanded. Hilde: "We have introduced follow-up moments after 1, 3 and 5 months to check how each employee is doing.

The mindset also needs some honing, Hilde concludes. "Because tackling absenteeism and retention requires HR and operations to work together. Many people just want to be heard by their team leader and time should be taken for that."

So there is still work to be done, but Patrick is positive: "Indeed, our rapid growth brings a huge workload. We have to constantly reinvent ourselves in terms of organisation and processes to maintain that growth. But with a good framework, clear targets and a strong team, we will manage."



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