During the last couple of years, employers have had to rethink how they approach key areas of business such as employee experience, hiring, and the future of leadership.
Here are 5 key trends that we think will be essential for businesses to embrace, in order to thrive in the next 12 months and years to come.
1. Employee wellbeing and company culture
The ‘Great Resignation‘ has shown that companies need to take the employee experience more seriously. If you don’t look after your staff today, they are not guaranteed to be there tomorrow.
As the majority of people are now working from home, it is more important than ever that they feel connected and not isolated. Building company culture can help create a more inclusive working environment where people feel supported by their company and team even though they may have never met them face to face.
According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work Report, up to 27% of those surveyed said they struggled with ‘not being able to switch off’ and a further 17% said they struggled with loneliness whilst working from home.
HR teams should be looking to promote healthy habits, build company culture, and gather feedback from staff – whether it be morale surveys or opinions and ideas on how to improve their working experience. In the long term, these small steps could result in a happier, healthier, and more loyal workforce.
2. Upskilling staff and leadership teams
The pandemic has shown that there is a very real need to promote upskilling amongst the workforce to be able to hit business goals in the new era of working. Upskilling will be extremely important for companies to build resilience and thrive in the face of the challenges to be faced in the post-pandemic era.
In many ways, remote working during the pandemic forced some upskilling on to the workforce, such as conducting business remotely via Zoom calls rather than in person, but there is further to go.
In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address this problem.
Chief learning officers are now not simply ‘trainers’ but can be at the forefront of company innovation, helping staff learn all sorts of skills that can apply to their professional and personal lives.
For example, restaurant chain Honest Burgers created a bespoke training program, Honest College, that lives as an automated digital assistant integrated directly into Workplace from Meta. The bot is accessible to all staff while certain topics or training materials can be automatically suggested to certain staff based on their roles, location or seniority.
Furthermore, the training bot can be used on any device at any time – making it ideal for both office-based and front-line staff.
Similarly, work applications like the Microsoft Teams Training Assistant can help companies train staff on how to use new software or systems. After all, what good is new technology if your staff haven’t been effectively trained on how to use it?
Meanwhile, other companies are putting a focus on training tools and materials that are specifically tailored to executives and leadership teams. These might take the form of self-reflection tools that encourage managers to think about how they’ve managed and mentored their team recently and, in doing so, inspire a new generation of more empathetic leaders.
Identifying the skills that are central to the company’s business model and then creating a plan to deliver this training will be integral.
3. Async working, communication & management
According to remote.com, asynchronous (async) work refers to ‘the practice of working on a team that does not require all members to be online simultaneously. When you work asynchronously, individuals can maximize their productivity without waiting for others to complete tasks.
Async work gives greater flexibility, which is deemed by many as important as people try to balance work and home life. This approach is also beneficial to companies that have remote team members distributed around the world and working across different time zones.
Async work requires strong systems, documentation and the use of collaborative tools in order to be able to move projects forward without team members being present (virtually or physically) at the same time.
Remote.com goes on to say: “Most meetings can be replaced by proper documentation, well-written emails or messages. Companies that embrace async are able to move projects forward much more quickly than their competition.
“In addition, businesses with async workflows tend to have higher employee morale, thanks to the trust and increased communication and documentation practices necessitated by an async approach.”
4. Talent attraction and retention
The pandemic has resulted in a huge movement of people in the job market the likes of which has not been seen for decades. Some moved from other sectors, like the badly hit hospitality sector, while others may have left jobs as part of the ‘Great Resignation’ because they didn’t feel that their employee supported them or their lifestyle needs.
As a result of this, recruiters and HR departments have been busier than ever and it has been made abundantly clear that attracting and retaining talent has taken on huge importance in the new normal.
With large numbers of new starters, both full-time and temporary seasonal workers comes an even larger need for effective onboarding programs – but Click Boarding found that 35% of companies have no formal onboarding program, and 37% of companies don’t extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month.
Meanwhile, employees who go through a structured onboarding program have 70% higher productivity and engagement rates and are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. New HR technology tools can help provide consistent, reliable, and engaging onboarding experiences for new starters.
5. HR technology and automation
HR technology and workflow automation are without a doubt going to be crucial in actualizing some of the key points already discussed, such as onboarding and upskilling, increasing employee wellbeing, attracting and retaining talent.
A recent Gartner survey stated that 54% of HR leaders indicated that poor tech and/or infrastructure was the biggest barrier to effective remote working.
HR professionals are increasingly turning to tech to help them build new tools that empower and support staff while also saving HR teams time and money.
Somewhat paradoxically, it is tech and automation tools such as digital assistants that can bring greater humanity to remote working. Bringing greater empathy and connection to distributed teams will be at the crux of the success of many of these key points, as well as greater efficiency and improved communication.
Embracing automation and tech tools will be essential for the future of work and will become the bedrock of the hybrid working employee experience, while also helping businesses adapt and react to the ongoing challenges faced in the new normal.