Connectingthe dotsbetween hr &technology

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The digital spark has been ignited

30 July 2021

At high-voltage transmission system operator Elia, HR plays a leading role in facilitating an innovative and digital transition within the organisation. This is achieved in part through three projects that deviate from the traditional HR paths. “The point of departure is a bottom-up approach that helps us find the ‘diamonds in the rough’ among employees.”

Three innovative and digital initiatives stand out: an Open Matching Market, the Elia Digital Academy and, finally, The Nest Incubator. Since Elia’s activities are increasingly in ‘project mode’, all employees can sign up to join a project unrelated to their regular work. A digital platform called the Open Matching Market brings together internal candidates and project managers. The underlying software is from Tandemploy and based on artificial intelligence. The concept is currently in the test phase to test its practical feasibility.

Elia has set itself the goal of enabling employees to assume responsibility for their career. This requires transparency in the talent processes and employee awareness about upcoming projects. “In the past, employees were not sufficiently informed or did not have the time to participate,” says Evelyne Driane, Head of Talent Management. “Project staffing was a top-down process. What we needed was to take the opposite approach, i.e. bottom-up.” The result: project managers now provide a list of their talent needs. Any employee can sign up and the technology makes a match using skills management tool data.

“It’s a push method”, explains Driane. “A driver to voluntarily update your skills. And we’ve noticed that employee motivation to actively work on their careers has increased.”


This approach is far from obvious in the Elia company culture. There is the risk of managers losing talented employees in their team on a temporary or permanent basis. “On the other hand, as a manager, you also need to turn to the open market to staff your projects”, notes Ellen Arts, Senior HR Consultant at PZ. “The threshold en route to identifying talent among all the diamonds in the rough is quite a bit lower now.” This has resulted in incidental dynamics in terms of internal employee mobility. Meeting structural needs continues to be the responsibility of HR. But the tool has evolved into an instrument that supports cultural change.

The increasing motivation of employees to update their competencies is good news for a second project that is complementary to the Open Matching Market: the Elia Digital Academy. Interestingly, the focus is on self-learning. The underlying technology is based on the MySkillCamp platform and the learning methods are incredibly diverse: video, podcast, e-book and testimonials. What do they all have in common? “Learning is intuitive, on the spot and on request. We stimulate the reflex among employees to learn continuously,” explains Driane.

External parties like LinkedIn learning, DynaLearn and GoodHabitz provide the content for the digital library. As do the employees themselves. “The diversity of the content is enormous. To appeal to transmission grid operator users, technical, legal and people training courses are offered.” Blended learning is the core focus. This approach makes it possible for employees to quickly find the answer to pressing questions, while at the same time enhancing and expanding their knowledge.

Agile working

The goal of the third project is to create greater acceptance for innovation and digitisation throughout the entire organisation. The Nest is an incubator at Elia where employees can develop their preselected digital and innovative ideas. They analyse, design and test using the agile method. This is done detached from their traditional working environment and position.

Elia makes a support project team available, comprising technical developers and an agile coach. “It’s a pragmatic approach to introducing agile working in the company”, explains Arts. The ideas are selected based on their link to the strategy to evolve towards a digital transmission grid operator. Staffing the teams is challenging because it means freeing up enough employees from the business.

Local onboarding

HR is participating in The Nest with its own project, aimed at improving the onboarding experiences of new employees. “For newcomers, it’s quite a challenge to navigate such a large and complex organisation, especially in times of large-scale teleworking”, illustrates Arts. Apart from a central orientation day, Elia plans to also organise a local onboarding process. A one-stop-shop tool, currently in the testing and development phase, will provide new colleagues with all kinds of useful information based on their specific job. The new employee’s manager and mentor add documents and tasks to this tool.

The development is based on a survey held among former newcomers to identify stumbling blocks and needs in the process. It is the users – not HR – who are in charge of the project. A design and prototype are being developed and brief feedback sessions are used by the project team to make timely adjustments.

Personal leadership

Parallel to and aligned with these innovative HR projects is a company-specific leadership programme, with a focus on the leadership development of everyone in the organisation, from managers to employees. The model is based on four cornerstones. Elia translates each cornerstone into both skills and a mindset. It is all about ability and being, with personal leadership as the primary focus.

“We continuously launch initiatives to support self-leadership”, explains Driane. “Without obligation. Employees need to be ready for this. However, it is important to offer them options and to activate the process, such as during the annual performance reviews.”


  • Dare to take the step towards introducing new working methods, such as the agile methodology, a factor for introducing change in a structured manner.
  • If an organisation opts for far-reaching digitisation, that decision also applies to the HR department. Don’t wait, but evolve along with the company. Proactively monitor and manage the interdependences because the process is a synergy. Significant progress can be made if you work together with other teams.


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