Træfpunkt HR 2019: Soft skills, employee learning and Dave Ulrich

Guest blog post by Simon Kennell

Last month, I attended Træfpunkt HR 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Annually organized for nearly two decades by The Association of Danish HR Professionals, the exhibition displayed services from 150 companies and was attended by over 2000 HR and personnel professionals. As a student with a focus in Human Resources, I was interested to see what trends or themes I would encounter at one of the largest gatherings of human resource professionals in Denmark. Here are three topics that stood out to me.

Soft skills, creativity, and imagination as a competitive advantage

One of the first presentations I attended was a keynote address by Paolo Gallo. As an executive coach, author, and former chief human resources officer at the World Economic Forum in Geneva he had many insights into the future job market and the role of ethical leadership during the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’. Interestingly, Gallo pinpointed that while skills such as analytical thinking and innovation will continue to be in extremely high demand, soft skills and human-specific emotional intelligence traits such as compassion, team coordination, and creative critical problem solving will be the most sought-after humanistic skills in the future job market.

Gallo’s reasoning for this viewpoint is that while optimizable jobs and skills will begin to be filtered out of the human workforce by artificial intelligence, more refined humanistic capabilities such as imagination will come into demand to counterbalance these AI (artificial intelligence) processes. This shift has the potential to create an incredible opportunity for human resource managers as they will be responsible for identifying and developing employees who possess these skills and/or have the potential to learn these skills.

While it may be easy to view this concept simply as a future possibility, there is already rapid change in the growth of artificial intelligence implementation in workplaces. In 2018, the World Economic Forum Jobs Report stated that while 71% of total task hours (in WEF studied industries) were performed by humans, that average is expected to decrease to 58% by 2022 due directly to artificial intelligence processes being implemented. Also included in the report, the 2022 Skills Outlook listed analytical thinking, active learning, and creativity/originality as the top three ‘growing skills’ needed for future employment [1].

While it is impossible to know exactly what the future holds, Gallo may be on to something.

Employee Learning

While exploring the different products and services presented at the event, I was interested to see the strong emphasis on innovative employee learning products. There were several companies that focused on customized learning games designed to develop employees’ knowledge and critical problem-solving skills. Although the concept of gamification can appear to mostly target training and development, there is research to show that while training and development are positively impacted by gamification, employee engagement can be equally, if not more so, positively impacted [2]. It was fascinating to see this emergence of innovative gamification in the workplace and the competitive possibilities that can be explored with effective employee learning.

David Ulrich – Understanding the ‘value’ of Human Resources

Perhaps the most anticipated speaker of Træfpunkt 2019 was the renowned professor and author, Dr. David Ulrich. His presentation focused on how human resource departments create value for organizations. One of the most prominent concepts in his presentation was the importance of recognizing the proactive role that human resources must take in successfully adapting to external market conditions. “HR is not about HR, but value created for others” was a consistent reminder by Ulrich made to emphasize that by becoming an organization that succeeds in creating business value, organizational capabilities will grow, thereby growing employee well-being. Additionally, Ulrich very skillfully illustrated the importance of talent development within an organization and the value of creating balanced environments where individual talent is used effectively to drive team production while simultaneously developing individual skill sets.


  1. World Economic Forum. (2018). The Future of Jobs Report 2018. World Economic Forum Center for the New Economy and Society. Retrieved from
  2. Robson, Karen & Plangger, Kirk & Kietzmann, Jan & McCarthy, Ian & Pitt, Leyland. (2015). Game on: Engaging customers and employees through gamification. Business Horizons. 59.

Picture of lightbulb by Greg Westfall, and board tokens by Marco Verch, via Flickr.

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