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Humans Wanted: Robots Need You


by Sébastien Delfosse, HR Director, ManpowerGroup BeLux

In the run-up to the May 2019 elections, AmCham Belgium is diving into the topics of most importance for Belgium’s competitiveness and of most concern to the international business community, as outlined in their 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium. Here, we look at the future of the labor market

Driven by technological innovations, the world of work is continuing to transform at a pace never seen before. Robotization, automation and artificial intelligence are invading our workplaces, feeding the fear they will destroy jobs. Robot workers replacing human jobs – the debate of the decade – is distracting us from the real issue: How can we integrate humans with machines and help people develop the new skills they need to face the digital transformation?

Automation is creating jobs

For the third consecutive year, ManpowerGroup has surveyed 19,000 employers in 44 countries about the impact of automation on job growth in their organizations. Our research shows confidence in automation is growing globally. The same goes for Belgium: 15% of Belgian employers anticipate creating more jobs as a result of digitization, while only 5% plan to reduce employment opportunities and 78% plan to maintain headcounts.

Automation is changing the skills companies need from workers, yet the speed with which this is happening across functions varies. Demand for IT skills is growing dramatically, with 16% of Belgian companies expecting to increase headcount in IT. Meanwhile, the availability of talent is increasingly scarce, and the education and experience employers require versus what exists is presenting a mismatch, especially with a strong demand for developers, specialists in infrastructure or in security. Growth will come too in frontline and customer-facing roles (+8%), engineering and management roles, all of which require human skills such as advanced communication, leadership, management and adaptability. The manufacturing sector also anticipates some changes: 9% of employers say they will hire more people in the short term, while 6% of them plan to cut jobs. There will therefore be more jobs created than jobs lost, and it will truly revolutionize the skills needed in that sector. At the same time, employers anticipate reducing employment in administrative and office roles (-15%) as well as in finance and accounting roles (-11%). Learnability is becoming the key word on the labor market.

With the talent shortage at its highest level since 2011 – 35% of Belgian employers report having difficulties filling jobs – and new skills appearing as quickly as old ones disappear, more companies are planning to build talent than ever before, and this is projected to increase by 2020. 91% of organizations expect to be upskilling their workforce by 2020. While 38% of organizations say it is difficult to train in-demand technical skills, 43% say it is even harder to teach the soft skills they need, such as analytical thinking and communication. Candidates who can demonstrate higher cognitive skills, creativity and the ability to process complex information, together with adaptability and likeability, can expect greater success throughout their careers. By 2030, demand for human skills – social and emotional soft skills – will grow across all industries by 22% in Europe according to the World Economic Forum.

To face these new challenges companies need to create a dynamic strategy combining four dimensions:

  • Build: Create a culture of learnability by encouraging leaders to be the igniters of change and innovation;

  • Buy: Go to market to attract the talent that cannot be built in house;

  • Borrow: Cultivate communities of talent beyond the organization;

  • Bridge: Help people move on or move up to new roles inside or outside the organization.


The future of work is not an either-or scenario, human versus machine. Organizations and individuals can befriend the machines and collaborate in harmony to create a stronger and better society.

For more information, read the ManpowerGroup reportHumans Wanted : Robots need You.

A well-functioning labor market should be driven by supply and demand, with the right people in place to meet the needs of the company operating in an ever-changing environment. To keep up with the challenges and opportunities of increasing digitization, AmCham Belgium calls on the next governments to invest in people – focusing on digital education, training, reskilling and lifelong learning to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. Read more about our recommendations to invest in people and digital infrastructure in our 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium.


Download our 2019 Priorities for a Belgium