Top HR Trends in 2022 Impact Workplace Culture This Year and Beyond

By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager

For the past two years, human capital trends were largely reactions to the unprecedented workplace changes generated by the lingering pandemic. As we wade deeper into 2022, HR managers are still dealing with the shifts spurred by the health crisis. But this year, they’ve moved beyond responding to issues as they occur and have adopted a more visionary approach.  

Companies and their HR teams are now calculating the long-term evolution of the trends triggered, hastened, or deepened by the pandemic. After several years of coping with change, they’re more knowledgeable about the altered workplace environment. Now they’re proactively seeking lasting solutions that will benefit their teams.

5 HR Trends that Will Dictate the Future

This article explores the top five trends HR professionals are focused on to best position their organizations for this year and beyond. And strengthening and reimagining company culture are at the heart of managing them all.

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1. Prioritizing Employee Wellbeing.

A Calm for Business survey of 3,000 full-time employees conducted in October 2021 confirmed many people’s belief: that employers should focus more on their staff’s wellbeing. When asked to assess the previous month, the survey revealed the following about the respondents:

  • 91 percent didn’t feel rested enough
  • 87 percent felt anxious or stressed
  • 70 percent felt depressed
  • 43 percent attributed their mental health problems to their job

These mental health issues have always been present. But they were previously often brushed aside as anecdotal and not viewed in the aggregate. But as the work world headed into its third pandemic-impacted year, statistics like those listed above became more public. It became evident that multitudes of workers were dealing with mental health issues brought on, at least in part, by their jobs.

It also became increasingly clear that not adequately caring for workers’ mental and emotional health jeopardizes organizational success as well as the welfare of individuals. For example, HR Dive reports that depression alone is responsible for 200 million lost workdays annually. And those who struggle with this condition and come to work are far less productive, at a significant cost to their organizations.

Consequently, large numbers of employers are weaving new or much stronger wellness initiatives into the fabric of their business plans and organizational culture. In doing so, they are normalizing their focus on these issues instead of talking about them behind closed doors.

This trend is already yielding positive results. For example, The Hartford’s Future of Benefits Study compiled at the end of 2021 reports that 78 percent of workers now believe their employers genuinely care about their wellbeing. And 59 percent said their company’s culture had become more accepting of mental health challenges over the last year.

2. Expanding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In addition to identifying the need for greater empathy and a more human work environment, there is increasing pressure to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within organizations. For example, a Glassdoor survey found that 76 percent of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor in their decision to take a position. And more than half of current employees want their organizations to do more to improve diversity.

Over the past several years, many companies ramped up their DEI policies and made a concerted effort to hire more people in marginalized groups. But while these practices are good initial steps, organizations must go further to create meaningful change in employees’ experiences.

In particular, there is mounting pressure to make real progress on diversifying leadership. Gartner research reveals that the trajectory of underrepresented talent stalls before reaching mid-level and senior positions. Employees in marginalized groups experience slower promotion rates and are perceived as having less leadership potential.

To make real progress in this area for all staff levels, business leaders must do four things:

  • Actively initiate system change, not just policy change, that widens opportunities for all
  • Lead by example and be a role model demonstrating respect and inclusivity
  • Drill behaviors that support DEI initiatives into their company culture, and devise methods to reinforce them
  • Hold their teams accountable for consistently demonstrating these behaviors

Building an equitable workplace makes everyone feels comfortable contributing at a high level. And creating this kind of environment isn’t just healthy for individuals. A more diverse team offers a broader range of experiences, ideas, abilities, and perspectives, making the organization more agile and resilient.

Additionally, the trend to broaden the scope of DEI emphasis in companies coincides with the country’s rapidly changing demographics. So organizations that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will better reflect the population at large, their customer base, than those who turn a blind eye to these issues.

3. Making the Most of Remote & Hybrid Teams

Many leaders kept their companies afloat during the pandemic by switching from on-site to remote and hybrid teams. The unplanned experiment proved beneficial to employers and their staff, making the new work models the systems of choice for numerous organizations going forward.

But even as remote and hybrid options provide welcome flexibility for everyone involved, the challenges of operating in a virtual and asynchronous environment quickly surfaced. Leaders recognized the need to develop and preserve the personal connections that often drove success in the traditional workplace.

So the next phase of the remote and hybrid trend is creating systems that will maximize their potential. Companies can achieve this by leveraging their organizational culture to support their staff wherever and whenever they’re on the job.

As CultureWise founder David J. Friedman explains in Culture by Design, leaders must focus on two critical areas to make this work.

“The first is what I would call ‘intentionality.’ Since remote workers can’t count on the normal social bonding that happens when people are together, leaders have to be far more intentional about finding ways to create these connections.

The second theme is flexibility. When everyone is working on location, it’s a largely controlled environment where leaders can more easily establish norms and guidelines for how employees work.

We lose much of that control when people are working from home where there are so many more variables. Managing through those variables requires tremendous flexibility and understanding.”

