Human Resources

The 6 Biggest HR Trends to Keep on Your Radar for 2022

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2021 has been a year of uncertainty, change and challenges for human resources across the country. With a pandemic still raging, inflation rising and labour shortages biting, the state of the world hasn’t exactly been kind to the workloads of HR professionals!

But what can we expect to land on our desks in the new year?

Here are 6 of the biggest HR trends to keep on your radar for 2022.


1.    Hybrid working models gain popularity

It makes sense that organisations are itching to get back into the office — there’s no point paying a hefty lease on office space that you’re not using, after all — but it needs to balance a desire on the part of employers to return to business as (close to) normal, with valid concerns about employee safety, work-life balance and the nature of work itself.

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has rattled our long-established conventions of work. In the space of a year, thanks to Government guidance to work from home where possible, many employers have had to abandon a sacred value — that roles must be worked from a physical workplace, overseen by managers in a face-to-face environment. Moving to remote work required employers to relinquish absolute power over how work is completed and to instead trust in their employees to be able to complete tasks to the required quality. That took a lot of trust.

As more employers attempt to move their workforces back to an office envirionment, it seems that employees are dragging their feet, having tasted the extra autonomy and better work-life-balance that working from home can bring. The international Future Forum Pulse survey found that 76% of employees didn’t want to return to the office, whilst 75% of remote-working senior management did want to ­— a potentially dangerous mismatch between what employers and employees want.

One of the ways that human resources departments are attempting to resolve this crisis is by creating hybrid working models — a type of working arrangement where employees split their working time between home and office.

As COVID-19 restrictions fade away, more employers will want to return to the office and it’s likely that they’ll task HR with coming up with a plan to do so. Hybrid working presents a solution that keeps both sides happy.


2.    Reskilling to combat the growing ‘Skills Gap’

Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t caused any of the structural problems affecting the UK economy to go away — it’s only exacerbated them. This fact is particular true it comes to the Skills Gap — a chronic condition that’s afflicting more and more sectors and that’s only being made more damaging by global supply shortages and the economic and migration impacts of Brexit.

We explained the 2030 Skills Gap in detail in a previous blog, but in case you didn’t have time to read it, here’s a quick summary. There is currently a mismatch between the skills that employers need (generally digital-focused ones) and the skills that employees have. Experts have estimated that by 2030 there is likely to be a significant oversupply of workers considered low- to medium-skilled in sectors that don’t need them, and a severe shortage of workers considered highly skilled in sectors that do need them.

Add into the mix a Brexit brain-drain, chronic underinvestment in learning and development and flat-lining productivity, and you have what’s known as the 2030 Skills Gap. And it’s already causing headaches for organisations up and down the country.

There is a simple solution to the problem though — training. As companies reassess and repivot their development strategies in the wake of COVID-19, it’s likely that learning and development programmes will play a key part of future plans.

Recent research by Open University’s Business Barometer (a survey of over 1,000 business leaders) found that 32% of business leaders were aiming to increase their investment in learning and development for new employees by 10%, and 28% were planning to do so for the rest of their staff members.

2022 will likely be a significant year for employee development and reskilling as businesses emerge from one crisis to confront another.


 

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3.    Recruitment competition for roles increases

Another direct consequence of the looming 2030 Skills Gap is likely to be a continuation of the unprecedented competition that has characterised recruiting in 2021.

Demand for labour was at an unprecedented high for modern times in 2021, with employers struggling to attract employees to roles that they would have had no problem filling before the pandemic. Throughout the year, employers and recruiters found that for the first time in a long while, they were locked in a battle with other companies to secure their preferred candidates (and sometimes any candidates) for roles.

Unfortunately for employers, this recruitment competition doesn’t look set to ebb, as employees demand better pay, conditions and work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Expect recruitment competition for in demand areas to remain high. Specifically, recruitment in areas like programming and software development, nursing and medical care, human resources and industrial relations is likely to remain challenging throughout 2022 unless employers are willing to offer more attractive pay and benefits for candidates.


4.    Employees and customers will expect meaningful action on diversity and inclusion...

When George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis in May 2020 and protests against racism erupted around the world, businesses and organisations were forced to take a long, hard look at the diversity of their own companies. 

Many were horrified and made public commitments to improve diversity and inclusion in their organisations, proclaiming themselves allies of marginalised people around the world.

But 2021 has seen very little in the way of solid progress towards these admirable goals, as businesses have chosen to focus more on responses to COVID-19 and shoring up bottom-lines that on sorting systemic issues with diversity.

2022 needs to be the year of turning pledges and statements into solid action. In other words, 2022 needs to be the year that organisations prove that they are true allies in the fight against racism and not just appropriating the movement to advance their own interests. 

If they haven’t put their pledges into practice already, expect many more organisations to be held to account for diversity pledges they made in 2020 and haven’t fulfilled yet.


 

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5.    …and on climate change too

As well as expecting meaningful action on diversity and inclusion in a company, many employees will be expecting their organisations to follow through on the climate change commitments that their companies have made in the wake of the UK’s COP26 climate summit.

Ordinary people are making sacrifices to do their bit in the fight against climate change — whether it’s taking time to recycle, finding a more sustainable way of getting to work or reducing the amount of meat that they eat. 

A recent survey found that employees are becoming much more vocal about climate change, with 85% mentioning climate change as a key concern for them.

Expect 2022 to be a year in which workers ask their companies what they are doing to combating climate change.


6.    Burnout and mental health issues at work become more noticeable

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the workloads of a range of departments in an organisation, piling more responsibilities on to teams that have little capacity to spare.

Most areas of a business have been called upon to complete new tasks in direct response to COVID-19: from drawing up risk assessments and procuring PPE, through to adjusting revenue forecasts and creating entirely new internal policies from scratch.

Add into that worries about your health, your family’s health and whether you’ll be able to keep hold of your job and it’s no surprise that burnout and mental health issues have drastically increased. Pandemics can have traumatic effects with long-lasting consequences for mental health.

A survey by online jobs board Indeed found that 67% of workers reported feeling more and more burnt out over the course of the pandemic. They’re not the only people to find that either ­— a survey by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health found that 61% of managers have experienced burnout since the first lockdown and that 20% have even considered quitting their jobs because of the stress.

As the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic fade, HR professionals should expect to see an increase in long-term issues like burnout, stress and mental health trauma in the year ahead.

There are a few things you can do now to prepare:

  • Ensure your sickness and absence policies are up-to-date and a tracking system is in place
  • Improve access to mental health and wellbeing services in your workplace
  • Raise awareness of mental health and burnout symptoms and ways to combat it

Read our blog about how to help the mental health of employees in the workplace for some extra tips. 

We hope you’ve found these 6 key HR trends for 2022 useful and that this blog has helped to prepare you for the challenges you might face in the new year. Let us know how you get on!


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