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Top 10 HR Trends 2022

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The world of work has change beyond recognition and there is no going back to a pre-COVID world. As companies are getting ready to rework work for a hybrid future, employees are taking stock. They are exhausted and disconnected and how the company treated them during the pandemic will determine their next step.

Here are some key trends to watch out for in 2022:

  1. Get Ready for the ‘Great Resignation’
  2. Digital Burnout Fuels Mental Health Crisis
  3. Innovative Talent Acquisition Strategies Are Needed
  4. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Moves Beyond Dashboards
  5. Time to Rebuild Those Relationships
  6. Develop Hybrid Leadership Skills
  7. Facing the True Costs of Pandemic Performance
  8. Reworking Work for A Hybrid Future
  9. Getting Women Back into The Workforce
  10. Improving HR Value Delivery

(Click here to view our previous trends.)

1. Get Ready for the ‘Great Resignation’

While we have patiently, yet desperately, been waiting to go into recovery, we may not be prepared what that will mean on the workforce front.

1 in 4 workers is considering quitting their job after the pandemic. In another report called The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?, Microsoft found that as well as 54% of Generation Z workers, 41% of the entire global workforce could be considering handing in their resignation.

Not everyone will go through with a resignation. Nonetheless, these numbers should alarm any HR professional. People will take the time to reflect on their professional lives and how well their manager and company handled the pandemic to decide whether or not they want to continue on their current path. And plenty of them will land on a course correction.

This massive workforce reshuffle will be most evident around traditionally low-wage roles and essential workers. Still, it is expected to happen across all industries and at all levels of work.

What some economists have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ will undoubtedly add another layer of challenges to the already strained system. Prevention of unwanted turnover, minimizing loss of productivity, engaging in more adaptive workforce planning, improving talent acquisition, and making off and onboarding seamless are just some of the issues organizations must get good at fast.

2. Digital Burnout Fuels Mental Health Crisis

Increased burnout, digital fatigue, and mental health issues – the pandemic has left its toll. But COVID-19 did not create a mental health crisis. On the contrary, far too many employees were already suffering from stress and anxiety before COVID hit. But facing the realities and demands of work in times of a global pandemic indeed highlighted and accelerated the crisis.

More companies than ever before are offering mental health benefits ranging from employee assistance programs to increased coverage and cost-sharing for mental health and substance abuse services. With the stigma around mental health is finally fading, offering related benefits is a ‘nice to have’; they are a ‘must’.

However, battling mental health goes well beyond wellness programs and flexible sick leave policies. Companies must learn to support and lead targeted efforts to combat mental health and the stigma around it, starting with our work design and leadership approach.

3. Innovative Talent Acquisition Strategies Are Needed

With the looming wave of resignations ahead, the war on talent will intensify, and traditional recruiting methods will not be enough. Suppose organizations want a chance of competing in what is going to be a strained and fiercely competitive labor market. In that case, they will need to improve their Talent Acquisition strategies and translate them into effective processes.

A company’s employer brand will be crucial in standing out from the competition. Candidates care about purpose and culture, and they will not settle if the overall offering is not to their liking, including the overall experience. Therefore, recruiters must think outside the box across the whole people value chain to personalize and improve the candidate experience.

Furthermore, companies need to broaden their horizon in how and where they are looking for candidates, and they will need to redefine their job profiles and search patterns.

The traditional definition of talent is too narrowly focused on education and previous job experience. As a result, all too often, non-traditional candidates are needlessly overlooked. A course correction here will widen and improve the candidate pool.

4. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Moves Beyond Dashboards

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are paramount in shaping the future workforce. And companies start to understand that DEI needs to be more strategic and go well beyond a dashboard. Yes, it is imperative to have the correct data, and a dashboard can help you set targets and measure progress and success. But even the best dashboard alone will not be enough.

Companies often start by thinking that their system is entirely equitable and inclusive and all their people behave according to corporate DEI standards. But it is something worth exploring because most things that go awry and lead to low DEI are neither visible nor apparent.

Think about exclusionary, discriminatory comments that are left unanswered, your job ads that don’t use inclusive language, or your performance management that is stacked against parts of your workforce and closes off earning and career opportunities as a result.

It is not always that straightforward to recognize the unconscious biases and outdated thinking that are baked into our systems, especially when they present themselves as well-intended or established programs. That makes tackling DEI incredibly challenging.

And the responsibility for DEI rests with everyone, but only the organization can address the systemic issues inhibiting DEI.

5. Time to Rebuild Those Relationships

When the pandemic pushed us into lockdown, the workplace changed dramatically for most of our workforce. Anyone who could work from home had to stay put. It changed the way people connected at work dramatically.

Much of the spontaneous interactions were replaced by scheduled calls, regular check-ins, and virtual hangouts. It mostly left employees to interact with their closest coworkers, whereas the broader network was much harder to access, and hence teams became more isolated and companies more siloed. And the impact is felt all around: people feel isolated and detached.

Companies need to find ways to reconnect with people to rebuild those relationships. Starting with the way they invite people back to the office. Finding the right tone will set the stage for a successful transition into a hybrid workplace.

Companies must empathize with people and understand their points of view. They need to meet their people where they are to make the transition collaboratively so that together they can rebuild social capital.

6. Develop Hybrid Leadership Skills

During the pandemic, the demands and challenges of leadership have increased dramatically. Leading in a virtual setting and during a time of universal anxiety and stress is taxing.

