Dialogue with Olivier Fleurence, Advisor Senior Personnel Manager of International Monetary Fund

8 October 2015

Advisor Senior Personnel Manager of International Monetary Fund Olivier Fleurence is chair of the Arhmio Board. He attended the 2015 Annual Arhmio Conference “Re-imagining Leadership in International Organizations”, held at BBS.

Let’s start from AHRMIO. It was  founded in 1999, almost 15 years ago. Can you outline an analysis of the main achievements so far?

We organize a conference every year around the world, and this is the sixteenth annual conference. We have been in many different places, usually hosted by our members. Over the years we have also developed some training programs: we started with a master class on the  subject of HR,  which was done in partnership with business schools like Esade, Cranfield, Insead, andWharton. After a few years that program was replaced by an executive program at Wharton. Eventually we discontinued it about two years ago because we felt it had lived its life. Now we are looking at introducing a new series of program round tables for senior HR Managers and heads of organizations. The aim is to get together and talk about the issues  they face. We will provide an expert to moderate the conversation. We think this will further HR management good practices in our members.

What are the main questions this conference wanted to answer?

This conference was focused on leadership. Leadership is at the core of what we do. Without leadership you cannot effectively deliver on your mandate and so we want to give our members an opportunity to look at the various aspects of leadership. So we had a number of speakers that looked at these different aspects. The program started with Romano Prodi, who obviously knows a lot about leadership (having been at the head of the Country and of the European Commission) and we could not get a better start. We had a number of academics as well who addressed our members and shared their research with them, providing a theoretical framework for leadership. We then also had a more practical approach with Ann Rennie, who is the Deputy Director General in charge of HR at the Asian Development Bank. She shared her experience on introducing a leadership framework in her own organization. Moreover, we had a series of panels (e.g. about different types of leadership, leadership in gender) that allowed our members and the participants to really get more actively involved in the discussion.

For most organizations their main resources are their people.What is your advice on valueing human resources?

We are nothing if we are not our people because we are all knowledge-based organizations: we sell our knowledge, we strive on our knowledge, we die on our knowledge. That’s why the theme of this year on leadership is particularly relevant: how do you mobilize these resources and how do you guide them to deliver on the lofty mandates those organizations have? One of the goals of Ahrmio is to further HR management in organizations precisely because we are only as good as our staff.

How is it possible for a manager to create cooperation and respect of colleagues of different nationalities, cultures and linguistic backgrounds?

If I had the answer I would probably be rich! It is a struggle in any type of organization. When you add a layer to an organization of multiple backgrounds, a great diversity of both professional, academic and cultural backgrounds, it is a challenge. But I think that having common values, having a good understanding and the commitment to the goal of the organization provides the foundation for a good start. Then it is just hard work and training and making sure that your managers manage their staff in a respectful way and are aware of their cultural differences, which do play a role in our world.

What kind of education should be pursued by those who want a career in HR management?

In my experience there are two types of HR people in the organizations: the generalists, who have learned management and the various assets of HR management; and specialists, either in compensation and benefits, or in performance or in leadership. And I think we need both. The difficulty is balancing these generalists’ skills with the specific knowledge, the technical knowledge, the expertise you need to develop programs that are relevant when you do work in your environment.What is the role the business schools can play?Besides developing the future generation of leaders they also have a great role to play in doing the research. One of the things we do every year in our conference (and this is also one of the reasons why we have created Ahrmio) is to expose our members, who are primarily practitioners, to the latest thinking and research in the field of HR. We challenge them to think a little bit outside the box, go beyond their immediate problems and try to see the big pictures, the strategy behind the programs they implement in their own organization. So I think the business school have a great role in that respect, in helping and shaping the discussion around these issues.

What is your advise to a student eager to become a HR manager in an international organization?

My advice is “don’t despair”. It is a hard world to get into because we recruit globally, so there are few positions. I think if you are passionate about it, if you follow your dream, if this is what you want to do, then you can certainly achieve it. I think you need to be passionate about your work, about the mandate of the organization you are working for and eventually things will come into place.



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