Twelve months ago, many of the predictions and employee retention strategies for the upcoming year were centered around the “new normal.” With the COVID-19 vaccination in sight, many made optimistic claims of a light at the end of the tunnel. Diversity, equity, and inclusion were pronounced a top priority for business leaders in the wake of the political unrest following the killing of George Floyd. McKinsey called 2021 the year of transition.
The vaccine did not bring with it the light at the end of the tunnel as we had imagined, nor did political unrest stop when the calendar turned to the new year. As we look back on the year that was 2021, was it truly the year of transition? And whether the answer is yes or no, the next question remains the same: Where are we as we begin 2022 and where will the year take us?
Along with the global pandemic and social unrest, hybrid work became another main character in the drama that was 2021. And of course, we would be remiss not to mention the unexpected plot twist that is most certainly going to affect the year ahead: the Great Resignation.
Few predicted this unprecedented level of quit rates, but it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. As I wrote in August: “Consider this: According to a LinkedIn survey, the average annual employee turnover rate is about 11%. Add in employees who would have moved jobs over the past 16 months but didn’t because of the pandemic, plus all of the employees demanding more flexibility than their current employers will provide. All together that equals, well, a lot.”
As Workhuman CEO, Eric Mosley, wrote for Inc. in his 2022 predictions post: “Even if ‘voluntary quits’ trend back to average, the reasons people are quitting in unheard-of numbers won’t change.” Workers are done with “business as usual” – i.e. burnout, meager benefits, unappreciative bosses – and will continue to demand more equitable and empathetic treatment from employers.
With that as a backdrop, we are back to my initial question: Where did 2021 leave us, and where will we go in 2022? After gathering insights from executives and analyzing data collected from thousands of workers around the world, here are five key trends that will influence the workplace in 2022 and beyond.
The sudden transition to remote work at the start of the pandemic quickly proved that employee productivity is the same while working outside the office. And while remote work offers a plethora of benefits for employees, most organizations – and many engaged employees – are not quite ready to let go of the office altogether, leading to a rise in the hybrid work model.
2022 will put this model to the test. If hybrid is going to become the “new normal,” business leaders must be cognizant of one thing above all – culture. As Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton puts it: “As the majority of organizations continue to operate in a hybrid environment, effective leaders will need to continue investing time, resources, and effort in programs that help build and maintain company culture and that help humans stay connected, productive, and engaged.”
Check out these four tips for building culture and employee morale in the new world of work to get started.
2. Internal mobility and boomerang employees will become the norm.
The Great Resignation. It’s created both opportunities and challenges for employees and employers alike. Workers have watched employee turnover levels spike, leaving holes in their organizational structure – and their wallets. In an effort to not let this high-cost cycle continue, 2022 should be the year organizations start looking inward. Rather than looking externally to fill vacated roles, organizations should focus on internal mobility – and provide current employees with the training and skills needed to move into more senior roles. After all, retaining customers is easier (and cheaper) than replacing them. The same can be said for talent and professional development.
Employees, on the other hand, have fared better through the Great Resignation – for the most part. In fact, Workhuman’s Human Workplace Index found 72% of workers surveyed believe the Great Resignation is a positive change in the workplace. But some workers who left their employers in search of something better are beginning to realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Because of this, 2022 will likely see an increase in “boomerang employees” – past employees returning to a company after some time away. These employees may have left 12 months ago, or even 12 years ago. They may have left for a new, shiny opportunity, a different career path, or they may have left to care for a sick family member. Whatever the reason, the gained experience and prior connection to the organization will benefit both the employees and their employers.
Discover 4 more reasons HR needs to embrace internal mobility in 2022 here.
3. Recruiting must adapt to the new world of work.
It’s clear that old methods of recruiting no longer suffice. Whether the Great Resignation continues or not, employees will likely continue to have the upper hand over organizations for some time. Workers want to feel valued by their employers, meaning 10 rounds of interviews for a position with meager benefits at a company with no workplace culture isn’t going to cut it.
And while salary will continue to be an important factor, it certainly won’t be the only factor a candidate will take into consideration. Company culture, employee experience, corporate social responsibility, and flexibility are becoming more important than ever, and potential employees will no longer settle for any less.
Here are five new habits for recruiters to instill in their strategy in 2022 and beyond.
4. DE&I is still a top priority.
Discrimination based on race, gender, and identity has long been a regular facet of the workplace, yet in the past many organizations chose to shy away from it, rather than take a stand against it. In the aftermath of 2020, however, a year in which racial violence came to the forefront of the lives of all Americans, corporations could no longer hide in the shadows. 2021 became the year of commitments and promises around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Have organizations followed through on these promises?
Some may have, but many others have not, even in the face of data showing 66% of workers say their company’s DE&I progress impacts their feelings on how long they will stay at the company. If organizations do not want to lose two-thirds of their staff, DE&I is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a must-have. Whether or not changes were made last year, this will be the year words must turn to actions.
The past two years have also had a detrimental impact on the careers of women. McKinsey’s 2021 Women in the Workplace report found one in three women considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce in 2021, compared to one in four in 2020.
The good news is a Metlife survey found two-thirds of women who left the workforce plan to return. With turnover at record levels, organizations should jump at the opportunity to bring these women back to work this year.
To make meaningful DE&I progress this year, discover what real employees are looking for from their employers in this Human Workplace Index analysis.
5. Organizations must care for their humans – and the community.
Employees have always wanted to be valued and appreciated for the work they do – it’s human nature. What’s different in 2022 is that employees are more willing than ever to act on this desire. Organizations looking to prevent more turnover will now be tasked with building a culture of authentic gratitude that employees want to be a part of.
In the same vein, the pandemic has shown the importance of mental wellbeing, both professionally and personally. Valuing employees has nothing to do with swag bags and pizza parties and everything to do with work-life balance and ensuring they have what they need to do their best work.
2022 will also be the year corporate social responsibility comes to the forefront of the minds of both workers and consumers. In fact, 95% of employees believe businesses should benefit all stakeholders – not just shareholders. This includes employees, customers, distributors, and especially the communities they are located in. Considering Millennials and Gen Zers – two generations demanding corporations do their part to better the world – will soon make up the majority of the workforce, this trend will likely persist long after this year.
What does a Human Workplace really mean? Find out in this blog post.
Each of these five trends has the potential to transform the way we work for everyone’s benefit. To ensure organizations, leaders, and employees are ready for these changes, we will be expanding on each of these trends on the Workhuman blog over the course of the next five weeks. Stay tuned for next week’s blog breaking down our first trend: Reimagining culture for the hybrid world.