I joined UNLEASH at the end of the summer of 2021. At the time the pandemic seemed to be winding down, and a bright new future was ahead of us.
Unfortunately, as our readers will know, the pandemic didn’t slow down too much.
However, I was lucky enough to speak to HR leaders around the world about the future of HR technology. At least in that sense, the sun continued to shine as the days grew darker.
As you can imagine, some of the outlooks were hopeful, others were excited, and some were a little bleak.
On the back of these many conversations, it seems only right that UNLEASH collates some of the most prevalent ideas that we believe will become commonplace in 2022 – as long as we don’t encounter another event that turns our world upside down.
The last train to the cloud
One of my first major interviews at UNLEASH was with Jane Datta, chief human capital officer at NASA, about the future of work (safe to say, I was incredibly excited, but also very nervous).
While Datta was confident about hybrid working becoming the norm, she commented that when it came to effective people management “the extremes are easier”, but “we can do the mix, which is the hybrid, we just have to practice.”
A few months later I caught up with Angela Ashenden, principal analyst of workplace transformation at CCS Insight, about the trends we can expect in 2022.
Ashenden noted that technology needs to change to manage hybrid workers. She explains that the pandemic has already encouraged most companies to move to the cloud. Now with hybrid working, there is no excuse.
This can mean the introduction of a lot of technologies from communication platforms to cloud-based provisioning like the zero-touch provisioning of devices.
Implementing new safe-guards and technology may seem like an overwhelming change to those behind the curve, but Ashenden gave some sage advice to those facing this technological jump: “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 [and] 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”.
As we work in dispersed locations, accessing cloud-based applications is paramount for effective work and even the setup of a new piece of technology like a laptop.
Undoubtedly, hybrid work is here to stay. As a result, cloud-based technology is essential in 2022 (if it wasn’t already a must-have in 2021).
The technology behind employee experience
When I first moved to London in 2016, the streets were echoing with the calls of the latest and greatest technology. At least, the cobbled streets in the capital’s Zone 1 were.
I was fortunate enough to work with a company that focused on employee experience during this period.
At the time, a good employee experience was nice to have at best, and it is bittersweet to now see the widespread adoption of technologies that are designed to monitor and improve the lives of employees. Nonetheless, it is incredible that this has now been reconsidered.
Employee experience technologies have come a long way over the pandemic, and the future looks to be filled with unicorns and possibly an IPO or two.
When I sit down (virtually of course) with HR professionals, two themes in employee experience become clear. Firstly, businesses need to know what employees are experiencing and secondly, companies need to visualize and act upon this data.
Through interviews with companies that offer tools that keep a pulse of employee sentiment, it became increasingly clear how significant the impact of this technology could be.
Nick Matthews, VP and general manager of employee engagement platform Culture Amp, told me: “Some people have never run an employee engagement survey, that really means they’ve never really had a true sense of what their employees actually think.”
This sentiment was punctuated in the coming months as the ‘Great Resignation’ became a common phrase. People were leaving companies at alarming rates, and it’s fair to say businesses were surprised.
This showed the need for getting a pulse of the workforce, and it has coincided with the reconsideration of benefits and salary.
Speaking about the adoption of employee experience tools, benefits experience platform CEO and founder of Benefex, Matt Macri-Waller, noted: “There’s a lot of kind of FOMO, and a bit of ‘they’re doing it, so we need to do it as well’.
“But actually, more so I think it’s just those people are listening to employees more and the whole trend of more regular feedback.”
With this technology already making inroads, don’t be surprised to see enterprises across the world begin to discuss how they have been monitoring their employee experience, visualizing the findings, and placing it into actionable strategies through a smooth workflow in 2022.
Of course, for all businesses the key advice is the same, make sure someone owns this data and that way it can be used effectively.
Into the digital universe
I’ve saved the most outrageous and divisive technological change to last. It’s been everywhere over the last few months, but its uptake has been questioned.
Nonetheless, the metaverse is here and it could radically change HR in 2022 and beyond. In fact, Facebook is so confident about its future it even re-branded to Meta.
The idea of a fully digital meeting in a virtual reality may sound like sci-fi, weird science, or simply implausible but this is the horizon that we head toward.
I initially reported on the metaverse when Harvard Business Review editor in chief Adi Ignatius caught up with Satya Nadella. Nadella outlined how virtual reality could create more immersive meetings and even fast-track processes.
At this point, I was intrigued, and I was able to unpack my thoughts with CEO and founder of the metaverse meeting platform Zeeon, Dima Lylyk.
Speaking to Lylyk, it became clear that he plans for the technology to enable water-cooler moments, gatherings, and even fast travel. As someone from the generation of gamers that met people online and teleported through game levels, this made a lot of sense.
Lylyk simplified the concept as: “Basically, we are replicating the offline business environment inside of a video game.” But as the conversation continued, there were clearly some unique benefits.
Perhaps the most significant element to the platform was the ability to use data collected in the metaverse in a CV. Whether you frequently attend or contribute to events, it can all be recorded and delivered to a potential employer.
Furthermore, avatars also enable candidates to be anonymous and bypass bias. In the meeting and job application sectors, it is clear that this technology has a place and addresses ongoing issues.
Succeeding in 2022
The technology that we are looking at, going into 2022, focuses on three key areas: what you should have invested in already, what you should be investing in now, and what you should keep tabs on.
Of course, the focus may change over the next 12 months and we never truly reach a goal, it changes and adapts.
Nonetheless, it is our efforts to reach the ever-moving horizon that enables our workplaces to improve continuously, and the metaverse will undoubtedly be a part of that journey.