Everyone benefits when leaders effectively respond to the big shifts in the relationship between employees and employers.
The pandemic and societal pressures have disrupted workplaces and more specifically, the relationship between employees and employers. This begs the question: What further changes can human resources and talent and development leaders anticipate amid the uncertainties of a disrupted world?
Workers Are Unique Individuals and No Longer Plentiful
With 2022 just a few days away, it is important to explore what trends are projected to impact our workplaces and human capital—and by extension, talent development. So many organizations continue to treat workers as commodities—eliminating investment in their people because it’s seen as an unnecessary cost. This has long-term consequences that may be hard to undo, especially in an era of such uncertainty.
In fact, a recent poll by Prudential indicates that one of the primary drivers for employees planning on exiting their organization over the next few months is there not being enough growth opportunities. Employees expressed feeling overlooked and underutilized. Based on these results, the pandemic seems to have allowed for retrospection and the courage to find more rewarding work. Thus, if retaining employees is of great importance to an organization, leaders need to be willing to pivot to the needs of ever-changing employee demands.
For a long time, leaders have assumed that marketplace conditions and business needs would not shift, talent would always be plentiful (even if employees are not treated well), and the skills and capabilities one needs today would be the same tomorrow.
However, the past two years have altered our future. The pandemic has hit home this point in a very big way: 64% percent of executives in a study done by Deloitte earlier this year regarding emerging trends for 2022 indicate that leaders need to prepare their organizations for multiple unlikely and high-impact events. This compares to just 29% before the pandemic.
If organizations are going to survive 2022, they first need to recognize the need for change. In addition, if they are going to attract (and keep) top talent, they will need to anticipate and respond to major trends that will likely hit employers and employees hard this coming year.
The ‘Great Resignation’ Will Amplify
According to economists, the unemployment rate in the United States fell from almost 15% in April 2020 to 4% in October of 2021, taking us from an oversupply to an undersupply of talent in a matter of months. The number of job openings has officially reached a staggering level, and despite experts’ projections, this has not changed even with the end of government assistance for the jobless.
What’s more, we see a record number of employees voluntarily exiting their organizations in favor of better opportunities. Organizations are losing good employees and this trend is only going to get worse in the coming years unless swift changes are made. A recent Gallup study indicates that 48% of employees are planning to leave their jobs in the next few months.
We know that the lack of growth or professional development can be a catalyst, but the true driver is compensation. Interestingly, individuals who desire more compensation do so through “job hopping” since this sets the bar for higher pay. Hence, workers are taking advantage of the abundant job openings to get a raise by leaving one job for another. Alternatively, some employees are simply using a job offer from someplace else to get a pay increase at their current organization.
Another reason we can expect the Great Resignation to continue into 2022 is employees’ desire to keep working in a remote or hybrid environment. According to a recent survey by FlexJobs, 58% of people who have been working remotely during the pandemic said they would “absolutely” look for a new job if their current employer did not allow them to continue working remotely.
Employees are becoming unwavering about working for companies that offer some level of flexibility—either fully remote or hybrid work options. A company’s unwillingness to be adaptable may lead it to lose out on good hires or developing the full potential of existing top talent.
In fact, according to results from research conducted by Robert Half (the world’s largest staffing organization), the benefits of flexible work are so compelling that employees have said they would prefer the option to work remotely over a $30,000 raise. Rather than remote or hybrid work being a “perk,” flexible schedules has rapidly become a competitive edge for companies that could determine the future success of their business to attract and retain talent over the long run.
Workplace Health and Well-Being Takes Center Stage
Another trend to consider in 2022 is fostering both a psychologically and physically healthy working environment. In addition to a competitive salary, more opportunities for growth and flexible work arrangements, employees also want a high level of workplace safety, lower levels of stress, emotional support from employers and better work-life balance, according to Archetype Solutions Group.
As of fall 2021, nearly 35% of employees in the United States consider themselves to be fully remote according to statistics from Quantum Workplace. Given teams in these workplaces do not meet physically, organizations’ culture must be strong enough to act as a healthy work environment and ensure employees feel psychologically and emotionally safe. For companies adopting a hybrid or return-to-work model, the maintenance of physical safety can be guided through trusted protocols against COVID-19 or even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (although there is a stay on this standard currently).
Furthermore, many companies have already prepared long-term health and safety policies for staff who have had to return to the physical work environment by instituting custom time-off policies for those who must care for loved ones coping with the virus or who have contracted COVID-19 themselves.
For all organizations, when considering ongoing productivity and retention regardless of where the work is being done, leaders must address individual employee concerns on their safety, stress and burnout levels. For emotional well-being, learning and development departments must create a working environment that is collaborative and provides psychological safety while at the same time providing employees with development opportunities in an inclusionary setting.
Human resources and L&D leaders who effectively prepare for these challenges will help their organizations create a productive and diverse workforce in 2022 and beyond. Everyone from front-line employees to C-suite executives will reap the benefits.