2021 was a rollercoaster of a year for HR. But what will 2022 bring? What will shape your people strategy as we move into the new year?
In our recent webinar ‘What Will HR and Recognition Look Like in 2022?’, our Head of People Noah Warder spoke to HR and rewards experts Shelley DaCosta and Kwesi Thomas about some of the biggest issues, challenges, and trends in HR today.
In this blog, we take a look at 6 of the most pressing areas they discussed, and some of the key insights they had to share in each one.
1. Adaptability will be key for HR in 2022
While Kwesi, Noah, and Shelley discussed several different topics and HR trends in our webinar, the one common theme underpinning them all was the need for HR professionals to be adaptable.
In an unprecedented period of change, HR teams need to be flexible in how they approach their work and processes to meet the needs of a constantly evolving environment.
This might not come easily to everyone. “Especially in HR, we love to run our cycles that happen quarterly or annually etc.,” said Kwesi. “But how we do those things is going to get challenged, and we're going to have to be a bit flexible in how we execute those things, how we support our leaders, and how we support businesses.”
“I'm seeing a lot of people asking me how do they adapt to the business changes that they've gone through or just the environment changes with their people, and how to adapt their processes or their teams to do so.”
“For years, we've been saying the only constant in the workplace is change,” Shelley added. “And I think the last two years have really indicated that, and pushed us more than ever to realize that the way of the future is going to be this constant change."
“And you know, a lot of people have talked about returning to normal, or back to the new normal, or whatever. We almost don't want to use that word because there won't be a normal per se anymore. And that's probably a good thing for us to get rid of because it's all going to be about pivoting, adapting, and flexibility.”
But while this period will be a challenge, it could also give HR leaders the chance to make changes for the better. “I relish this opportunity that we're in right now,” said Kwesi. “Because at least we can challenge some of the norms that we couldn't challenge before.”
2. HR takes on a bigger role
The need to be adaptable is especially important when considering the changing role of HR. With the challenges of moving to remote work, the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the looming threat of ‘The Great Resignation’, many companies have looked to HR for answers.
This has led to the function becoming more influential, helping to shape the overall direction of organizations more than ever before. With none of these challenges looking like they’re going to go away any time soon, this HR trend will likely continue into 2022.
“For the last year, HR has been challenged to be at the senior table with the executives and help them figure out what to do,” said Shelley.
“It's a constant change for everybody, and I think HR has got to be ahead of that curve in terms of helping their executives and their organizations understand that there's going to be more pivoting, and more flexibility needed.”
This view is echoed by many others in the industry. “The role of HR has been elevated,” wrote consultant Josh Bersin recently. “Nobody’s having any problems with a seat at the table.”
But this brings its own challenges. As HR takes a more involved role in organizational decision-making, there is a need to make sure your team is equipped for it.
Bersin advises HR leaders planning for 2022 to “take a serious and sober look at the HR function, the skills and capabilities of your HR team, and the level of development you’re doing for each of the members of the HR organization.”
“It’s time to think about the HR function as a professional services organization: one with consultants, product managers, service delivery, and technology all in one. And you’ll see that you have a lot of interesting opportunities ahead.”
3. The search for a competitive advantage in recruitment and retention
One crucial area in which executives will be looking to HR for leadership in 2022 will be in attracting and retaining talent. With people still leaving their jobs en masse, HR professionals will need to help their companies find a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
How to best meet that need is a matter of opinion, with many different experts recommending different routes to make your company stand out. Kwesi, Noah, and Shelley spoke in our webinar about the need to find the right competitive advantage for your organization. This could involve offering more flexibility, better benefits, or even something more simple than that.
“Base pay, it's table stakes,” offered Kwesi. “But if you decide to pay at p80, p90 in the market it's not table stakes anymore, it's actually an attraction.”
Shelley recommends classifying your compensation and benefits in terms of what is table stakes, what is for retention purposes, and what’s for attraction.
“Once you categorize, you can start to decide where you can play. Because if you're an organization going into The Great Resignation and you're worried all about retention right now, you're going to buckle down and communicate – like, howl! – about those programs that you think are retaining your employees and make sure people know that they're there and that they're taking advantage of those benefits.”
4. Employee appreciation in a remote world
It’s probably not surprising that one of the biggest things Kwesi, Noah, and Shelley feel employers can do to attract and retain employees during The Great Resignation is to make them feel appreciated.
“The reality is employees are leaving and they're picking and choosing where they are going to go, and they're going to gravitate to organizations where they feel appreciated,” said Shelley.
Kwesi pointed out that this can be even harder in a remote world, as employers have less opportunities to spontaneously recognize employees by simply popping by their desk to praise their work or taking them out for coffee. “Finding ways to do that in a remote way, and doing it consistently enough where people actually feel appreciated, it's a tough thing, right?”
“How do you communicate? How do you continuously give the employees that feedback on how their work is doing? Some people don't need that feedback, they're driven internally. But a lot of people do. They need to know that they're doing a good job, they need to know that their supervisors are happy with the work they're doing.”
Shelley feels recognition in this environment is best approached on a person-by-person basis.
“Just like any other rewards, there's an individuality to it, right? Like, what is the language in which an employee wants to be appreciated?” she said.
