Tom Haak on “The end of the employee” and HR Tech 2022

Tom Haak on The end of the employee and HR Tech 2022
The rise of the flexible workforce is a long-term trend. During the Covid-19 crisis employees and teams have experienced that they can function very well without too much control. More independence and autonomy created a positive experience and it tasted like more. 

In conversation with Tom Haak on “The end of the employee” and HR Tech 2022

Tom Haak is the director of the HR Trend Institute that follows, detects, and encourages trends. In the people and organization domain and in related areas. Where possible, the institute is also a trend setter.

Since the beginning of 2020, he is a distinguished visiting professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of the leading business schools in Mexico. Tom is one of the leading global HR thought leaders.

Tom has extensive experience in HR Management in multinational companies. He has a keen interest in innovative HR, HR tech, and how organizations can benefit from trend shifts.

Q- Are HR tech projects transformative?

Unfortunately, many HR tech projects are far from transformative. They are more reinforcing the current status quo than driving the organizational digital transformation. Many HR processes that are the basis for the projects are old-fashioned and based on traditional views on how organizations should work.

Organizations are viewed as hierarchical, with clear boundaries and people assigned to well-defined jobs. But organizations have moved on and need to transform. HR tech offers enormous opportunities to fuel transformations. Let’s challenge the status quo!

Q- Is the scope of HR-tech projects broad enough?

If you look at the ecosystem of organizations (employees, flexible workforce, clients, prospects, suppliers, universities, local community, etc.) there are many organizations and individuals for whom the HR tech solutions could add a lot of value.

By scoping projects beyond the boundaries of the organization (the people on the payroll), a lot of value can be added for other stakeholders. And always ask the question: what are the benefits for our clients?

Q- In your recent HR trend report, you predicted “the end of the employee”. Can you explain?

The workforce is already a lot more diverse than just employees. The rise of the flexible workforce is a long-term trend. During the Covid-19 crisis employees and teams have experienced that they can function very well without too much control. More independence and autonomy created a positive experience and it tasted like more. 

The concept of the traditional employee is changing, from submissive employees to independent co-creators. Are the HR tech projects fuelling this transition? 

QWhat is your view on the Metaverse?

The metaverse is quickly developing, creating experiences where the real world and the virtual world are blending, creating, and enhancing the experience of the workforce, the clients, and other stakeholders.

Immerse yourself in this new world, learn with the early adapters and help to shape the metaverse.

Q- What is important when developing and implementing HR tech?

I like to talk about the need for more adaptive and forgiving technologies.

End of 2017 published their consumer trend forecast for 2018.

Number four on their list: “Forgiving by design”.

I quote from their article: “Consumers are already sky-high on expectations – fueled in part by their digital lives – of constant service upgrades and seamless personalization. One consequence? In 2018 they’ll expect all kinds of products and services to forgive them when their past – the product they selected, the size they chose, the service they wanted – doesn’t match their future. How? By near-magically adapt around their changing needs, wants, and whims.

HR technology and other technologies in the workplace are often not very flexible and forgiving. People are forced into workflows that don’t take their preferences and capabilities into account. The opportunities are numerous.

Q- Why is there a lot of focus on skills and skill development?

Skills are quickly developing into the main building blocks of an effective HR approach.

Instead of looking for the full-stack employee that exactly fits in the job profile, organizations start looking for people with specific skills, and education and experience become less important.

The current mainstream trend to look more at the required skills than job profiles and redesign the HR practices with skills as the main currency is very promising. 

Q- Do you see more people focus inside organisations?

Many organizations say the right words: we are people-focused and our people are at the core of the digital transformation. The personal experience of people is different. It is often: organization first, people second. The language is full of machine-related metaphors. Efficiency, smooth operation, 100% user adaption, etc.

Are organizations really focusing on enriching the life of people inside and around the organization or is it just words?

More people focus requires a transformation, and because organizations are so attached to their traditional mental models, this is not easy.

QCan you share your views on wellbeing and life coaching?

There was a time when the view of most employers was that they had no dealing with the life of the employees outside work. With the increasing blurring of the boundaries between work and private life and the increased attention to work-life balance, this is changing.

Organizations are increasingly offering the people in their workforce life coaching support. With this more holistic approach, they help people to cope better with the various aspects of life, at work and at home. Areas could include health, finance, sustainability, and housing.

Q- What about “learning in the flow of work”?

It makes a difference if an employee must search actively for a learning module that he or she needs, or that the module is offered at an appropriate moment in the workflow, based on real-time observations of the behaviour of the employee.

If there is a meeting with company X in your diary, your personal learning aid might ask: “Do you want to learn more about company X?”. If you are stuck in designing a difficult Excel macro, the Excel chatbot asks you: “Can I help you to design the macro?”.

If you have a meeting scheduled with an employee with a low-performance rating (the computer gets this information in the HRIS), you are offered a short module “how to deal with underperforming employees”.

The solutions become even better if your individual learning style and the level of your capabilities are considered. “Learning in the flow of work” is an important trend. Not easy to implement, but technology can help a lot.

QAny additional advice?

Do you master Design Thinking and agile methodologies?

The adoption of design thinking and agile methodologies in the HR arena has been slow. Maybe this should have been question number one, as many of the questions above will be answered in a proper design thinking process.

QIf people want to learn more, where should they go?

Our website (, my YouTube channel, and LinkedIn are good starting points. Every two weeks I publish a video with Natal Dank, Talking HR Trends with Natal and Tom, and through these videos, you can learn a lot in 10 minutes.

Thank you, Tom!


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