With 2022 looking set to be another year of uncertainty and complexity for organisations, the HR function will be juggling the challenge of crafting, deploying and iterating new ways of working, while responding rapidly to any further disruptions.
The net of challenges and responsibilities for people professionals is widening at pace in the current climate, making it increasingly difficult to maintain clarity on the issues that are most pertinent to focus on.
With this in mind, we reached out to the writers of HRZone’s 10 most popular reads in 2021 to share with us their predictions for the year ahead, and what they believe is most important for HR to pay attention to.
1. Kindness and compassion will underpin good leadership in 2022
Karen Liebenguth, coach and mindfulness trainer, Green Space Coaching and Mindfulness
The pandemic has brought out the worst and best of human behaviour. Leaders who demonstrate self-compassion and are aware of their own anxieties are more able to connect and listen to the worries of their staff. Rather than being caught up in a negative spiral of harsh self-criticism, they are in a kind and compassionate relationship with themselves, which in turn allows employees to feel safe, seen, connected and collaborative.
Kindness and compassion will be key attitudes for the workplace of 2022 and beyond, in order for people to feel they belong and can thrive.
2. Connections-based machine learning (ML) will bolster employee retention in 2022
Amy Hodler, graph analytics and AI consultant
For more effective employee retention in 2022, companies will employ advanced analytics and ML, including graph technology, to better predict which employees need attention. Companies already use graph algorithms for customer churn prediction because graphs capture relationships and network structures that are highly predictive.
It’s logical to use this same approach to enhance ML for employee churn prediction and add graph-based features such as employee connectedness, influence (eg PageRank), work communities and similarities.
In 2022 we might even see retention programme match-matching to get the right services to the right employees – right when they need it.
3. 2022 will see the rise of the highly selective employee
Gethin Nadin, Director of Employee Wellbeing, Benefex
In 2022 I believe ‘The Great Resignation’ will give way to a much more selective employee with much higher expectations of an employer’s responsibilities. Employers will have to continue to work much harder to remunerate and support their people if they are to remain competitive with the best talent at the helm.
This means committing time and resources to offer employees more fairness, equality, development and care than ever before. People-centric organisations are the ones that will succeed this year.
4. HR will become the change champions of their organisation this year
Judith Germain, HRZone leadership columnist and leading authority on Maverick Leadership
Every leader in the organisation will have to deal with an inordinate amount of change. HR will be in a unique position to ensure that all the change taking place is integrated, so that the mission and vision isn’t derailed.
Not only will HR professionals evolve into a new way of seeing the future and working in the present, they will increasingly see the benefit of working with external people to ensure that the change they want truly happens.
2022 is the year that HR realises that they don’t have to personally do everything.
5. HR will showcase the power of paradoxical prowess
Perry Timms, Chief Energy Officer, People and Transformational HR Ltd
HR has often operated in paradoxical contexts but, arguably, has leaned towards prescribed solutions in attempting fairness and applicability to all people.
Our realisation of working with a pandemic-impacted world is that we have to be more skilful in managing paradoxes. Not in siding with one or the other when faced with polarities, or in finding some compromised middle ground within those polarities, but working with paradoxes to be/apply to both.
Stable and adaptive; human and digital; designed and emergent; compliant and creative; relaxed and professional – we are working with more paradoxes than ever.
In 2022 HR needs to show how to work more effectively with paradoxes to achieve positive outcomes in complex situations.
6. Mental health and wellbeing support will become aligned with diversity and inclusion initiatives
Valentina Hynes, wellbeing specialist, speaker and trainer, SVH Inc. CIC
As organisations become more people-centred and focused on proactive allyship, HR professionals are also beginning to take another look at their mental health and wellbeing initiatives to see if they are truly supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion.
With organisations like MHFA setting up an antiracism plenary to encourage an in-depth understanding of racial diversity and how it informs our wellbeing and mental health, I predict that we’ll see many more organisations move to align both policies to foster a much stronger, vibrant, happier and incorporated workforce.
7. Connection will drive performance and wellbeing in 2022
Natasha Wallace, Founder, The Conscious Leadership Company
As we return to the workplace, there are a number of challenges facing employers. Lost team connection is a major one. Remote working, changing priorities and reactive ways of working have led to fractures in the strategic vision and values that would have historically glued people together. Employers will need to reaffirm a clear sense of direction around which everyone can align and reconnect.
There will also have to be support for the significant number of depleted workers, who are tired, overworked and wanting to maintain some level of flexibility in a post-pandemic world. Unless leaders and managers reconnect with their people on a very individual level to understand and respond to their unique needs, they will risk losing them and failing to support the very thing that will drive their performance – their wellbeing.
8. Employers will transition away from surface-level wellbeing activities
Julie Cameron, Managing Director of DRIVE Engagement
I predict that wellbeing and happiness will become greater business priorities as employees re-evaluate how to foster an improved work life balance following the pandemic.
Instead of simply introducing surface level initiatives, the HR strategic priority will be to gain an understanding of the deeper emotional considerations regarding an employee’s purpose and then re-aligning the company culture and business plan around that.
Not only will this be the best outcome for employees, but organisations will also be able to reap the rewards too. Ultimately, companies that start to truly understand what their employees’ needs and desires are will enjoy greater business success, alongside improved employee retention, engagement, greater performance and also increased loyalty.
9. 2022 will be the year companies get to know their people again
Jack Mizel, CEO, Pride365
In 2022 it will be vital for companies to reconnect with their people in a meaningful and reassuring way.
Flexibility is the key to this. Understanding employees’ needs and meeting these needs will be critical for success. Organisations have a key role to play in building stronger economies and more inclusive societies and that must begin internally with their own people.
At Pride 365 we’re genuinely excited to be moving into a new period where now, more than ever, employers must listen to their employees and vice versa. This is hopefully going to create a far more productive work environment.
10. Many businesses will try to get people back in the office. Others will embrace flexibility and reap the benefits.
Maria Gyemant, people and talent consultant
Throughout 2022 and beyond, we will start seeing how, without proper organisation design, planning and support, many businesses (especially those who were exclusively office-first before the pandemic) will find the transition to a hybrid or remote model too difficult, and will try to get people back to the office as a knee-jerk reaction.
Those who acknowledge the opportunity and plan accordingly will be in a much stronger position to attract and retain the best talent and gain the strategic advantage that comes with that. Flexibility has become a non-negotiable for many and the return to a fully office-based, 9-5 approach just won’t cut it anymore.