opinion piece

BLOG – Orchestrating Digitalisation: HR Services Community Gets in Tune at Annual Conference

In the countdown to the World Employment Conference 2023, focusing this year on “Working in a Digital Age – Orchestrating Digitalisation for Better Labour Markets,” here are five ‘movements’ for making change happen and driving ‘digital age’ thought leadership.

Published on 24th March 2023

The theme of the World Employment Conference 2023 is ‘Working in a Digital Age – Orchestrating Digitalisation for Better Labour Markets.’ The global HR services family will convene in Brussels to journey through the constantly evolving living organism that is the 21st century world of work – hurtling through the metaverse, traversing the congested HR technology ecosystem, circling round the ethical AI debate, revisiting virtual reality, and taking stock of blockchain.

It’s going to feel a bit like being in the movie Tron…

Does anyone remember that?

With technology-driven change colliding with a relentlessly volatile external landscape, orchestrating digitalization for better labour markets is no easy task. This year’s gathering is an excellent platform for the industry to get in tune and unleash a veritable symphony of new solutions and innovative approaches. As an overture, here are five ‘movements’ for making change happen and driving ‘digital age’ thought leadership:

  1. Finding digital balance– Bullhorn’s recent survey showed that 70% of today’s talent want more human interaction during their job search. Embedding human-centric digital transformation and the ethical use of digital tools are hot topics, not just for businesses but also for policymakers. This includes ensuring that digital economies are inclusive and creating meaningful work in a hyper-connected world. The challenges are many, but so are the opportunities. The core question is: How can we find the right balance so that digitalisation benefits us all?


  1. Amplifying voice– According to last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, 80% of people expect industry leaders to have a view on the day’s big issues. Pre-empting the practical and social implications of technology-driven change is near the top of this ‘big list’. The global HR services sector is already taking the lead on issues such as digital platforms and the use of AI in candidate selection. The industry must remain at the forefront of helping policymakers review existing legal frameworks that struggle to reflect a fast-changing and technology-driven world of work. This year’s Brussels gathering will take a fresh look at how governments can best support technological innovation while protecting workers’ rights and will identify emerging issues for the global industry to take the lead on.


  1. Building the expectations bridge– Last year’s World Employment Conference honed in on the expectation gap between workers and employers. How can new technology be harnessed to build an ‘expectations bridge’? Using digital tools as a listening device and as a means of better understanding the needs of workers and the expectations of candidates is just one of the ways forward. Digitalisation also substantially impacts productivity, management, and governance, ultimately impacting workers’ well-being. How are employers worldwide looking to adapt leadership skills and create a positive workplace culture in this digital age? Just one of the other big topics for the plenaries and panel sessions at #WEC2023.


  1. Taking ownership of the reskilling agenda– With 30% of jobs at risk of automation by 2030, according to a global PWC report, where are we at regarding re-orientating education policy and our skills base? Digital evolutions (such as gamification and virtual reality) are changing the training landscape, facilitating transitions, and enhancing career management support. Over 70% of respondents to a Deloitte survey flagged the lack of technical skills as the most significant barrier to digital transformation. Employers around the world need both short and longer-term solutions to intensifying skills mismatches – the role of the HR services industry in finding new solutions was the theme of the last WEC Social Impact Report. The Brussels conference will be an opportunity to add further layers of light.


  1. Taking stock of the ‘recruitment revolution’– The dashboard of change is flashing with all manner of technology-driven innovations: Online interviewing platforms, collaborative hiring, multichannel candidate sourcing systems, AI-powered talent acquisition, automated skills assessment tools, and interview chatbots… the toolbox is rammed! But how are these new tools being used to attract the best talents while maintaining a human-centered approach? The World Employment Conference will be an opportunity to take a breath and stock.

In addition to the above, the latest gathering of the global HR services family will be a platform for considering some big picture questions like: What kind of brave new world of work do we want to create? And what are the practical, social, and psychological implications of working in a digital age? We’ll be breaking this down in Brussels next week.

Of course, one other burning question for many will be: What the hell is Tron?

Well, it’s a 1980s sci-fi movie, starring Jeff Bridges as the protagonist who is physically transported into the digital world of a mainframe computer system where he interacts with various programmes in an attempt to make sense of a starling and unfamiliar virtual world.

Sounds pretty apt to me!

See you in Brussels…..

Tom Hadley is an independent workforce and campaigns consultant. He is a long-time follower of World Employment Conferences, having covered the 2022 edition and sharing insights from the various sessions in his blog series “Bridging the Gap”.

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