How will the workplace change in 2022

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Analysts also reckon there will be a steeper compliance curve, and an added focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.

The workplace in 2022 will look like this: one with higher employee expectations; yet plagued in part by increasing employee apathy; more managerial training & mentorship programmes available; a steeper compliance curve, and an added focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. That's what The Workforce Institute at UKG forecasts in its latest report, 2022 Annual Workplace Predictions.

Continue below to learn more about each forecast in detail.

Forecast #1

According to UKG, between March and April 2020, one third of shifts worked at United States (US) businesses "evaporated almost overnight", and the International Labour Organisation estimated an 18.7% drop in hours worked worldwide from April to June 2020. Over the course of 2021, employers worked hard to resume pre-pandemic levels of business operations - however, "the global labour market shift is far from over". The analysts believe that 2022 will bring "continued uncertainty and fluctuation" in light of increased retirements, changing career paths, and a plateauing labour force participation rate.

As such, the workplace in 2022 will be one with higher employee expectations.

Employees today leverage the power of choice, employers therefore need to be "even more creative" with the benefits and programmes they offer in order to win the war for talent. Analysts reckon the following will be necessary to attract and engage office and frontline workers:

  • Higher wages;
  • Increased schedule flexibility;
  • More hybrid working opportunities,
  • More competitive time-off plans, and family-related leave and care benefits.

"This means business leaders and HR departments will need to have honest and transparent conversations about what they can feasibly afford to offer in order to meet, and ideally exceed, employee expectations", UKG analysts said.

"New labour resourcing strategies, such as deploying employees across several locations or upskilling workers to do different types of jobs, will also emerge to retain, maximise, and inspire the current workforce. Mobile technology that gives frontline employees more schedule autonomy, workplace independence, and access to relevant business information will be key to unlocking an empowering employee experience that keeps workers throughout the year and beyond."

Forecast #2

Analysts believe increasing employee apathy will motivate business leaders to invest even more in a people-centric experience at the workplace. The reason is because "people aren’t built to be resilient for years on end", and the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic has forced employees to grapple with "continuously interrupted personal lives, career pathing, and planning for the future".

"Constant resilience gives way to apathy as employees prioritise personal preservation, and selfcare over professional passions, and performance," the analysts added. Which will impact millions of people, and fuel continued job-hopping; the frontline workforce, for instance, reaches its breaking point as everchanging business operations, and inflated consumer expectations, and poor behaviour clash with prolonged health concerns, and burnout.

With that in mind, the importance of listening to employees and acting on their feedback, analysts forecasted, will take center stage as business leaders, and people managers work to grow engagement, respect personal & professional lives, and boost brand loyalty. This would mean the 'life' component of life-work balance will take precedent. Employers will have to foster a culture of compassion, and respect to support employees through their uniquely challenging circumstances.

"More than ever before, people leaders will value, and enable the holistic health and wellbeing of the whole employee, including physical health, mental & emotional support, and financial wellness," UKG analysts explained.

"By establishing necessary support mechanisms, employers will be better poised to build a caring culture where people can enjoy meaningful work."

Forecast #3

Looking back, 2021 was seen as the year for the HR department to "attract and hire top talent to meet growing consumer demand". For 2022, it is analysed to be the year for the people leader to "retain and train a rearranged workforce to bolster business growth". The workplace will thus be one with more managerial training & mentorship programmes.

To that, the UKG analysts explained: "Employee movement amid pandemic-related business closures, reopenings, and the ongoing 'Great Resignation' will drive a renewed focus on retaining great leaders—so they can retain great people—resulting in more comprehensive, and applicable training programmes to better educate, and empower people managers."

Strong, people-oriented managers who prioritise intentional leadership—and the productivity and performance this brings—will, according to the analysts, be "an invaluable piece" of the post-pandemic workplace puzzle. Winning organisations will be those that:

  • Improve support systems for people managers;
  • Empower people-first decision making skills, and
  • Find new ways to cultivate a manager experience built on trust, transparency, and care.

This would also mean that there is an emphasis on training and development, and is one that extends beyond managers to the entire workforce, particularly entry-level workers.

Gen Z, labelled as "the most at risk for getting lost in the shuffle of hybrid and remote environments" will "crave" for mentorship programmes, skip-level meetings, and other opportunities to learn critical workplace lessons, and career pathing advice. To manage that, people leaders will—and have to—devote time and resources to connect with, educate, and engage the newest generation of workers.

Forecast #4

To become employers of choice, organisations must proactively be up-to-date with the ever-changing compliance rules in remote work, minimum wage, family leave, vaccination mandates, workers’ rights, data protection, and AI usage, according to UKG's report.

In addition to political fluctuation, ongoing healthcare mandates, and the fight to curb global climate change, legislation will "catch up" with pandemic-driven organisational & business changes and the hybrid desires of workers, steepening the compliance curve around workforce practices & workplace regulations, the analysts added.

As such, in 2022, employers across the globe must reconcile any possible international regulatory challenges to support the choices of their employees, meet continued customer demand, and ensure compliance throughout their organisation. The analysts shared: "Organisations that move more quickly than the government and proactively respond to regulatory and compliance-related situations will be better prepared to manage the global workplace challenges that inevitably come their way."

Forecast #5

ESG is touted as a "make-or-break asset" for business stability & growth, by the UKG analysts.

"In a world that seems to be increasingly politicised and divisive, employers continue to navigate difficult and highly nuanced, but extremely important, discussions in the workplace on everything from vaccination mandates and safety protocols to racial justice and gender equity," the analysts said.

Hence, for 2022, there will be a more "revitalised" employee expectations, and public accountability for chief executives, and business leaders to take firm action on the issues most meaningful, and relevant to them, their people, and their business, according to the UKG analysts.

The analysts added that people leaders, and HR departments will, and have to, use surveys, team newsletters, and other feedback channels to gauge internal alignment, and perspectives on key focus areas as "this will drive corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts of employers to evolve from a nice-to-have to business necessity."

"In the face of global social activism, growing concerns around environmental impact, and fair and equitable business practices, corporate stakeholders—including employees, customers, and investors—will expect organisations to publicly set goals, track, and report on annual progress," the analysts added,

Towards the future:

What the future of work looks like: The great resignation, hybrid work, and more trends to watch
The workforce of the future: 10 changes and jobs to look out for
16 critical core skills for the future of work: Sensemaking, influence, global perspective, and more
The future skills needed for 27 roles in HR, including CHRO, Head TM, and Manager HRBP


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