Wow, this year has really flown by. I can’t believe that 2022 is almost upon us, and I have reached my nine-month anniversary here at UNLEASH!
This makes now the perfect time for me to reflect on the past year, and share my predictions for the world of talent, recruitment and the labor market in 2022.
It almost feels like an understatement to say 2021 has been a tumultuous year for employees across the world.
It is a year that has been defined by frustrating numbers of Zoom or Teams calls – the phrase ‘let me just share my screen’ will never stop haunting my dreams – vaccine roll outs and mandates, as well as unprecedented levels of burnout.
While these are very important themes of the world of work in 2021, I couldn’t, in good faith, write my recruitment and talent end of year-round-up and predictions for 2022 without talking about the ‘Great Resignation’.
Reframing the ‘Great Resignation’
There is an assumption that the term the ‘Great Resignation’ is an inherently negative term, but that is not how I see it at all.
First of all, for talent, it is a net positive; they are taking back control over their careers.
When COVID-19 first hit Europe and North America in March 2020, there was huge concern about economic recession and the impact this would have on jobs. This was a primary reason why many countries across the world implemented furlough schemes.
While the unemployment rate is still higher than pre-pandemic level, month on month employees are returning to work. Even more optimistically, many of those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs during the pandemic are now re-evaluating their jobs and careers.
They no longer see a job as a means to get money in their back pocket. Instead, they want work to be fun and fulfilling, and they are no longer willing to work for employers who undervalue them, push them to the edge of burnout or do not offer them adequate learning and progression opportunities.
This leads me onto the other positive side of the ‘Great Resignation’. Good employers who were ahead of the curve in prioritizing wellbeing, career development and employee experience see this as a real opportunity for them to thrive and win the war.
Woodhead told me: “It is fabulous for opening up the talent market. We and other firms will be able to attract more diverse, more quality talent, because people are re-evaluating their lives” and looking for “a really attractive proposition and culture” like MSCI’s.
While Parry adds in another UNLEASH interview: “The reality is we will lose some people, but we are seeing this as an opportunity because the ‘Great Resignation’ is driving a lot of people to reassess what is important to them”.
“I think what we have created and are building [at Gymshark] is the type of thing that people want”. Parry notes they want more than just salary, they want “the whole package around wellbeing, inclusion, career development opportunities.”
A fresh focus on retention
Given the ‘Great Resignation’ is showing no signs of letting up either in the US or across the pond in Europe, I agree with Forrester that the competitive war for talent is going to be a defining feature of work in 2022.
Therefore, what must companies do to not just survive, but thrive next year?
The answer is they must reset and do things differently. Those that fail to adapt will sink, according to a recent McKinsey podcast episode.
Rather than just focusing on recruitment and attracting new talent, they also need to listen to the needs of their existing employees, and prioritize retaining their biggest asset: their talented people.
The good news is that companies are already on board with this, and I predict others will also jump on the bandwagon in 2022.
Westall told me in an interview about Veeva’s Work Anywhere strategy, as well as its move to raise salaries across the business by 5%. She explains that members of the leadership team and those earning more than $300,000 will be exempted because “highly compensated individuals are able to adjust to market pressures more than the rest”.
“This means that leaders who recognize the true stars of their organization and all their hard-working team members end up being successful in the years to come. Showing that effort is appreciated day in and day out will be the key to helping people thrive, keeping great talent on the team, and building amazing things,” Goldstein tells UNLEASH.
Gloat’s Jeff Schwartz also focuses on the need to look beyond external recruitment in the future of work. He told me in a recent interview that while acquiring talent is “one of the things that we need to do, but it is just a subset of this broader category accessing talent”.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. Sometimes when companies have an open vacancy, it seems easier to hire externally and bring in new skills externally.
However, Schwartz is clear that employees are actually keen to stay with their current employer, rather than leave for new opportunities. So companies must use tech to gain knowledge about the skills they already have in their organization, as well as to identify gaps and offer learning to upskill their existing talent.
Supplement with gig workers
Another way to access skilled talent, particularly in the current challenging recruitment climate, is to rely on gig workers to fill any gaps in your workforce.
Earlier in the year, I spoke to Distributed’s CEO Callum Adamson who believes that freelancers and gig workers are the solution to skills gaps. However, this is only possible with the help of HR tech and particularly marketplaces.
2021 has been a big year for the gig economy.
Not only is it the year that Uber finally gave its drivers some workers rights here in the UK (Just Eat and Glovo then followed suit), but while the entire HR tech market has boomed this year, the gig tech segment has really taken off. For example, startups like When I Work, Jobandtalent and Quinyx have attracted significant funding since September.
It is clear that employers are aware they need to rely on gig workers more and more in 2022, particularly as the ‘Great Resignation’ rages on.
But companies must not think that they can get away with not treating gig workers properly.
When the war for talent is as fierce as it currently is, gig workers, like salaried, full-time employees, will choose to work for those that treat them well and make them feel valued.
Experience at work is ultimately going to be key to business success in the future of work. As I am fond of saying, happy, valued workers are the most productive and good for business.
Maybe 2022 will be the year the majority of employers can get on board with that? I am perennially optimistic.
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