Written by Nicola Gater | 6th January 2022
2021 was certainly a difficult year for most businesses and many of these challenges including managing remote and hybrid teams and recruitment, look set to continue this year.
As we look ahead to what 2022 may hold for employers, it’s clear that building a strong, positive company culture will be the key to overcoming these continued challenges of the pandemic and its aftermath.
Here’s what we expect to see in 2022 and beyond.
- Wellbeing to stay at the top of the agenda
It was well overdue, but wellbeing became a top priority in lockdown as employers realised their responsibilities to staff who were balancing working from home with the stresses of the pandemic.
The ONS reported that 21% of adults in the UK in the early part of 2021 experienced some form of depression. Now those people are returning to the office, or working on a hybrid model, it’s important not to lose focus. The pandemic isn’t over, and there are new pressures to cope with, such as increased workloads due to redundancies or problems with recruiting.
Good employers will recognise that their businesses thrive when their people are supported – and we hope that’s a lesson that has been learned for good.
Managers should ensure they offer proactive support to their team members and focus on setting manageable and sustainable workloads while employers should look to review and implement better mental health initiatives.
One idea is employee assistance programs to give workers in-person or remote access to mental health professionals, but an immediate way to show support is by introducing a culture of understanding that it’s ok not to be ok.
- A continued focus on flexible working
The debate around whether people work best from home or the office will rage on, but employers should be prepared for the number of informal and formal requests for flexible working to continue to rise. This may present a challenge – not just in ensuring requests are treated consistently and fairly, but also when it comes to managing hybrid teams.
Employers will need to work hard to ensure their people work well together, and that company culture can be maintained, as people work in varied ways and from different locations. We may see engagement surveys making a comeback as employers strive to understand how well hybrid arrangements are working.
Companies may already have gained many useful insights from the pandemic, both the potential flexible and hybrid working offers and the challenges it presents. But above all, it’s clear that most employees value options for flexibility in how, where and when they work.
- Raising the game on diversity, equality and inclusion
The diversity of a workforce is a very strong indicator of how good a company’s culture is. However, diversity, equality and inclusion have to go beyond box-ticking and it’s not enough just to recruit from a variety of backgrounds. As employers and candidates alike become more aware of this, we expect to see an increased focus on what inclusion really means – that regardless of their differences, everyone is accepted and made to feel that they belong, they are considered and included in decision-making, and everyone has an equal opportunity to progress and succeed.
While it will be important for businesses to ensure they have robust equality policies in place there must also be focus on bringing those policies to life and ensuring all day-to-day people practices really do create and sustain a genuinely inclusive and positive culture. Do what you say you will do.
Our team can support you to develop appropriate practices and create bespoke diversity and equality training, either in person or over video – for information on this, and the full range of Reality HR training courses, go to our training page.
- People will want more than just salary
It’s an incredibly difficult time to recruit – the landscape is described as a “candidate’s market” and there’s much talk of the “great resignation” as people seek an improved work/life balance and want to feel valued following their experiences in the pandemic. We expect that to remain the case in 2022, so when it comes to retaining existing staff and recruiting new people, a competitive salary won’t be enough on its own. Candidates will ask questions about work/life balance, perks and benefits – and crucially, they will want to know about that all-important company culture and how it will work for them.
There has been a shift in employee attitudes about what matters when it comes to employee benefits. Employees are valuing perks like employee assistance programs and health support services (both physical and mental health), paid time off and flexibility, and support for personal development and progression.
There’ll be a pivot towards “greener” benefits too – in other words, benefits and perks that are aligned to your sustainability goals which can help attract candidates. These could include gift vouchers to cycle shops to buy a bike so they can cycle to work or electric company cars.
- The need to level up skills
Linked to the challenges of recruitment is a general skills shortage, so we expect training to become a top priority for 2022. If ready-made candidates are hard to find, then apprenticeships, training schemes and retraining have an even more important role. As a result, we anticipate increased demand for bite-sized training courses to fill skills gaps.
Given high turnover rates and skills shortages, businesses can promote employee retention by prioritising the development of their current employees.
- Leadership development will be in the spotlight
Likewise, businesses expect a lot from their leaders so need to make sure they have the skills to support their teams and help them adjust to change.
This will mean investing in high-quality manager development training programmes, as well as more coaching and mentoring.
Recently we’ve seen a real uptick in grievances, informal complaints and disciplinary issues, and so it is vital that line managers have well-developed skills and behaviours to spot issues and resolve them early, before they escalate. Line managers are pivotal to an employee’s job satisfaction, as well as key to delivering to a business’s ambitions and reinforcing its culture – so it’s vital to give them the training and support they need.
- Performance management process
Top performing companies will focus on the work itself and the results that are achieved, rather than just how many hours are spent at desks. Flexible, hybrid and remote working makes it difficult for employees to all be measured in the same way. Good performance will align individual targets to the organisation’s goals, so the employee’s overall contribution to the organisation can be clearly seen. Ensure your managers are skilled and comfortable with giving regular feedback.
- Growing use of technology in people management
There has been a lot of negative commentary about the use of technology in people management – especially when it is used to monitor staff who are working remotely to ensure they remain at their desks. But when it’s used positively, tech can provide valuable insights into data and trends – for example employee turnover, productivity, and how how frequently staff are working outside of their normal hours.
Automation can never replace good managers who must ensure they work closely with and understand their team members, but this kind of data can be invaluable, when shaping people management practices, and we expect to see its use becoming more common in 2022 and beyond.
- Focus on sustainability
Corporate social responsibility might have been around for a while, but issues connected to sustainability are becoming more important for employers and employees. Employees want to know the work they’re doing, and the company they’re doing it for, has real purpose and impact when it comes to social responsibility.
Also, as public awareness about the climate crisis hits an all-time high, there is mounting pressure on businesses to be more sustainable. 2022 is set to be the year that businesses focus more on being ‘greener’, which not only works towards protecting our planet, but also plays an important role in employee engagement. Read our blog about how you can focus on sustainability.
- Building a positive company culture
With so much sudden change in the workplace from both businesses and employees in the past two years, employers and managers need to focus on improving and fostering a positive, safe and inclusive company culture for all in 2022. From suddenly shifting from working in the office five days a week to hybrid and remote working, then back to the office and now back to ‘work from home if you can’, employees may still be feeling some uncertainty, without a lack of structure.
Managers should show empathy and an open mind in order to create the best workforce with high staff morale and productivity. Leading with compassion is a must. Especially, if employees seem rundown and on the road to burnout, employers need to encourage them to take a step back and recharge.
Even though one of the things we have learned from the pandemic is that long-term planning is increasingly tricky to do, this year is the ideal time to re-evaluate employer/employee relationships and create a positive company culture of trust and safety your employees need.
We have created a Culture Guide which may help with this process, it is free to download here: https://www.realityhr.co.uk/culture-guide/.
Embracing these HR trends is going to be the difference between those organisations that attract and retain talent, maintain a high level of productivity, and have a happy, and engaged workforce, and those that may find themselves struggling to succeed as they emerge from the challenges of the pandemic.
If you need some support to ensure your recruitment and retention process allows your business to attract the right talent in 2022, please get in touch with our team at [email protected].