Ber Damen: ‘HR must become OO’

With the current job market, attracting and retaining talent is especially important. Young people no longer want to work in an organization with an outdated organizational structure, says business and organizational psychologist Ber Damen. “Organizations and employees must remain agile and nimble.”

Ber Damen: 'HR must become OO'

You can talk about it short or long, but according to business and organizational psychologist Ber Damen, partner at Van de Bunt Advisors and lecturer at Avans+, it’s as clear as day: organizations don’t really exist. “They are abstract constructs in our heads. Collaborations of people. They are, finished. So if you want to do organizational development, it’s always also about developing people.”

Heart model passé

Most organizations, he says, are stuck in an old operating model. “The organizational chart, or rake, still represents the organizational structure. It is a metaphor for the traditional organizational model. A beautiful model too, which has brought us much prosperity. But it no longer works – although that has not yet dawned on many organizations,” says Damen. The model is based on economies of scale and efficiency, with the information monopoly at the top. That’s where most of the knowledge is gathered and that’s where decisions are made.”

If you want to do organizational development, it’s always also about people development

The people lower down in the rake then implement them. “Today, however, these are no longer low and unskilled employees. We are – in the Netherlands and elsewhere – much better educated and also have much better access to knowledge and information these days. Decision-making can therefore take place much lower down in the organization. Moreover, people value autonomy and freedom of action. They want to make a valuable contribution.”

Network model more equal

Organizations seeking to develop are increasingly opting for a flat organization, the pancake model. Also called the network model. A network is more democratic and equal than the rake, Damen believes. “That speaks much more to the imagination of young professionals. They are articulate, highly educated and autonomous and have easy access to information and knowledge. Waiting their turn for fun jobs and roles doesn’t fit with that. They want to be taken seriously, given opportunities, be directly involved in challenging projects and contribute on an equal basis.”

Work should make you happy

Ber damen

Young professionals therefore want to get rid of hierarchical organizational structures, Damen notes. “Moreover, work should be satisfying, meaningful, offer opportunities for development and be a source of happiness. This is why today there is also a lot of focus on how an employee experiences his or her work, the employee experience. This is an undeniable trend and an important aspect of HR. After all, the tight labor market is causing a war for talent. Everyone is concerned with how to connect talent with the organization.”

Money, he says, plays a secondary role. “Money doesn’t motivate. It doesn’t make us run faster, nor does it make us perform better. If social-psychological research has shown anything, it’s that. Money does demotivate, by the way. If we find the distribution unjust. Then we are dissatisfied.”

Also read: The new reward: this is how to convince management

HR becomes OO

HR must therefore evolve and connect to new, alternative organizational concepts. We should also call it something else, Damen believes. “People are not resources, organizations are resources. I advocate OO, Organization Development. After all, that’s what it’s all about. There are many and rapid changes socially, technologically and politically. We are constantly changing. Organizations are in constant transition. So they must constantly develop.”

Money does not motivate. It doesn’t make us run faster, nor does it make us perform better

“One profession is very well equipped for this: the OO (formerly HR) professional. Disruption is imminent for any organization. Monitoring continuity and continuing development is therefore very important. We must remain agile and nimble. To perform the tasks well, an OO professional needs to understand (the behavior of) people, strategy, business administration and change management. After all, organizations all eventually move from a rake to a pancake.”

This article was created in collaboration with Avans+ and was published on

Share this post

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date on HR developments, open positions and training and workshops.


Responds within an hour

How can I help you?