HR Experts: 2022 is the year of the digital employee experience

Hans Koekkoek · Digital Employee Experience · Last updated on February 21st, 2022

HR Predictions 2022 Fellow Digitals

2022 is the year when businesses need to get serious about the digital employee experience. This becomes clear after a series of interviews with HR and L&D experts from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. What’s in store for us in 2022?

2021 was the year when organizations worldwide undoubtedly realized how important employee experience and their sentiments are, especially when it comes to their digital experiences. Following the massive transition to remote and hybrid working, digital tools have largely replaced the physical office, digitalizing the employee experience and work environment.

This is why 2022 will be the year of the digital employee experience (#DEX). We’ve asked a number of Dutch, German and Belgium experts what they foresee for 2022, what the trends are, what should we pay attention to and what can we do to remain attractive for our staff and new talent in times of constant change.


Heleen Mes, HXWork: Do you really have an eye for your employees?

Heleen Mes

Putting employees first and offering them a “Best Workplace” is how an organization becomes and remains a top employer and successful in business. Heleen Mes is the founder of HXWork. She is a thought leader in employee experience and employee happiness and her mission is to make every employer a top employer.

Heleen: “We can assume that 2022 will be another year of enforced hybrid working. Organizations will have to make the transition from adapting to all the changes around work and employee needs to keep innovating in the workplace. How do you make your organization and HR policies Employee centric? Put yourself in the shoes of your (potential) employees and make sure they can be the best version of themselves at work. That sometimes means offering the same HR product in different forms because there is no one-size-fits all formula. At the same time, organizations will have to act much more from their purpose and values. Hybrid working requires deepening your organizational culture. Another year with COVID-19 is setting extra pressure on employee engagement. Employees are looking more than ever for a good fit.

Employees want to experience that they are seen as valuable individuals who want to contribute maximally to the future success of the organization. Diversity and inclusion, being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them and maximum personal growth are important values. So take another look at the plans for 2022: does it increase employees’ connection to the organization? Will they deliver a better employee experience? Will they increase your eNPS?”

Robert Geerken, Goodhabitz: Digital Employee Experience is key

Robert Geerken - Goodhabitz

Learning is life and living is learning. That is the foundation of Goodhabitz, the Dutch-based company that is successfully expanding internationally with online training courses. Responsible for HR is Robert Geerken, who indicates that the war for talent will continue at full speed in 2022.

Robert: “For organizations that are in a growth scenario, the theme for 2022 is undoubtedly recruitment and the employee/candidate experience. The number of job openings has never been higher, and we’re all fishing in the same candidate pond. So make sure you have your recruitment strategy, process and budget in order.

Within organizations, most everyone has an opinion on recruitment and labor market communications, so don’t let that disorient you: make sure your HRM department is at the helm and determines what resources/budgets are deployed in the “war for talent”, when and by whom it is determined by. Furthermore, no matter how much pressure you experience from hiring managers, (“We really need some hands NOW, otherwise we won’t reach our target!”) my most important advice is still the same: when in doubt, never overtake! Just adding in extra hands, that usually doesn’t work. New colleagues have to fit into your company culture and you have to carefully go through all the steps of your recruitment process to minimize the risk of failure. Getting the right talent in always takes more time than what the average hiring manager expects.”

Annelies Leveling, Air France-KLM: Giving trust, getting freedom, taking responsibility, being accountable

Annelies Leveling - KLM

Every organization needs agile, resilient and valuable employees. Especially in disruptive times when change is continuous. Air France-KLM can relate, having been hit hard resulting in the loss of 6,000 colleagues. According to Annelies Leveling, Vice President Learning & Development KLM, all these developments also bring opportunities. For her, these are the most important themes on the 2022 agenda.

Annelies: “Show what kind of company you are! Create passion and quality to attract and retain talent. People choose their employer very consciously. Make sure you have an eye for social needs; the combination of employee value and society must be in order.

