Sally-Ann Hall-Jones (pictured), CEO of Hampshire HR consultancy Reality HR, talks about what challenges and opportunities lie ahead for employers in 2022.
As we look ahead to 2022 we all hope for growth and success. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the challenges of the pandemic will remain with us for a third year.
Many businesses will still be struggling with managing flexible, remote and hybrid teams, a difficult recruitment landscape, changed team sizes and structures, and ongoing financial uncertainty.
During 2021, the team at Reality HR supported companies with advice and support on building or rebuilding a strong, positive company culture. As we look ahead at the team’s trends and predictions for 2022, most are linked in some way to how a positive culture leads to happy, engaged people and a resilient, successful business.
Here’s what Reality HR’s consultants expect to see in 2022 and beyond.
It was well overdue, but wellbeing became a top priority in lockdown as employers realised their responsibilities to staff who were balancing working from home with the stresses of the pandemic.
Now those people are returning to the office, or working on a hybrid model, it’s important not to lose focus. The pandemic isn’t over, and there are new pressures to cope with, such as increased workloads due to redundancies or problems with recruiting. Good employers will recognise that their businesses thrive when their people are supported – and we hope that’s a lesson that has been learned for good.
The debate around whether people work best from home or the office will rage on, but employers should be prepared for the number of informal and formal requests for flexible working to continue to rise. This may present a challenge – not just in ensuring requests are treated consistently and fairly, but also when it comes to managing hybrid teams. Employers will need to work hard to ensure their people work well together, and that company culture can be maintained, as people work in varied ways and from different locations. We may see engagement surveys making a comeback as employers strive to understand how well hybrid arrangements are working.
The diversity of a workforce is a very strong indicator of how good a company’s culture is. However, diversity, equality and inclusion have to go beyond box-ticking and it’s not enough just to recruit from a variety of backgrounds. As employers and candidates alike become more aware of this, we expect to see an increased focus on what inclusion really means – making everyone welcome, including them in decision-making, and providing equal opportunities for them to progress and succeed.
It’s an incredibly difficult time to recruit – the landscape is described as a “candidate’s market” and there’s much talk of the “great resignation” as people seek an improved work/life balance and want to feel valued following their experiences in the pandemic. We expect that to remain the case in 2022, so when it comes to retaining existing staff and recruiting new people, a competitive salary won’t be enough on its own. Candidates will ask questions about work/life balance, perks and benefits – and crucially, they will want to know about that all-important company culture and how it will work for them.
Linked to the challenges of recruitment is a general skills shortage, so we expect training to become a top priority for 2022. If ready-made candidates are hard to find, then apprenticeships, training schemes and retraining have an even more important role. As a result, we anticipate increased demand for bite-sized training courses to fill skills gaps.
We are also seeing an uptick in grievances, informal complaints and disciplinary issues, and believe this can be linked to the inexperience of some line managers and their lack of skills in dealing with issues well, and early, before they escalate. Line managers are pivotal in delivering to a business’s ambitions and reinforcing its culture – so it’s vital to give them the training and support they need.
There has been a lot of negative commentary about the use of technology in people management – especially when it is used to monitor staff who are working remotely to ensure they remain at their desks. But when it’s used positively, tech can provide valuable insights into data and trends – for example employee turnover, productivity, and how much staff are working out of hours. Automation can never replace good managers, but this kind of data can be invaluable to managers, especially those who look after hybrid teams, and we expect to see its use becoming more common in 2022 and beyond.