opinion piece

BLOG – Bridging the gap: Five words to the wise from the World Employment Conference 2022

Tom Hadley, an independent workforce and campaigns consultant, shares his initial take-aways from the World Employment Conference 2022 in Brussels, kicking off a blog series that will focus on how the global HR services industry can build on the insight and collective energy generated at the annual gathering for the recruitment and employment sector.

Published on 14th June 2022

This year’s World Employment Conference was a rallying call for the global HR services industry to continue taking a lead on a shape-shifting world of work. There was plenty to reflect on from the latest gathering of the global clan in Brussels. But, most importantly, there was lots to look forward to and build on as we step up to the task of rebooting national labour markets and creating a clear vision for a dynamic and inclusive post-pandemic employment ecosystem.

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of ‘Bridging the Gap’ blogs that capture specific themes from the recent conference and set the tone for the industry’s future role in making change on a broad range of issues including inclusion, youth employment, reskilling and getting to grips with the evolving priorities and needs of workers, employers and policy makers. In the meantime, below is a snapshot of some of the take-away messages from #WEC2022Brussels:

  • Workforce issues have bever been so topical – In the words of Justine van Huyssteen, Managing Vice President at Gartner: “Workforce issues are in the top three priorities for CEOs across the globe, alongside business growth and technology adoption”. Now is the time for employment and HR services professionals to unleash their expertise and shine like never before!

 

  • There are many gaps to be bridged – The overriding theme of this year’s conference was ‘Bridging the Gap’ – particularly with regards to worker and employer expectations. But the theme also applied to a range of other priorities for the industry, including shifting public perceptions, influencing public policy (an increasing challenge in an age of populism), and nurturing different relationships between employers and HR services providers. Lots to do!

 

  • The industry’s role is recognised on the global stage – The World Employment Conference is always a good platform for engaging with international institutions and global experts and for holding up a mirror to the industry. This year was no exception, and it was heart-warming to hear such positive endorsement for the industry’s role from respected global organisations such as the ILO, OECD and UNHCR. Having peered at the reflection in Brussels, the instinctive reaction is: Looking good!

 

  • We are making change happen – It was notable that discussions at #WEC2022Brussels were not so much about the sector COULD or SHOULD do – it was about the sector IS doing now to make a difference on issues such as youth employment, reskilling, inclusion and supporting displaced workers. This proactive vibe was amplified by WEC President Bettina Schaller: “Private employment agencies will continue to collaborate within the HR ecosystem and strive for a better labour market for both workers and employers”. Spot on!

 

  • Workplace changes are accelerating like never before – Data from LinkedIn shows that 81% of employers are changing workplace policies on the back of changing worker needs and expectations. In addition to flexibility, the increasing focus on wellbeing is a big driver. In the words of LinkedIn’s Adam Hawkins, it is a case of “less burning of the midnight oil, more morning yoga!”. WEC Executive Director Denis Pennel underlined the industry’s gap-bridging role in this area: “Yes, there is an expectations gap between employers and workers but we can help close this gap; the only question is how quickly”.

 

Having a shared understanding of the long-term implications of the pandemic is an important building block; and this year’s conference was also a chance to look ahead at how HR services sector can continue take a lead on emerging workforce challenges. A further legacy of the Brussels gathering will be to galvanise the global industry around the core themes of responsibility, flexibility and opportunity. On that note, it was incredibly apt to hear the author and keynote speaker Pellegrino Riccardi identify a number of factors that hold the key for unleashing positive energy and common purpose. Top of the list are answers to the following questions: Are we connected? And do we share a future together?

The headline message from the 2022 World Employment Conference was an emphatic and collective YES!

Tom Hadley is an independent workforce and campaigns consultant. The Bridging the Gap blog series will focus on how the global industry can build on the insight and collective energy generated at the 2022 World Employment Conference.

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