In the rapidly changing world in which we operate, strategic profiles with a digital first mindset are our most important competitive advantage. We notice that talented profiles quickly pick up job-related skills on the job, but, they need guidance in order to develop their leadership skills. Karen Wouters has considerable authority in the field of leadership development. With her academic background, Karen is a knowledgeable heavyweight. She also has extensive practical experience through the 'Start to Lead' training programmes that she supervises at the Antwerp Management School. We have chosen to work with Karen on drawing up a policy for the efficient and sustainable development of our in-house talent.

— Werner De Smet, CEO oona

Karen Wouters and the agency first crossed paths when a group of oona employees took part in the ‘Start to Lead’ training course at the AMS. Each of them committed to take responsibility in a specific domain through a personal leadership claim. And the result was that shortly after the first phase, oona opened an office in Ghent, set up a leadership team and laid the foundations for self-managing teams.

"Together everyone achieves more." This maxim has been at the forefront of oona since day one. With Karen Wouters on board, we perpetuate this momentum without relegating individual development to second place. Experience has shown us that the well-being of our colleagues is strongly linked to active participation in the fulfilment of their current and future roles. By focusing on chosen and fluctuating roles each with their own areas of responsibility, rather than rigid, hierarchical functions, everyone can benefit from personal development and at the same time contribute to the growth of the company.

— Birgit Hubloux, Founding mother of oona

Today the ‘Start to Lead’ training programme is an integral element in career planning at oona. Not only that, but Dr. Karen Wouters is also supervising the transition from an operational to strategic HR policy that ensures the permanent adoption of 'Start to Lead' principles.

My objective is to draw up an HR policy for oona that will make my presence unnecessary in the long term. I believe that this is only possible if HR is not considered as a separate unit, but that it is embedded in every department of the company and that everyone takes a proactive role in defining and implementing it. oona’s holistic, systemic approach helps to achieve that objective. The management team is very involved in the process of working towards shared leadership and is willing to change the pieces of puzzle to fit a new configuration over and again. oona has been identified right from the very beginning as a business incubator for young talent in the field of communications. This programme is a way of giving young people with potential the space and tools to spread their wings internally. Which is exactly what Shanice Engel and Karen Moreaux did recently when they joined management team as associate partners.

— Karen Wouters, Human Resources Leadership Specialist


Karen Wouters studied Pedagogy at the KU Leuven, Human Resource Management at the University of Antwerp and obtained her PhD in Applied Economics from the Vlerick Business School. Karen then joined the Robert H. Smith School of Business (University of Maryland) where she worked for seven years and taught seminars on Leadership, Human Capital Management and Leadership Development. She also worked as a training and development coach and consultant.

Today Karen teaches at the leadership expertise centre of the Antwerp Management School. She also works for Workitects where she guides companies and carries out research into the new role of leaders in dynamic organisations. She is also an independent trainer and consultant. Karen's expertise lies mainly in the fields of leadership development, shared leadership, executive coaching, learning from practical experiences and e-learning.

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