The last two years have been tough for HR departments, from navigating the pandemic to this year’s great transition. The stress from last year still lingers for many teams and continues to impact work today.
Even as HR professionals face one of the biggest hiring and retention crises of their career, they still need to provide strategic guidance to the business. Many executives aren’t aligned with what their employees want.
Right now, 36% of businesses are worried about losing corporate culture during hybrid work, so 48% are offering incentives related to the company’s purpose and values. However, the top three incentives employees want, include schedule flexibility, expanded benefits and compensation changes.
HR professionals need to embrace the role of strategic business advisor now. With the new year around the corner, it’s the perfect time to evaluate priorities and get ready for what’s to come in 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of what HR professionals can expect in the new year and steps they can take to address these trends.
Embrace flexibility, including with pay, to keep employees onboard.
Workers will keep pushing for flexibility in 2022—38% of workers want schedule flexibility and 28% want location flexibility. However, work anywhere, anytime will soon be the bare minimum for flexibility. They’ll want adjustable everything and employers will give it to them. I expect we’ll see more training flexibility, accommodating both the employees who learn best in-person and those who only have the hours to devote to training after they tuck their toddler into bed.
We’ll also see a rise in pay flexibility. It’s something I’m seeing companies with large hourly workforces look into. Employees want to have access to the money they make at anytime, not simply on their paydays. This will reduce stress on workers and families living “paycheck to paycheck”. Many of the leading payroll solutions on the market today either have this capability or have plans to add it — and the vendors have structured it in a way where there is no additional cost to the employee or the organization.
Harness data to move more quickly and efficiently.
We’re seeing worker burnout everywhere and the HR department is no exception. That’s why more teams than ever will turn to using predictive decision support and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize what they’re doing, freeing up more time. This includes optimizing employee scheduling, staffing decisions, overtime work and more.
HR professionals will also use these new tools to stay on top of compliance requirements, meeting new legal and regulatory requirements across the globe. The more HR professionals can minimize tedious, manual tasks, the more time they can spend performing strategic work and partnering with the business to solve complex challenges.
Disrupt traditional learning to accelerate upskilling journeys.
Upskilling is a key tactic to help retain employees and grow businesses. However, traditional learning programs and systems of the past need to be reinvented. They need more than flexibility, as I mentioned above. HR professionals need to inject new life into their training systems and corresponding incentives. The younger workforce isn’t excited about endless compliance training — which is a significant focus of most organization’s Learning Management Systems. They want career growth opportunities, opportunities to try new roles, and develop more skills.
Some emerging ideas that have come into play over the last year for learning programs and systems include end-to-end digital upskilling platforms so you can build a culture of continuous learning that can improve individual and collective digital skills. These programs benefit your entire organization and can help you identify skill gaps and create and execute a plan to close them that aligns with your strategic goals. Much in the same way we are targeted with personalized advertisements on social media platforms, digital upskilling and learning platforms need to suggest learning opportunities aligned with our career ambitions.
Accelerate the hiring of data experts and create a human-led, tech-powered workforce.
For companies that want to embrace the benefits of technology—from data analytics to AI—they’ll need to accelerate their hiring of data experts and data scientists. Simplifying and harmonizing enterprise data is crucial for the enterprise of the future as data underpins any adoption of emerging technology.
HR experts will see fiercer competition for this talent in 2022, but these professionals are crucial for creating a human-led, tech-powered company. Get ahead of the curve now by focusing on building out the business case to hire those experts in high demand. This will be a long-term strategic move for most organizations.
Grow a tech-literate workforce to turn today’s ideas into tomorrow’s solutions.
Talent is crucial for digitization, which is core for all businesses that want to compete in the years to come. Without the proper talent, enterprise-wide tech enablement is a dream.
To implement solutions that will address the biggest challenges for businesses today, from the employee shortage to the supply chain crisis, all employees need to be fluent in technology. Employees can then use tech to solve faster, solve more and realize more value. This can include reimagining marketing and sales, or using cloud technology to make everything available anywhere.
In fact, a tech-literate workforce is crucial for all the trends I’ve outlined above. Flexibility and optimization both require new technologies to help employees work together more efficiently and in different ways. It can also easily customize upskilling journeys and create an attractive work environment for data experts.
As HR professionals take on a stronger strategic role for their businesses, they should keep these trends and key priorities in mind. It’ll help them hit the ground running in 2022.
Dan Staley is the HR Technology Leader at PwC.