Any hope for a return to normalcy was quickly dashed as 2021 began to unfold. With Covid variants taking over and quit rates at an all-time high, inflation soared, and the year became more turbulent than expected. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 4.5 million workers voluntarily left their positions in November 2021. Meanwhile, as of January 2022, the annual U.S inflation rate is at 7.5% - the highest it has been forty years.
It's unlikely that this volatility will significantly decrease as we head further into 2022, as new variants continue to disrupt everyday life. As a result, many workplaces will opt for further temporary remote operations, and the trend towards hybrid, flexible workplaces will make it easier for small businesses to find the ideal office spaces.
Here are five predictions for workplace trends to expect in the year ahead.
1. Fairness and equity to become a primary focus
According to Gartner, the number one priority for HR teams over the next 12 months will be the management of fairness and equity across an increasingly varied worker experience.
Modern questions of fairness and equity include:
- Do all employees have fair access to flexible work options?
- Should employees lower their compensation expectations when moving to areas with a lower cost of living, despite the impact of their work remaining unchanged?
- In an unprecedented era of difficulty in finding professional talent, is it fair to pay new employees more than existing ones?
2. Many companies continue testing regimes instead of mandating vaccinations
As of September 2021, 46% of organizations planned to institute a vaccine mandate (where legally permissible). However, based on studies conducted by Gartner, despite the threat of new variants, there will not be a significant increase in the number of businesses that mandate vaccinations.
Instead, approximately half of all larger employers will continue to rely on testing options in keeping with local, state, and federal regulations. There are several reasons for this, including concerns over a significant staff turnover trend, potential court challenges, and considerations over the protection of freedom of choice.
3. Shorter workweeks offered to incentivize knowledgeable talent
Given the current war for attracting and retaining knowledgeable employee talent, some businesses have been offering a significant increase in salary to stay ahead.
When heightened inflation is considered, however, real wages have, in fact, declined. Should it continue to rise, employers will struggle to offer compensation with as much purchasing power as they once did.
Many employers are increasingly opting to keep compensation rates flat and instead reduce the number of working hours to attract and retain talented workers. This strategy allows employers with less liquidity the chance to compete with companies that offer greater salaries without reduced working hours. Quality of life has become a primary concern for those financially fortunate enough to consider their options, so this is a legitimate enticement for talented workers in demand.
4. Companies to adopt wellness metrics to better understand employees
A variety of metrics have been tested over the years to determine how best to gain vital insights into employee satisfaction, engagement, and resulting productivity.
With Covid shining a spotlight on the need for heightened health and safety awareness and holistic approaches to wellness, many organizations will continue to adopt wellness metrics to understand their employees more deeply.
According to a recent survey of 52 HR executives, a staggering 94% of companies have recently made significant investments into their health and well-being employee programs. In addition, 85% have increased the support they offer for mental health benefits, and 50% have increased the support they provide for physical well-being. Financial well-being assistance has also been the focus for 38% of enterprises.
These figures demonstrate a clear trend in the evolution of employee metrics towards well-being. As a result, many more companies are expected to prioritize a more holistic approach to predicting employee retention and performance moving forward.
5. Increased managerial task automation
With the ongoing trend of hybrid and remote working still going strong, investment in the relationship between manager and employee has become more crucial than ever before.
Tech advancements have been delivering products to replace repetitive managerial tasks for some time now, but the onset of the pandemic set the trends towards automation into overdrive. As a result, tasks such as monitoring and approving reports and scheduling, etc., are increasingly being automated to allow managers more time to focus on human connections with their staff.
As managerial task automation increases, companies will be faced with the option to decrease management roles and we will also see an increase in virtual assistant and virtual/remote roles. Yet, there is a significant concern over the maintenance of connectivity and inclusion felt by remote workers, as it is often pivotal to their sense of value and resulting motivation and productivity. Therefore, it is expected that the primary approach will be to retain managers and shift their focus towards maintaining employee engagement and performance to keep output and retention high.
Continued disruptions bring about continuous change
The conditions of the pandemic have brought about the greatest disruption to workplace norms seen in recent times, and the turbulence is not behind us just yet. Continued adaptations will be necessary to allow companies the chance of thriving despite this disruption. Employee-centric approaches are crucial to attracting and retaining knowledgeable and talented workers as we move through 2022 and beyond.