Invest in skills. Knowledge and skills are aging, and the market continuously changes. When applying for a job, look at skills, how they are developed and what work suits them. Skills are the new currency, but we need to develop this form together. That’s why we participate in initiatives like the Skill Passport. The ultimate goal is to translate the knowledge and skills acquired during your work into a skill language that can be used to make a better match between the job and employee profile. We also want to support our people, continuous learning with a growth mindset. It is important to stay fit for your job, both for your personal development and for the organization.

The digitalization of the employee experience has been given a substantial boost. The challenge is to make systems more intuitive for our people, to train them in digital skills, and to provide attractive digital learning formats. And as far as I’m concerned, the priority remains a coherent applications landscape, with a single point of entry for each user.

There are big challenges ahead for executives. I’m thinking of our annual talent, development and performance interview, as a replacement for the assessment interview. The manager talks to the employee about talent development and “the day after tomorrow”. Diversity and inclusiveness is another essential topic. There is a lot of polarization, not immersing yourself in the other person, thinking about everything, exploring the boundaries of how you deal with each other. As a manager you have an essential role in this!

Crisis management is about looking beyond A to B (in times of change, C is also an option). On the one hand there is the here and now, on the other hand there is the future, so think in scenarios. This requires something different from the skills of senior management in particular. We have created a leadership journey for them, with strategic themes aimed at inspiring and connecting leadership.

Finally, the theme of hybrid work. This involves, among other things, giving trust, getting freedom, taking responsibility, and being accountable. In 2022, we will begin to balance the best of worklife before Covid (working in the office) and during Covid (working from home). And that is trying, falling, getting up and going again. The driving force is to keep talking to each other and with respect for each other’s wishes.”

Felix Holzapfel, Quovabiz: Generation Z asks for purpose, diversity, sustainability

Felix Holzapfel - Fellow Digitals

Felix Holzapfel is a strategic business expert and recognized as “Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation” (Thinkers360). Together with his brother this German entrepreneur is the founder of Quovabiz, and helps companies to be future proof. Felix has written the bestseller ‘Marketing among friends’ and has won several innovation awards.

Felix: “Covid has proven one more time that all we know is that we know nothing. Nevertheless, I see a number of trends. First of all, be aware that digital transformation is not a sprint but a marathon. Many companies made significant progress in digitalizing their business during the pandemic. That’s great! But now, time will tell which companies keep or even accelerate their digital transformation pace in the long-term and widen the gap to other businesses falling behind.

What companies should certainly pay attention to in 2022 is the fact that the employer experience outperforms customer experience! The demographic change continues shifting power towards employees. Generation Z asks for purpose, diversity, sustainability, and other factors beyond many companies’ standards. Making an excellent profit doesn’t necessarily mean winning the war of talents. But having the best employees, running an outstandingly successful business usually follows.

Additionally, connect the blocks and shift to a decentralized Web3 mentality! Blockchain-based technologies cross a tipping point and kick off a new internet era. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), Decentralized Finance (DeFi), Metaverse, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), and alike will increasingly enter the tech main stage. Decentralization will revolutionize entire industries and force companies to rethink essential parts of their business strategies.”

Esther-Mirjam de Boer, GetDiversity: It is proven that people with lower biases, foster better team performance in diverse teams

Esther-Mirjam de Boer

Esther-Mirjam de Boer is an entrepreneur and co-owner and CEO of GetDiversity. As a columnist in the Handelszeitung, she critically reflects on political and economic events in Switzerland from the perspective of a progressive-liberal woman. As a columnist (Handelszeitung), lecturer, speaker and moderator she sheds light on diversity and leadership from a strategic perspective. As a board member of the CH++ association, she advocates for science- and evidence-based policies that harness the achievements of technology for the country’s prosperity.

