We’ve combed through the latest research, reflected on opinions from top experts and relied on our own experience with over 15,000 HR professional partners to pull together a list of the latest HR trends you’ll want to keep at the top of your mind for 2022.
Heightened expectations ahead
The guidance for each trend is built around these factors: What is new? What has changed or is about to? What do you need to know to be prepared? What actions do you need to take to help you tackle challenges and leverage opportunities?
A few thoughts as a precursor, while some trends have continued from the previous year, the level of expectations around those trends has increased, along with the possibility for heightened risk and greater opportunity. There’s also distinct intersectionality between each of the trends listed below. For instance, turnover is more of an issue if you don’t follow through on other interrelated trends, like creating accountability around developing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive, harassment-free environment or responding to potential shifts in the compensation environment.
Finding your “new normal”
To date, you’ve likely seen much discussion about the post-pandemic “new normal.” Our take is that the situation is uniquely different for each organization, depending on the product or service, processes, and workplace dynamic (pre-and post-pandemic). With that in mind, it’s important to assess the new normal for your organization—consider how people are perceiving your company now and identify new expectations from customers, current employees and prospective hires.
The good news is that, as you determine how your company has evolved over the past year-plus, this is your ideal opportunity to turn any potential negatives into positives. The best way to do that: go from a reactive mode, imposed by the turbulence of the pandemic, to a proactive approach where agility becomes your greatest strength and resilience, your greatest asset.
You’ll want to look at this list from your lens and the reality of your organization’s new normal, knowing that some of these trends will matter more than others, some will offer more opportunity and others greater risk.
Trend #1: Scarcity and turnover put the focus on recruitment and retention
An acute labor shortage, a scarcity of skilled talent to meet the demands of the future, along with an unprecedented exodus of labor, dubbed the “great resignation” has teed up 2022 as a year where recruitment and retention require a new focus and approach.
The first step to tackling this issue is understanding how this trend is affecting your company. According to HR leader Ian Cook’s piece in HBR, this trend highlights “the importance of taking a data-driven approach to determining not just how many people are quitting, but who exactly has the highest turnover risk, why people are leaving, and what can be done to prevent it.”
Part of the answer is in redesigning recruitment and retention strategies to be shaped around the employee experience and their journey from prospect to candidate to valued employee. This involves increasing efforts to incentivize candidates to join and employees to stay. It also means taking a skill-based approach to recruitment as well as upskilling current talent to create a targeted fit. In his HBR article, CEO of LinkedIn, Ryan Roslansky emphasizes that “With the global economy experiencing massive change, upskilling and reskilling have taken on a renewed sense of urgency.”
Trend #2: A transformed workplace: Moving from reactive to proactive
The initial impact of the pandemic understandably thrust companies into a reactionary mode. Forced to quickly develop remote work processes and implement new technologies, organizations and their employees had to quickly adapt, creating a shift in both the employee experience and the company’s protocols.
While most CEOs agree that volatility will remain a primary challenge in 2022, some changes from the previous year will stabilize and become the standard. According to Gartner’s Trend Report, “A vast majority of HR leaders (95%) expect that at least some of their employees will work remotely after the pandemic. This shift to hybrid work will be a massive driver of transformation and one HR leaders must be prepared to support.”
In their Future of Work Trends for 2022 report, Korn Ferry extends this idea further and describes it as “reinvention: the flipside of disruption.” They posit that “Organizations will become more fluid. Expect flatter, non-hierarchical structures and more project-based working.” and “Companies will reinvent where work gets done as they formalize hybrid models of working.”
This is the opportunity for companies to move from reactionary decision-making to proactive planning. The tricky balance will be to remain nimble and flexible, but still provide enough structure for employees to navigate with clarity in the new workplace. This includes monitoring the dynamics between remote, hybrid and in-person employees and making any needed changes to maintain a responsive, dynamic work environment where everyone feels included, engaged and supported.
Trend #3: Next level diverse, equitable, inclusive and harassment-free environment
The growing strength of the #MeToo movement alongside the uprising against the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others marked the beginning of a new cultural reckoning. For the workplace, that meant preventing harassment and committing to a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
If 2020 was a year of awakening, then 2021 was the year to “do something.” But the sad truth is that in many places, people in positions with less power still face harassment and microaggressions. For them, life can be a daily struggle of being mocked, insulted, tormented or worse. In 2022, the expectations for change will be much higher.
Prospective hires, employees and customers will make decisions based on whether the company took real, concrete steps, reporting on their successes in a verifiable way. Organizations will need to enhance education, institute accountability, diversify leadership and recruitment and implement steps to screen bias out of existing processes and systems. Among the biggest opportunities will be for organizations to leverage an elevated culture as a cornerstone of innovation, problem-solving and collective intelligence through diverse, cross-functioning teams.
Trend #4: Anticipating shifts in the compensation environment
There are some major factors that will shift the compensation environment in 2022. First, with the adoption of hybrid/remote work, many organizations are now competing for talent in a national pool. That means employees have a plethora of choices, and employers need to consider how their compensation packages will fit as an attraction point.
Creeping into our orbit for some time now, inflation will only compound the compensation issue. For 2022, economists are cautioning that inflation may increasingly become an issue. Here’s how. Inflation affects the purchasing power of your employees. When this is coupled with a tightening labor market, compensation becomes even more important. Consider these questions: How will inflation affect your employees’ financial needs? What will they expect for their base salary, bonuses, benefits, time-off and other perks? How can you change your compensation packages to be more competitive?
Trend #5: A focus on the whole employee experience
As remote work has entered the home, there’s been a fusion of life at work and at home. Employees and teams gained more independence and control over their schedules and communications, with many relishing this newfound freedom.
In 2022, companies will need to balance a greater understanding of the whole employee experience with the needs of the organization. A focus on mental health, life/work balance and compassion will help employees feel understood and valued. A new Ernst & Young Consulting survey confirms 90% of US workers believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction and 79% agree it decreases employee turnover.
More than ever, companies will need to see employees as people and seek to understand their individual needs, offering flexibility when it is feasible and fair. Fitting with this “people first” approach, there will be a shift toward flexible technology that adapts to people, rather than the other way around. To that end, the most successful technologies will take existing workflows into account with more tailored and flexible functionality.
The bottom line
No one has a crystal ball to say definitively what will or will not happen in the year ahead. There are multiple variables, unpredictable events and many unknowns. (Who could have predicted the pandemic, or the impact of the variants that followed?) Still, there’s value in considering what may be ahead of us. The above offers an educated, research-based glimpse of what is likely, what is probable and how you can prepare.
The key takeaway: your organization is unique and your “new normal” is specific to your circumstances—and this is your opportunity to move from reactive to proactive mode. It is a pivotal moment. Taking the time to reflect, gather data, assess your own situation, shape your priorities and stay at the pulse of impending trends will support your ability to tackle challenges and leverage opportunities in the year ahead.