Many of the tried and tested leadership techniques have disappeared. Opportunities for a spontaneous ‘hello, how are you’ in the hallway or the chance to observe team interactions and to feel the energy levels in the room or sense have become increasingly difficult. It is enormously difficult to pick up on cues in a virtual setting, especially when teams rely on audio-only.

Many business leaders are out of touch with the concerns of their people – and many more are overwhelmed with the demands of leading a fully remote or hybrid workforce. And yet leadership is more critical than ever.

Companies need a clear vision for the future, followed through with the right guidelines and support. But this is not about creating a rule book or training for managers. Instead, it is about co-creating a meaningful leadership toolkit with practical tools and techniques to help managers navigate the challenges of leading hybrid teams.

7. Facing the True Costs of Pandemic Performance

When the shelter-in-place order forced people to work from home, companies were (too) abruptly pushed into a virtual way of working. Managers worried about declining performance. Will people still perform their duties? But their fears were unfounded. Against all odds, individuals and teams showed remarkable resilience and continued to deliver high value.

However, the high productivity is only great news at first glance. A closer look reveals an overworked, exhausted, and disengaged workforce. In most cases, the current ways of working are not sustainable for much longer.

There is no question some people thrive working in a more remote setting, and they are hyper-productive. But others pushed through but struggled. The unprecedented rise of mental health issues is only the tip of the iceberg.

Virtual work per se requires high levels of self-regulation and self-organization while at the same time limiting opportunities to interact with others and build social capital. But virtual work during times of a global pandemic, throws uncertainty and social isolation into the mix. While we can mitigate the latter as we are moving into an endemic stage of COVID, the fact remains: If companies want to lead their teams to peak performance, they need to proactively mitigate the multiple pain points of their overworked, exhausted and disengaged workforce.

8. Reworking Work for A Hybrid Future

While many people enjoy the freedoms that come from working from anywhere, virtual work is not without its challenges even without a rampaging pandemic. But despite its drawbacks, virtual work is here to stay, and companies must get ready for a hybrid model.

Indeed, there has been a lot of discussion around the ‘perfect’ balance between office work and work from home. Many companies consider mandating minimal office attendance. But that may not be the best approach. Because at the end of the day, it is about the type of work and whether specific tasks and activities lend themselves to remote work – or not.

As a role of thumb: Activities that require ideation, creativity, and innovation – the type of work that demands and thrives on active collaboration – are best achieved in a physical space. Whereas heads-down work can be done from anywhere.

In other words: It should not be a matter of percentages. Instead, it is about a deeper understanding of the type of work and the advantages and disadvantages of the digital vs. physical world that will allow companies to find the optimal balance.

It takes a clear vision and dedication to reorganize operations to truly get the best of both worlds.

9. Getting Women Back into The Workforce

Women have traditionally taken on disproportionately more ‘unpaid’ work at home – shopping, cleaning, taking care of kids and parents in the household. They found a way to juggle work and home life, but when COVID-19 hit, the burden increased significantly. When schools and childcare facilities closed, they were left to watch and home school their kids while trying to meet work demands. They feel the stress of caregiving.

In addition to the added responsibilities and pressures at home, women continue to face non-inclusive behaviors at work. Despite companies’ commitment to gender equality, there is still a lack of improvement in the day-to-day experience of women, especially LGBT+ women and women of color. Microaggressions are just as prevalent as before the pandemic. These stem from cultures that allow such behavior to continue unchecked.

Women are now significantly more burned out—and increasingly more so than men. So, unsurprisingly, many women took a voluntary or involuntary break from work to meet their home responsibilities. And they are now contemplating whether to return or not. And those who remained in the workforce are considering a move.

But we need them. The recovery journey will be hard enough without missing out on a crucial and significant part of the workforce. So, companies need to take bold and decisive actions that will encourage women to stay on the one hand and remove the barriers of returning to the labor force on the other.

Women will look out for more flexible and remote work schedules, and family leave policies, childcare and caregiver support, tailored benefits, up- and reskilling programs as well as ‘returnship’ opportunities. Companies should also pay attention to follow through on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and avoid gender disparities because of a spell of nonparticipation due to COVID-19.

These measures will help women find their place again. But above all, it will help businesses become or remain highly attractive as an employer of choice.

10. Improving HR Value Delivery

HR has undeniably come a long way – changes to existing processes and the continued investment in software brought about significant improvements. Nonetheless, many HR processes are still too cumbersome and labor-intensive. This wasted time and effort hinders HR from being more innovative and people-focused and diminishes employee experience.

Technological advances like chatbots that guide employees through a personalized learning journey or Artificial Intelligence that supports recruiters by auto-screening resumes, running assessments, and matching candidates to suitable positions can be a crucial lever.

But streamlining and improving processes is not always about technology. For example, reproducing an outdated process or practice on a digital platform may make it look more modern and appealing, but it will not turn it into a great approach.

If done right, technology can free up time for HR to explore value-adding opportunities and interact with employees and business leaders. And utilizing people analytics, engaging in human-centric design (Design Thinking), and applying agile practices will help HR teams be more targeted and effective in their efforts to reinvent, improve and strengthen HR value delivery.

Are you ready to embrace the 2022 challenges? We’d love to hear from you. Click here to reach out for comments or questions.

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About JLS - Agile HR Transformation Consulting

JLS is a woman-owned, global transformation consultancy with a passion for building more robust, responsive, and innovative businesses through Agile HR.