Esther-Mirjam: “What is in store for the new year 2022? From many discussions with entrepreneurs, we learn that the planning uncertainty has become greater, and some companies only prepare an orientation guide as a budget. Over the past two years, they have learned to adapt to the volatilities and uncertainties of the pandemic in the short term. But how do people navigate companies when agreed plans are repeatedly disrupted by the crisis?

It’s worth adapting executive incentive systems – targets and bonuses, for example – to the uncertain outlook. Depending on the industry, cash flow and margins achieved are better indicators of resilient navigation in rough economic seas than year-on-year sales growth. Consider which metrics in your company provide reliable information about whether the management crew is optimally coping with the challenges and doing its utmost to maintain the liquidity of your company and at the same time secure its long-term viability on the market.

We are entering the third year of the pandemic. A key success factor for the resilience of companies during this time is the mental and physical stability in the workforce. Do you know how your employees are really doing? Do you have an idea of what they need to contribute productively under sometimes precarious everyday conditions and not burn out in the process? Can and may their managers respond to individual employee needs? Does everyone get enough appreciation for the extra miles and special shifts they work?

In turbulent times, managers who set their objectives on a meta-level and who have an inner compass are at an advantage. They can quickly anticipate developments and interactions in order to adapt their decisions and actions in a forward-looking and agile manner at short notice. At GetDiversity, we call this characteristic VUCA capability. VUCA is the English abbreviation for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This is crucial for the consistency and orientation of vision, strategy, and tactical action.

But that is not enough. The labor market is running dry. Population is shrinking and economy is growing. Companies must be attractive as an employer for very different talents to recruit good specialists and managers in the first place. Diversity in team composition is challenging and leadership is exhausting. At the same time, practiced diversity is a guarantee for innovation and protection against risks. Leadership therefore also means making constructive use of the power inherent in diversity. This requires dealing with conflicts in a productive way. That is why it is often said: “Soft skills are the new hard skills”. What does this mean?

The best leaders can create safe spheres for collaboration outside the comfort zones. Leadership means taking protective responsibility for uncertainty, risk, and experimentation. Leadership creates room for trust. This is the prerequisite for constructive collaboration.

Companies now face the challenge of identifying early on who has the predisposition to create “safe spaces” for high performance. This is about a very delicate balance of high performance and humanity – about interpersonal integrity. In recent years, aptitude testing has become established, mainly in English-speaking countries, which focuses not only on professional competence but also on personality dispositions. For example, it has been causally proven that people with lower biases, foster better team performance in diverse teams. When companies systematically and comparably survey the relevant talents and predispositions of their employees, they gain powerful tools to recruit and promote the most suitable to the right positions.”

Irma Doze, AnalitiQs: The employee experience is measurable

Irma Doze

“The importance of good HR data analysis is growing, both strategically and operationally. Data is needed to set the right course. But…. In these hectic times, can we still set a course? And on what basis?” We talked about this with Irma Doze, owner of AnalitiQs and an expert in Customer Intelligence & HR Analytics. Irma is also a teacher for various training institutes and co-author of the book, ‘Data-Driven HR: Create Value with HR Metrics and HR Analytics’.

Irma: “Trends change and that certainly applies to HR and analytics. For example, I see that in 2022 topics such as inclusion, equality and diversity will be hot topics. These topics – which are part of the employee experience – are seen as very important by companies. For this reason, there is also a need for specific data, for example on inclusion, where we look at equal pay for men and women and whether people feel at home within an organization. We use a method that guarantees anonymity without losing control of the data. In other words, completely anonymous, where neither we nor our client have any insight into who answered what.”

In 2022, the demand for measuring the employee experience, and within this, inclusion and diversity, will increase. This may be about hard values (a pay gap analysis), but more often it will be about the “soft” side. By operationally keeping a constant finger on the pulse, you can measure the well-being of the employee on a weekly or monthly basis; and there are now practical apps for this. How does the employee feel, now that they mainly work from home? What about involvement? Do you still feel part of the team, now that you only meet your colleagues virtually?

