The world of HR shifted dramatically over the last two years. With that in mind, professionals would be forgiven for being wary about what challenges lie ahead in 2022.
In an effort to give an idea of to watch out for, market insight provider CCS Insight has released their report; ‘Predictions for 2022 and Beyond.’
Keen to delve deeper into the topics outlined in this report, UNLEASH caught up with Angela Ashenden, principal analyst of workplace transformation at CCS Insight.
The report discusses the changes in workplaces in detail. A recurring theme is the growth of hybrid working. In fact, the company claims that by 2025, businesses will cut an average of one-quarter of their office space because of hybrid working.
Ashenden explains: “There are two sides to [hybrid working]. The first one is an opportunistic element where we’ve seen businesses under a lot of pressure, and increasingly so throughout the pandemic in a lot of industries, to manage their costs more effectively.”
As a result of a need to save money, companies will reconsider their office spaces and what they require. Ashenden notes that this kind of cost-cutting can be “very appealing”.
The second side of hybrid working is employee expectations.
Ashenden explains: “The expectation is for employees to have the opportunity to work from home if their role allows it.
“Moreover, people need to be able to determine for themselves when they need to go into the office.
“That’s inevitably going to change what [officers are] used for and where the benefits of being in them are.”
This complexity is partly because of the coordination required to get everyone into the office.
CCS Insight predicts this will lead to shifting office spaces and new uses will be found for the spaces.
The report draws attention to activity-based working becoming the standard office protocol by 2024. This simply means that offices will have different kinds of workspaces, such as more small and large meeting rooms rather than traditional open-plan rows of desks.
This trend may also tie into companies’ desire to reduce costs.
However, Ashenden explains: “You’ll find that for businesses to really get the value out of their office spaces going forward, […] they must be thinking about how to how to make their offices appealing places, and therefore supporting some of these alternative environments effectively.”
Handling a shift to hybrid
While saving money and giving employees a range of spaces sounds solely positive, there are still challenges to overcome during this transformation.
When it comes to IT, companies need to adapt to the hybrid worker becoming the default user for IT provision and management processes by 2022.
Additionally, there will be a shift to a digital office, where processes are in the cloud by default because of hybrid working. This will present logistical and security challenges as companies move to the cloud to manage data.
Ashenden notes: “To have cloud-based provisioning, zero-touch provisioning of devices is absolutely critical.
“A lot of companies have started to dabble with that in the pandemic, but it’s not necessarily been a core part of what they’re doing.“
A lack of focus has made transformation difficult. Nonetheless, Ashenden explains that zero-trust is a critical part of hybrid IT because there are numerous security risks when working remotely.
Speaking about IT changes, Ashenden discusses the difficulties some companies have had with moving to the cloud: “The key for all of these organizations is trying to work out where they need to start.”
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of years, particularly with the pandemic, is that, even for those organizations that were less proactive prior to the pandemic, they seem to have really been forced to start is around their productivity and collaboration tools, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams.”
“Whichever approach they’ve taken, they needed to get people to be able to talk to each other. That’s kind of been the starting point and depending on the route that they’ve gone; it will likely determine the direction that they go in next”.
Interestingly, when it comes to the next big software investment, Ashenden notes: “We know from our research that over the next 12 months, CRM is the big is the most common workload that people are looking to get to the cloud. Obviously, there’s a big heritage there.
“Salesforce has long been a cloud-based solution, but it’s interesting to see that that it seems to be driving businesses to move to more digitized sales marketing support services organization.”
Evidently, new tools and systems are on the horizon for companies.
New tools for new times
When investing in new tools, it is important to understand what is needed. At a time, when burnout is high and staff retention is poor people need to switch off. As a result, many are looking at asynchronous messaging.
Ashenden notes that: “The cynic would say that, you know, asynchronous collaboration tools have been around for the longest time anyway, because technically email is asynchronous”.
However, on a less cynical point, Ashenden discusses the importance of recording videos and calls so that they can be accessed at different points.
These players provide solutions that are “more wiki-oriented platforms” and are “more about coordinating work and allowing people to contribute in their own time and, and be working into the same document”.
In these instances: “You’re not doing the email approach. You actually collaboratively input to that document progress report, whatever it might be, at a convenient time, based on the other project or the other the time zone you’re working in.”
Of course, burnout is not just a symptom of just non-asynchronous tools. Also, work cultures need to be reconsidered.
Ashenden points out the need to have a culture around tool adoption: “The tool can only do so much for you., You have to come at it from a from a cultural perspective, from a leadership perspective and kind of combine a structure and intention.”
“If your leaders, and your senior executives don’t understand and get behind the principles of it [the tool], it’s not going to work. It’ll just you’ll end up with kind of a fragmented picture.”
In terms of the way offices are used, there also needs to be a cultural shift.
Ashenden refers to CSS Insights’ prediction that employees will redefine the flexibility they require in the next year and comments that it’s “about giving employees the autonomy, to determine where they work on a given day, and which hours, they work as well because that’s the other piece of it.”
Ashenden draws attention to people looking after their children while schools were closed, and therefore needing to work different hours.
She explains: “Giving that kind of flexibility, it really shows a level of trust and recognition in your employees that they are adults, that they can make these decisions for themselves, and that you know they will make the right ones.”
Tying this flexibility to employee experience, Ashenden notes: “This the sense of trust is absolutely central; do I feel trusted by my employer? Do I feel valued? You know, and therefore if I make an effort, do I get recognition for it?”
With that said, some things like friendship groups, which help with employee engagement, cannot be controlled by employers.
Trust could be vital beyond experience, and the CCS Insight report notes that in 2022 a focus on employee productivity monitoring prompts a backlash from employees, culminating in successful litigation.
Work is set to change, but clearly understanding employees, trusting, and catering to them will be a key factor in business success. This is particularly the case as companies adjust to the challenges of the ‘Great Resignation’.