European vs regional? A practical check on HR trends
Michael Jetten

By: Michael Jetten on February 11th, 2021

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European vs regional? A practical check on HR trends

HR megatrends

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

Do we really talk about trends in HR or would it be better to call them short-term hype? At the beginning of each year, most of the well-known actors on the HR market publish their expectations and trends for the upcoming year. We, at UKG do exactly the same – we publish our HR Mega Trends! How valuable are these trends about AI, employee experience or the future of work? Are we talking about one-hit wonders or should HR departments really consider this advice for their future journeys?


Yearly trends: Backbone of the future of work?

In retrospect we can summarise: If we learned one thing during the last year, it's that HR, its tasks and orientation changes quickly and dynamically – especially with regards to digitalisation and changing expectations of employees. When we look back on 2020, digitalisation and a strong focus on the needs of employees were the epicentre of interest – same topics but different angles and action items from year to year. Does this make sense? Absolutely! The future of work is not just one single step away, it’s a process that teaches companies and HR specialists how to tailor their activities with the future in mind. Technological development, cloud technologies, globalisation, labour shortage and a global pandemic are directing the extent of this journey. So, the question remains: What would happen, if companies ignore yearly HR trends and keep going with what they assume is the right thing? It could work, or it could fail completely. Yearly HR trends and predictions are based upon in-depth analysis of the past year, employment figures, technological innovation and the way employees act. Experts wrap their heads around what happened and critically observe how trends evolved during the last year. Annual HR trends therefore build on each other. They are a valuable guideline for all companies and CHROs to navigate the development of their HR departments and to optimise employee satisfaction.


What’s the point of “regional first”?

At first, companies should focus on their local markets when it comes to facilitating the future of work. Can companies simply copy paste these tendencies on their European neighbours? Does a European “One-Size”-Fits-All approach work, when it comes to HR topics? For our newest podcast project “Let’s Talk HR!”, we recently talked with several HR influencers across Europe. The influencers, consultants and specialists critically commented on the mega trends for 2021 and shared their perspectives and insight. Tom Haak, Samuel Durand and Sabine Kluge agreed that the current pandemic situation did not re-invent fundamental HR trends – it sped up their development.


Topics such as flexible and remote working models gained interest throughout the last couple of years and traditional companies especially kept being hesitant. Due to the current situation, they were forced to take actions and enable flexible working models and home office. Surprisingly, it works! Now new topics gain space on the floor and are reflected within the trends for 2021 – in the whole of Europe! Work-life blending or synergies? Do we act according to the principle of “People before profit” and how does the role of HR evolve?


European HR trends do exist! But the solutions and action items need to differ between local markets. Even though companies face common challenges, the initial situations and regional circumstances differ widely. It’s not practicable to follow a “One-size-fits-all" approach on a global company’s way to the future of work. Regional tendencies are crucial for the success of any digitalisation project. The worker’s council for example is a great topic in France or Germany whereas in the UK the impact is considered fairly low.


How to act as an international company?

During the recording sessions for our podcast, we gained great insights about the challenges our European colleagues are facing. Samuel Durand, explorer of the future of work and documentary filmmaker from France underlines the challenges of traditional companies during the past year when it comes to adapting to new working models. In his opinion an “attendance culture” is not applicable within a virtual – home office – environment. Sound familiar? Many British companies face the same challenge. Things that have worked well in an office culture are now mirrored for the virtual landscape. Sabine Kluge, HR influencer and LinkedIn Top Voice Influencer talks about the rising topic of work-life blending in Germany. The borders between work and private life are fading and many employees find it extremely challenging to set boundaries. When talking to Samuel Durand we experienced similar perspectives – the German and French markets seem to have something in common. Tom Haak, Director of the HR Trend Institute focussed on the changing role of the HR function – evolving from a pure operative role to an important strategic function. Here we find other parallels within the interviews with other HR influencers, from different European countries, during our podcast project.


It would be advisable for international companies to consolidate the challenges at different locations and to identify common tendencies. In a further step, the international and local HR teams should find individual solutions in close collaboration. Does something work in one country? – that’s great – you can try this out for another region as well. The square doesn’t fit into the circle: You need to keep this in mind once you realise an approach does not work in one setting. In this case you need to think about a different approach, this is the only way a company can prepare itself for the future of work – considering HR teams and all other employees.

About Michael Jetten

Michael Jetten ist Director Value Engineering bei PeopleDoc seit Frühjahr 2019. Er unterstützt national und global aufgestellte Kunden bei der Transformation ihrer HR. Darüber hinaus berät Jetten potenzielle Kunden bei nationalen und internationalen Digitalisierungsprojekten.