Another important topic on the 2022 agenda is recruitment. Companies are turning to data to explore the market, to look for new talent. But while everyone recognizes the importance of good recruitment, I see no change on a lot of “work at” pages. Where the marketing department tests everything a/b and focuses on the best keywords, this does not happen much in recruitment. For the selection of employees it is important to consider what factors are important for success and what data you need. Only then can you make a good prediction as to whether a new employee will still be working for you in a year’s time and whether they will receive a positive evaluation. This helps in choosing the right candidate for the new job.

Companies are very busy with this now, which is certainly understandable. Using data and analytics, they can also look more easily to tomorrow and in the longer term.”

Jan Tjerk Boonstra, Human Capital Group: The need for own direction

Jan Tjerk Boonstra

Jan Tjerk Boonstra is Principal consultant and proposition manager Strategic HRM at Human Capital Group. He has more than 30 years of experience as an HRM consultant and is, among other things, a lecturer at the HR Academy and a member of the editorial board of HR Strategie.

Jan Tjerk: “That the world is changing at lightning speed has become an open door. But what is it doing to all of us? And what demands does it place on organizations, on people and on HRM as a profession? These are not questions with easy answers and solutions. Many changes interact with each other. The organization of work has become more complex as we work (hybridly) at different times, places and ways and in multiple teams. This is possible because, more than ever, we are no longer talking about employees but about professionals, knowledge workers and skilled competent workers who are well trained and know very well what to do. This has partly led to the fact that organizations can become flatter and have (or need) less overhead in the form of managers and rules.

However, this does mean that we have to “think backwards” with each other. Those independent workers must also be able to take matters into their own hands. They should be allowed to take their own direction (self-leadership) and that means that they should not have “managers” in charge. Self-employed people should take the lead themselves and together and/or ask for it when they need it. And what they need from managers is rarely instruction and especially attention, appreciation and facilities. In other words, managers who empower employees by arranging conditions that ensure that they can work well.

For HR professionals, this also means thinking outside the box. HRM must work on the basis of independently thinking and working people who can and may work on the basis of trust. That means paying full attention to people’s qualities, working in teams, work ability, good (shared) leadership, all possible forms of appreciation and inclusiveness.

Only those organizations that genuinely want this will, in my firm belief, be successful in the not too distant future in both retaining and attracting good people and have a good customer reputation as an attractive employer.”

Cees Ridder, BNP Paribas: Binding and engaging!

Cees Ridder

The Skill Passport referred to by Annelies Leveling fits in perfectly with the developments that Cees Ridder sees. This highly experienced Dutch professional currently works as HR director at BNP Paribas Personal Finance, the market leader in Europe (20,000 employees) in the field of personal finance. In addition, Cees is an instructor at ICM education & training.

Cees: Workplace development will become even more important in 2022. Many companies are already committed to “lifelong learning”, where the employer invests in the growth of its employees. The motto, as far as I am concerned, is to hold on to your staff above all; after all, new people are hard to come by. A further growth in the number of vacancies, together with falling unemployment, led to even greater tension on the labor market in the third quarter of 2021 (figures from Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, HK.). For every 100 unemployed people, there are 126 vacancies! This mismatch in the labor market is truly historic. Why is that? Here is an example: the employer requires diploma A, the candidate has diploma B. At the end of the day, the employer continues the search for the seemingly perfect candidate. And that while if you dig a little deeper this man or woman can have many competencies and fits exactly into the picture.

So let’s start looking more at people’s competencies, instead of their résumés. That should really be a thing of the past. Look for the talent you already have in your company. Use your experienced staff to transfer their knowledge to the younger generation. Invest in your current staff and present yourself as an attractive employer. My advice for 2022: bind and fascinate! And if you are looking for a new colleague, adjust your expectations.”

Also check out part 2 of this trendblog:
‘2022 is the year of hybrid (collaborative) working’

HR and L&D experts: Businesses need to take the next step in hybrid work.

Hybrid work in 2022