“It can be like the Spotify or Netflix of learning,” says Deutsche Bank’s Daniel Zapf, of modern, AI-powered learning tools.  Photo: Shutterstock

“It can be like the Spotify or Netflix of learning,” says Deutsche Bank’s Daniel Zapf, of modern, AI-powered learning tools.  Photo: Shutterstock

Three firms in Luxembourg--Deutsche Bank, Talkwalker and Apex Group--spoke to Delano about the HR issues and opportunities on their plate this year.

The last few years have been rocky in several ways, but certainly in terms of the societal and professional climate. The pandemic induced a teleworking frenzy that got many people excited about shifting the work paradigm to something different, newer, nicer, the aftershocks of which included mass resignations and changing employee priorities. Now, several tech companies have kicked off 2023 with huge layoffs, while the latest technological leap in artificial intelligence is simultaneously hitting the public.

For HR departments, this climate is both tricky and interesting. As such, we asked three firms in Luxembourg, two in the finance sector and one technology company, about their HR outlook for 2023. What resulted is a picture of HR in Luxembourg that revolves around anticipating and integrating artificial intelligence, improving the employee experience and hanging onto staff.

What is the single biggest change you foresee in your HR strategy in 2023?

Zach Traer, global talent acquisition partner at Talkwalker, contextualises his answer with his own summation of the HR’s recent history:

“2021 was the year of talent acquisition and mass hiring across the tech sector. 2022 was the year of increased (dare I say inflated?) salaries. 2023 has already been marked by layoffs, which has shifted HR’s focus on retaining the talent that is left in organisations.”

What does that mean for Talkwalker? “From [our] perspective, this would include building a greater sense of belonging by investing strategically in culture-generating activities and giving appropriate support to teams and their managers.” Traer adds that the personal connections and professional experiences are central to Talkwalker’s culture, hence new investments in their employees this year.

Like Talkwalker, Apex Group is also interested in their internal work culture. Michael Labarsouque, human resources director for Apex in Luxembourg, says that Apex’s number of employees in this region has recently grown to about 1,200. “2023 will be focused on fully integrating these acquisitions from an HR and cultural perspective,” he says.

Anxiety over retaining staff is potentially discernible in a comment from Daniel Zapf, deputy CEO and COO of Deutsche Bank Luxembourg (and HR country head): “We all have heard the saying People join corporations, but they leave managers. There is a lot of truth in that as there is a direct correlation between day-to-day management practices and the overall employee commitment.”

To that end, Zapf mentions that leadership will be among Deutsche Bank Luxembourg’s strategies for 2023 (alongside talent development and learning). Not new concepts, he says, but ones that need to be kept up. On leadership, he says: “We will introduce a so-called ‘Leadership Kompass’ to further improve the way we lead. We are defining a clear set of behaviours that guide our leaders every day as an integral part of the bank’s expectation landscape.”

For Zapf, the pandemic and consequent “future of work” discussions have relegated such themes as leadership and development to the back-burner. Hence, the focus on these in 2023.

In all, if one were to draw parallels across these answers, it sounds like back-to-basics is theme for 2023 in HR. Talkwalker wants to double down on its self-described core strength of instilling a sense of belonging in its employees, Apex Group wants to get its new members up to speed, and Deutsche Bank aims to get back to certain HR elementals. But of course, back-to-basics does not imply anything like a lack of change, growth, etc.

Which new technologies are most exciting (or daunting) from an HR perspective?

In answer to this question, all three firms mention artificial intelligence.

Talkwalker’s Traer and Apex’s Labarsouque discuss the potential of AI to automate certain parts of the HR role, freeing up those professionals to focus on “the human aspect of their roles” (Traer) or “more complex/added-value tasks” (Labarsouque).

On the other side of that coin is an improvement in employee experience. As Zapf (Deutsche Bank) puts it: “Online platforms which make use of new technologies such as AI make the way you engage with HR content as intuitive and easy as using technology in your private life.”

Labarsouque names chatbots as an example of how AI technology could improve employee experience, while Traer lists others--not necessarily AI-powered--including candidate feedback surveys, tailored dashboards and automated workflows. These, he says, are “exciting tools” that Talkwalker will use in 2023 to change HR into a data-driven function.

Zapf also talks more about AI’s potential for learning and development in particular: “A modern learning platform for example suggests learning bites or focus areas tailored to the individual employee. Also, it learns from the usage patterns of those employees. It makes finding content and areas of interest as easy as browsing the web, with different channels and varying depths of information. It can be like the Spotify or Netflix of learning.”

What HR challenges are particular to Luxembourg?

On this question, the answers vary (somewhat) among the three firms, though they do share concerns over keeping employees happy or attracting applicants.

For Deutsche Bank, two-thirds of whose employees commute across the border, challenges stemming from teleworking models persist. Zapf mentions the obvious taxation and social security angles, but adds administration, monitoring and reporting as being specific challenges for HR.

He links these issues, ultimately, back to staff retention: “Although [we have] come a long way following the covid-19 crisis, the rules for remote working are more restrictive in Luxembourg than in other locations we operate in. Employee preferences in this respect have shifted which makes it harder to attract and retain talent. Focusing on the employee experience in other areas has therefore become even more relevant these days.”

Talkwalker’s Traer brings up real estate in Luxembourg, the high prices of which are making it harder to convince people to move to the grand duchy. “Despite having greater wages than the rest of Europe,” he comments, “the ordinary person cannot afford to buy a home in the Grand Duchy. Many potential applicants are discouraged from migrating to Luxembourg because the possibility of becoming a homeowner is unrealistic.”

Labarsouque also discusses competition for talent as a “perennial challenge” for Luxembourg as well as other financial hubs. In response, Apex Group last year launched its “JUMP” program, which helps employees relocate. “[It] provides opportunities for our existing talented workforce to be globally mobile and relocate to where we need their skills the most.” A hundred employees have already been offered new roles in different locations, he adds, including in Luxembourg. “We think that this is a unique approach in our industry, providing us with an opportunity to develop talent and address the local challenge of talent acquisition--benefiting both employer and employee.”