Written by Nicola Gater | 16th December 2021

As 2021 draws to an end, we’re looking ahead to the issues businesses may face in the year ahead. Here are some of the key challenges we’ve identified – along with some tips on how to overcome them.

Improving diversity, equality and inclusion

Employers are increasingly looking to improve equality and inclusion as awareness of the issues grows, and as more and more organisations recognise the real value a diverse workforce can bring.  Equality of opportunity, pay and progression should run through your business from the top down, with inclusive approaches incorporated into all people practices from recruitment of entry level roles through to the appointment of a CEO, and everything between.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 35% of leaders will prioritise diversity, equality and inclusion in the coming year. Whilst 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.

As well as the cultural and commercial benefits, a good understanding of diversity issues guards against claims of discrimination which can cost time, money and reputation to defend. If your processes aren’t rigorous and your managers not trained in diversity issues, you may risk claims linked to any and all protected characteristics including race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender. Diversity and inclusion training programmes will develop your managers’ ability to create a safe and diverse workplace culture for all your people which will help to attract and retain talent of all backgrounds.

Our team can develop bespoke diversity and equality training for your business either in person or over video – for information on this, and the full range of Reality HR training courses, go to our training page.

Maintaining employee engagement

A recent study by Qualtrics of 13,000 employees around the world found that employee engagement in the UK is currently sitting at just 50%. We all know that a happy workforce makes for a more committed and productive workforce, but during a global pandemic this was always going to be challenging.

In the new year, employee engagement should be back at the forefront of employers’ agendas as organisations will need to harness high performance working to emerge from the economic challenges of the pandemic. Regular meaningful two-way communication helps employees understand the goals of the organisation and how they can contribute, and feel involved in decisions that affect them. Team get-togethers (virtual or in person if possible) creates a sense of belonging and shared purpose whilst giving feedback, praise, development and progression opportunities add to the mix to drive commitment, motivation and high performance levels.

Factors affecting motivation, engagement and job satisfaction will be different for each individual and flexing your approach accordingly will help to get the best from everyone. The Insights Discovery process, carried out by our trained practitioners, can be invaluable in helping you understand your people, how they work and their team dynamics. Wherever your people work, they need to know they are valued – and our employee engagement services are here to help.

Recruitment and retention

Right now, many businesses are struggling to find quality candidates to fill vacant roles. This is compounded by what has become known as ‘the great resignation’ – a report from Microsoft shows that 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employer within the year.

The reasons for this vary – and identifying them is crucial. Many people are reflecting on their employment experiences over the last 2 years and thinking about what their employer is offering going forward. Some people feel overworked and undervalued, while others are looking for new meaning to their work or seeking ways of working that perhaps their employer can’t or choose not to provide. Whatever the reason, employers need to be proactive and flexible in order to retain their top talent.

Next year employers will need to understand the needs and preferences of their existing workforce and those of the talented candidates they want to attract, adapting what they offer in terms of pay, benefits, career development, culture and ways of working to create an employee experience that pits them higher than other organisations they compete with for high performing talent.

Employee burnout

Our experience of working with employers across many sectors shows that a high number of employees at all levels are fatigued and struggling with wellbeing and mental health issues, caused by nearly two years of both personal and work-related difficulties. Employee burnout can lead to illness and absence which has obvious impact on the individual and the organisation. But even if it doesn’t reach this level, burnt out employees are unlikely to be performing at their best.

Build good working relationships with your team so you can spot issues early and offer the right support. Long hours, high workloads, tech problems and a lack of flexibility or autonomy, or even uncertainty and worries about job security can all be eased through good communication and understanding. Make sure employees have the opportunity to voice their concerns and be open to making changes where needed.

Developing skills and capability

Organisations will need to constantly adapt to keep up with changes in their market and the wider world, and this requires continual review and development of the skills and capabilities of their people.

A survey by Gartner found that one third of the skills present in an average job ad from 2017 are no longer relevant in 2021.

Managers must be able to work with employees to identify skills gaps and create appropriate development plans. There may be new challenges such as how to support people to achieve their learning goals if they are working remotely, or how to develop people over time to progress from entry level through to expert or leadership roles; this will be important if the current recruitment challenges continue. It is vital that line managers are properly equipped to run teams and share knowledge – and our management training can help.

As current government advice brings back ‘work from home if you can’, it’s important that in 2022 you ensure training programmes can be implemented effectively wherever your teams are working.

2021 has certainly been a difficult year for many organisations and many of these challenges look set to continue into next year. Look out for our blog in the new year, focused on some important HR topics to focus on in 2022.