While 2021 provided encouraging milestones that we might soon emerge from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was still another full year of major changes and challenges for most HR leaders. From finding new strategies to engage a hybrid workforce, to navigating Covid-19 vaccine mandates, to partnering with business leaders to tackle increasing employee turnover rates, (aka The Great Resignation), HR was on the front lines of some of the biggest stories in business.
As we look ahead to 2022, the most influential trends will come from the need to create a functional and sustainable hybrid workplace. HR leaders will continue working in close collaboration with the c-suite to create policies and protocols that cater to employee needs and support business growth. As these trends unfold and evolve, HR will prove once more that the most important part of any business is its people, and that HR is uniquely positioned to help navigate still-murky waters.
Let’s take a look at five HR trends that will have particularly strong impact on the nature of business in 2022:
Virtual interviews help accelerate hiring decisions
The rapid move towards virtual interviewing versus in-person interviewing was arguably the most visible shift many long-time HR and recruitment professionals had seen in their career. Just 18 months ago, it was unimaginable that companies would hire someone for a knowledge worker job without meeting that person live, in-person. But with the universal adoption of video conferencing technology, it is now entirely possible and commonplace to hire without an on-site visit.
Without the need to physically attend an interview, it’s simply far easier for hiring teams and candidates to find good times to schedule an interview. This advantage will be impossible to turn back from, especially in a job-seekers’ market where high-quality candidates are hard to find and every wasted moment to meet them could be the difference between a great new hire and having to go back to the drawing board.
Employee wellness remains priority #1
Many HR teams took the opportunity in 2020 and 2021 to put a stronger focus on the mental, physical and emotional health of their employees. That said, there was often an underlying sense that policies like mental health days or company-wide closed office days were at least partially knee-jerk reactions to the increasing talk of burnout within organizations.
As we head into 2022, it seems clear that most companies will take a look at some of the programs they implemented and decide to extend them or tweak them for permanent deployment. It seems nearly impossible to imagine that employee wellbeing could be subverted to second-class status, not only because those programs are wildly popular among staff, but because they increase overall productivity and job satisfaction.
Improved employee experience and connections
HR leaders will also double down on opportunities to strengthen and improve the overall employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle. 2021 was dubbed “The Great Resignation” and its impact is bound to be long-lasting. So while remote work and wellness become important at the individual level, HR will need to take the lead in creating and driving programs which focus on creating more connections between current employees now working apart from each other.
This will be particularly important for new employees who don’t yet have an established connection with their colleagues. What’s more, those connections will need to be built and grown very quickly. It’s likely that we’ll see the use of interactive onboarding programs and new hire buddy/mentor programs take off in popularity for that reason.
At the same time, budgets will need to include travel and team building expenses to enable regular in-person connections for hybrid or fully remote teams. HR will play a driving role in building those experiences and expectations into the overall cultural fabric of the company.
Employee retention takes center stage
One fairly obvious devil’s advocate question when thinking about all this is, “why is doing all of this worthwhile?” The first reason should be enough: that it’s the right thing to do for the people who drive the company forward. Without people, the company is nothing.
But the secondary reason, and the one that affects the biggest change from previous years, is that employees have the upper hand in a job-seekers market, which we are very much in right now. Given tough hiring conditions, the companies that are able to retain employees at a rate better than their competition will have the upper hand in today’s people driven businesses.
Listening becomes extremely important
Ultimately, ensuring that workplace policies cater to the real needs of an organization’s actual employees, and not just “the workforce” at large, requires HR pros to hone their listening skills and increase their agility in response to what they learn. Senior HR leaders will need to take the time to speak with and connect with employees across the organization on a regular basis and encourage transparency.
It will be important to remember the lessons the pandemic taught us about empathy, listening, and the importance of flexibility when it comes to how, where and when employees work. The mindset, actions and examples of HR leaders has a legitimate impact on employees, and it matters to the success of the businesses they support. Eve though the past two years have been tough on HR leaders, they must make sure their employees are as seen and heard and valued as they would like to be!
Responding to new demands without firm answers
The interplay between hiring, onboarding, retention, flexibility and the hybrid work place can all serve to enhance and strengthen the employee experience, or put it at risk. As the world embraces hybrid work, and HR teams continue to make adjustments to get the most out of it, everyone will see and enjoy the incremental improvements. As the trends above unfold further in 2022, we’ll see HR get the credit it deserves for improving employee experience, fostering stronger workplace connections and building stronger businesses.
Hear from Deb Hill, our VP of Human Resources, on the Workology Podcast talk about the CHRO and talent leadership. Listen here >