This time of year is always one of contemplation – looking back at the last 12 months and ahead to what is to come. But if we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it’s that we cannot predict what the future of work will bring. Anything is possible.
This has been felt most keenly in the world of work. Barricaded in our homes for the best part of 18 months, the way we think about, relate to and execute work has changed irrevocably. From hybrid working to diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E&I) and everything in between, only one thing is certain: the way we work will never be the same. Here are the three main ways I think the world of work will change in 2022 and beyond.
1. The Great Resignation will rumble on
Put simply, the pandemic showed us that life is too short. In 2021, workers across the globe found the courage to ditch roles that were making them unhappy in what has been dubbed the ‘The Great Resignation’. In the US, more than 24 million workers quit their job between April and September this year. The UK, Japan and Germany have seen similar trends.
Our own research revealed that nearly two-thirds of the UK’s workforce would leave their current employer within six months if they were unhappy. Clearly, workers will not ‘put up and shut up’ anymore for the sake of a salary or company loyalty. But while we will see this trend carry into 2022 and remain the main driver of high workplace attrition, we will also witness ‘a better world of work with more options and benefits for employees’, according to Dr Anthony Klotz, the American academic who coined the phrase the ‘Great Resignation’.
The pandemic has taught us that healthy work environments matter and those businesses that cling to out-of-date practices will find themselves losing talent in droves.
2. Firms will start to walk the walk on D,E&I
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a desire from companies to uphold and improve D,E&I in the workforce. Simultaneously, we have also seen a backlash against brands who paid lip service to D,E&I but didn’t deliver on their promises. In 2020, Forrester interviewed 19 tech giants, including Adobe, Microsoft and Twitter. They identified that many had a “lack of clarity around actions and success metrics” meaning they were failing to root D&I approaches.
What’s more, the most common ethnicity among Chief Diversity Officers is white, which makes up 81.3% of those in the role. It’s clear we still have a big diversity issue amongst c-suites. As a result, many younger workers are actively choosing to shun large, established companies because they do not align with their values on diversity, inclusion or the environment.
Sadly, many still seem to have little to no understanding of how to tangibly achieve their D,E&I objectives. While D,E&I training is common and has developed into a much-needed industry, it often does little to spark real change in the workplace.
With millennials and Gen Z making up over half of the workforce and increasingly wise to lip-service D,E&I, in 2022, firms will have no choice but to start walking the walk and rethinking workplace diversity. D,E&I should never be a box-ticking exercise.
3. The war on talent will go up a gear
Exacerbated by the ‘Great Resignation’, the war on talent will go up a gear next year. Businesses know that employees have options, and it’s becoming a strenuous job to try and keep them. In fact, KPMG revealed that in the three months to March, UK tech sector firms hired staff at the fastest pace seen since the second quarter of 2019. And in the accountancy industry for instance, nearly half of UK a firms are being crippled by a raging talent war.
COVID-19 has taught us people demand better workplace experiences. Life is too short to stay in a role without opportunities for progression, no matter how much you might like your team. Upskilling and reskilling are increasingly important for job hunters and existing employees alike.
To remain competitive in this cut-throat market, employers need to understand their workforces more deeply than ever. This starts with gaining insight into the diverse characteristics within their workforces and what actually makes them ‘tick’. Only by gaining this will companies be able to attract and keep the talent required to deliver the next phase of growth.
Ultimately, these trends are all closely interlinked. The last two years have been eye-opening for millions and has led many to revaluate what they want from life. These are paradigm shifts, and we are unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic norms any time soon. Companies that want to thrive in 2022 need to get on board now, before it’s too late.