With a need for more flexible rewards that can translate to a digital environment, it’s possible that one of the biggest HR trends of 2022 could be companies looking to revamp and update their employee recognition programs.
5. Increased focus on employee wellbeing will be one of the biggest HR trends of 2022
As the long-term consequences of the pandemic become more apparent, one HR trend that is likely to shape the coming year is an increased focus on mental health and wellness.
Speaking to HR Morning, Chill Anywhere CEO Laura Sage highlighted just why this is such a hot topic right now. “Mental wellness programs are especially important now because the workforce is really struggling. Nearly half of the workforce suffers from some type of mental health issue,” she said.
To truly address this problem, Shelley stressed the need for a change in mindset from employers and HR professionals. “A really great quote I read the other day was about how we need to stop working really hard to make our employees resilient and start looking at the stress that's on them in terms of the workplace,” she said.
“All of that goes back to, again, adapting, and back to appreciating. Are we appreciating the circumstances employees are working under for the past year and what they'll continue to probably be working under into the next year? Whether they have a house full of children while they're also trying to deal with zoom calls, or aging parents, or mental health issues?”
In the past, Shelley feels that there has been a reluctance from both companies and employees to be open about mental health. “Back in those days, from a health and safety and wellness perspective it was ‘don't ask, don't tell, don't want to know’, and that's so wrong,” she said. “Today, where we're expecting our employees to bring their whole selves to work, we want all of that and the employee wants all of that back.”
A big part of this, according to our own Head of People Noah Warder, will be around adjusting your benefits to provide more support for your employees’ mental wellness. “There is that adaptability to make sure that your benefits and your mental health providers and all that stuff are not just a one-size-fits-all, but are adaptable and provide resources that are important to individuals and their needs, ” he said. “And making sure that you're creating, not necessarily custom programs for every single person, but you're providing enough flexibility and adaptability in those programs that people feel that their needs are being met.”
Shelley also emphasized the importance of giving your managers the tools they need to be more supportive of their employees' mental wellness. “It's equipping the leaders to open up the conversation, to feel safe about it, to get them the support that they need to carry it on and to show compassion,” she said.
6. HR leaders should put more emphasis on leadership training in 2022
A common factor in all of these challenges is the need for HR teams to equip leaders with the tools they need to succeed, which is why an increased focus on leadership training is likely to be a key HR trend in 2022.
“It underpins the other things we're talking about,” said Shelley. We have to teach our leaders to be able to adapt and have them work in a different way with employees, and we have to teach our leaders to appreciate employees in different ways and different means.”
Leadership training is arguably something that has often been lacking in many organizations. “You know, you start off your career as an individual contributor, you're doing your own work. And then one day you've done such a good job that you're now a team leader or a manager, and we tend to send you off to some one-day, two-day, maybe three-days-over-the-course-of-three-months management training,” said Kwesi.
“That has always bugged me, as a person becoming a leader myself as well as the person overseeing those programs. And more than ever, I think the most impact we can have with all of our HR programs is really equipping our leaders to be good leaders.”
According to Noah, this is one trend in HR that's especially important right now, as an increasing number of younger and more inexperienced people are promoted to leadership positions. “With the huge talent shortages and the talent crunch and The Great Resignation or Migration or whatever you're calling it, more and more leaders are being promoted into those roles,” he said. “And you're finding younger leaders and new managers and new leaders who have no idea what they're doing, and they probably have even less direction than we all got when we were promoted into those roles because things are moving even faster.”
“It's almost this oxymoron that we're seeing where we're moving so fast we're not giving leaders the skills that they need to be effective, and we're asking them to do more in this virtual environment.”
Noah also believes that more training for leaders will have a knock-on effect, making it easier to invest in development and growth for all employees. “I think what a lot of these articles and people are saying is missing the mark a little bit. They keep talking about how important it is to upskill your team and upskill your people, because that will keep them in their roles and show that you appreciate them and that you're adapting to their needs,” he said.
“But if you're not upskilling your leaders in a more meaningful way, then the programs you set in place are just gonna fall short, because there's that bottleneck that you've created in your organization of your leaders. Your managers aren't able to contribute and help your teams as much as they could be if you were helping them as much as you could be.”
Plan your year with our 2022 HR calendar
Want to make it easier to plan for 2022? We’ve created a comprehensive HR Calendar that includes:
- Employee appreciation dates
- DEI and awareness dates
- National & international holidays and festivals
- Other fun dates with exciting ideas for recognition
You can add it to your Google, Outlook, or iCal calendar by following the instructions below:
Add to your Google Calendar
Copy and paste this link in your browser https://hubs.ly/Q010X9-D0
Add to your iCalendar
Copy .ics link > Paste in Browser > Download File > Go to iCalendar > Click File > New Calendar > Write a name of your choice > Click File again > Import > Click on .ics file > Add to your new calendar
Add to your Outlook Calendar
Go to your Outlook Calendar > Click Add Calendar > Subscribe From web > Paste Link >> Add to My Calendars
Copy .ics link https://hubs.ly/Q010Xbm_0 > Paste in Browser > Download File > Go to Outlook Calendar > Create Blank Calendar > Write a name of your choice > Click Add Calendar > Upload From File > Click on .ics file > Add to your new calendar
Alternatively, you can download a PDF version here: