Belgian HR managers are finding it increasingly difficult to continue to guarantee the influx of talent

Results of the 2022 HR Barometer

Dirk Buyens

By Dirk Buyens

Professor of Human Resources Management

Sarah Quataert

By Sarah Quataert

Researcher, Human Resource Management

21 June 2022
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The war for talent in the labour market is making it difficult for Belgian HR departments to find sufficient suitable talent. Selection & recruitment was therefore their absolute top priority in 2021, and employer branding, engagement and retention also gained significantly in importance. Belgian HR managers are fairly optimistic and full of confidence in their own skills when it comes to the new way of working and the future. Although the physical workplace remains important, far-reaching investments have already been made in the areas of teleworking and hybrid working methods. However, there is still work to be done when it comes to preparing the workforce for new and future skills.

These are the main findings of the 8th edition of the HR Barometer. This annual survey by Vlerick Business School and Hudson surveys the HR managers of the 200 largest Belgian employers and examines their HR challenges and HR trends. This year, special attention was paid to the ‘Future of Work’ theme. 115 companies from different sectors participated in the survey.

Selection & recruitment is the absolute top priority

The top 3 priorities for Belgian HR departments over the past year are selection & recruitment, engagement and well-being. Selection & recruitment in particular has seen a significant increase compared to the previous year. This is all because of the very tight labour market, as a result of which HR is increasingly struggling to ensure a smooth influx of new talent.

Ellen Volckaert, Senior R&D Manager at Hudson: “In 2021, the very tight labour market meant that organisations increasingly struggled to fill vacancies and guarantee the influx of new talent. It is therefore not surprising that selection & recruitment is the absolute top priority. Employer branding is also gaining in importance as an element for attracting new talent. Linked to this, retention is also becoming increasingly essential and companies are finding it more difficult to keep their employees engaged and to ensure that existing talent is not poached by other companies. As a result, there is a battle going on in various HR domains to keep people flowing in and to manage talent in a way that allows organisations to keep providing their services.”

Physical workplace not yet written off

In terms of external factors, according to the HR managers surveyed, over the next five years we will mainly see well-being and mental health (84%) and digitisation, automation and AI (81%) weighing predominantly on how companies organise their work in the future. A striking observation here is that HR professionals are full of confidence: 79% believe they are able to anticipate a future that includes many uncertainties.

A great deal of effort has already been made within the surveyed organisations to accommodate the new way of working, particularly in the areas of structural teleworking (83%) and the facilitation of hybrid working methods (78%). On the other hand, just under 70% of the HR managers surveyed are also convinced that physical office space will still be needed in the future. 

Margin for improvement on future roles and skills

65% of the respondents believe that employees will need completely different skills and competences in the future. On the other hand, almost 60% think that technology will not cause many jobs to be lost. 

Dirk Buyens, Professor of Human Resources Management at Vlerick Business School: “Although the majority are convinced of a future shift in skills and competences, our survey also shows that HR departments are not yet strongly focused on this. Only 24% indicate that they are making efforts to develop a flexible workforce. 33% are taking the initiative to teach employees new skills within their current job (upskilling), 19% are reorienting employees towards another job within the organisation (reskilling) and only 3% are preparing employees for the skills they will need for a position within a different organisation (outskilling).”

HR department of the future will focus on coaching, strategy and technology

Finally, the future of work will also have an impact on the way the HR department works.

  • Whereas the focus was previously on administration, the HR department is increasingly evolving towards a coaching role (87%) as well as a strategic role (85%).
  • 63% claim to have sufficient skills to be prepared for the future; this confidence in their own abilities is also evident from the fact that only 6% indicate they are lagging behind other companies in terms of maturity towards the future, while the rest consider themselves to be followers or even pioneers.
  • The use of technology in the HR department is increasing; the HR managers surveyed mainly wish to use this technology for restructuring the traditional roles and tasks (94%), for training (86%) and for selection & recruitment (85%). Only 27% regard communication as an interesting route towards greater automation, and employee monitoring (32%) is not a priority either.
  • The top 3 obstacles for HR when it comes to focusing more on the future of work are as follows: lack of resources, management buy-ins and changing the existing formal procedures within the company.
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The HR Barometer is an annual study by the Centre for Excellence in Strategic Talent Management in collaboration with Chair Partner Hudson.

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