How to sustain workplace culture with a remote team

Virtual mentoring is among the approaches taken by numerous organizations to be more intentional and flexible. This kind of support program is key for employee development and helping remote staff understand that they are valued members of the team.  

The authors of a recent Harvard Business Review article expounded on the topic:

“Like work itself, mentoring is defined less by the medium in which it is accomplished than by the outcomes delivered. Commitment, trust, relationship quality, and mentor competence are the real ingredients of developmental growth, all of which can be applied to virtual mentorship.”

Leaders are also tapping into their organizational culture to systematically coach the behaviors that allow remote and asynchronous team members to reach their potential. To achieve this, they are integrating the technology and systems that will give their off-site employees the tools to be collaborative, productive performers.

Companies are also finding ways to maximize hybrid workers’ time when they come to the office. As Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jared Spataro writes in Harvard Business Review,

“To make the office worth the commute and to create an engaging experience for everyone, leaders need to be intentional about the who, where, and why of in-person gatherings and set new meeting etiquette that gives everyone a seat at the table.”

He sums up his take on “getting hybrid right” with this note:

“A willingness to adapt and embrace new ways of thinking and working will be a competitive advantage that sets thriving organizations at the head of the pack.”

4. Driving Professional Growth

Businesses across all sectors experienced significant attrition over the past several years. Largely driven by the remote work trend that exploded during the pandemic, waves of workers changed jobs because their career options grew exponentially. Consequently, employers are paying closer attention to what will attract and retain top talent beyond competitive compensation.

High on many workers’ lists is the ability to develop new skills and grow in their careers. In 2022, more companies will generate ways for their existing staff to flourish professionally. Responding to a survey by Gartner, almost 60% of HR leaders said building critical skills and competencies would be their top priority in 2022.

As Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core writes in an Inc. blog post:

“Employers need to replace traditional career ladders with lattices that enable their people to grow–not just vertically but also across departments and functions.”

Many job roles are disappearing due to IT advances, and there is a shortage of people with cutting-edge abilities in newer areas of work. Gartner reports that 29 percent of the skills present in an average job posting in 2018 will be obsolete by the end of this year. As a result, organizations are ramping up their investment in enhanced training programs to help their employees gain new capabilities and upgrade old ones.

Along with technical skills, companies are increasingly boosting their employees’ career growth by incorporating soft skill building into their organizational culture. Soft skills are behaviors that relate to how people work and interact with others, and they help employees thrive in any role.

Business leaders are structuring their work environments to reinforce the soft skills that will empower their employees to take on greater responsibilities. For example, they’re coaching their people to be better collaborators, communicators, and critical thinkers. Employers are also helping their people develop more flexibility and dependability and foster creative problem-solving.

By helping their team members acquire new and stronger technical and soft skills, business leaders open doors for advancement within their organizations. Doing this will enhance their employees’ engagement with the company and strengthen retention rates as they build a more capable workforce.

5. The Evolution of the Manager

In the past, responsibilities like scheduling, approving expense reports, and monitoring their people’s completion of assigned work consumed much of most managers’ time. But technology has replaced an increasing number of repeatable managerial tasks, and the next generation of IT is poised to automate things even further.

In fact, a study performed by Harvard Business Review reports that up to 65 percent of the tasks currently performed by managers will potentially be automated by 2025. If managers are released from the responsibility of many traditional supervisory duties, what will be their fate?

In some cases, organizations will downsize this workforce segment to decrease compensation expenses. But increasingly, companies are redirecting their managers’ skillsets from monitoring tasks to managing employees’ whole experience at work.

Gartner leaders Brian Kropp and Emily Rose McRae explain this shift to a more holistic focus for managers in a Harvard Business Review article:

“This goes beyond managing employees’ specific responsibilities and extends to managing their perception of their career trajectories, the impact of work on their personal lives, and their relationship with the organization as a whole.”

The modern manager’s purview will include the other trends outlined in this article. These senior staff members will be rightfully identified as the front line of contact with workers grappling with these matters.

As a result, organizations are shifting their managerial training to broaden their awareness and capabilities so they can effectively handle these areas. In addition to breathing new life into a conventional corporate tier, this newer management style has the potential to significantly improve staff’s perception of their jobs and employer.

The Role of Company Culture in HR Trends

It wasn’t that long ago that organizational culture was considered by many to be a trend. Today, industry leaders acknowledge that a strong culture is crucial to help them build thriving teams, achieve a competitive edge in the market, and prevail in uncertain times. And a vibrant company culture will help HR teams define new strategies and make the most of workforce trends in the ongoing evolution of employee relations.

David Friedman created CultureWise to help company leaders build and sustain a high-performing culture in their organizations. This unique system makes it easy for executives to improve what is arguably the most critical aspect of their business. Explore the website to learn how the program has helped revitalize companies across North America.

Friedman’s book, Culture by Design, was the inspiration behind the CultureWise system. In it, he introduces his eight-step framework to create an extraordinary company culture. Read about his approach with a  of this valuable resource.

And stay informed about current culture news with a complimentary subscription to Culture Matters, the CultureWise blog.

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