With Covid having presented continuing business challenges for nearly two years, we ask ‘What is in store for HR in 2022’?
In spite of all the challenges, the pandemic has demonstrated the huge value that HR brings to a company and we will see its role continue to evolve and develop into 2022. As we adapt to the ‘new normal’ and respond to the changing expectations and needs of employees, HR is playing a key part in re-imagining and reshaping the workplace.
Working from home challenges
We have come out of lockdown but with working from home guidance reintroduced, it seems to be here to stay for many. At the beginning of the pandemic, 8.4 million people were working from home at one point. Latest research shows that 26% still plan to WFH all or part of the time post lockdown.
Many large organisations, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, have announced hybrid working models and this may become the norm as employees increasingly come to expect a more agile, flexible way of working.
This will be particularly important for businesses to attract and retain talent in the future, with twice as many under-35s wanting permanent flexible working compared to over-55s. With younger employees (Gen Z) saying they will change jobs in exchange for more flexibility and growth opportunities, offering working options that are truly flexible in where and when the work is done will be critical for any business’s success.
The challenge for HR is to get the right hybrid model in place. Each company’s needs are different so a ‘one size fits all’ strategy just won’t work. With teams often operating from different locations, HR will need to ensure that managers and leaders have the right skills and tools required to maintain culture, collaboration, engagement and the physical and mental well-being of their employees. (See our blog on ‘the importance of management training for managers’).
Another challenge is that many employees will feel daunted about returning to the office after so long working from home. HR will need to identify ways in which to address and mitigate these worries. The same applies to those who can no longer, or no longer want to, work from home and how that will affect team dynamics. The key is for hybrid working policies to be the same for everybody so they don’t feel unfairly treated.
The importance of data insight
In terms of aligning with business strategy, data insight is going to be key for HR leaders to enable decision-making. Research shows that more than four in five organisations have a formal HR technology strategy in place or plan to introduce one in the next 12 months, but only just over half are using it for data analytics. The workforce is continually changing, so HR leaders need to use insight to look at trends within recruitment, employee turnover and employee sentiment and productivity so they can make more effective decisions.
Of course, this means that HR will need skills training to keep up with data-driven technology. Many HR leaders feel their technological capability is not as good as it should be and, indeed, building critical skills and competencies is billed by Gartner as one of the priorities for 2022.
As things settle down into the New Year, HR will emerge as an established strategic partner, adding value, enhancing business productivity and creating competitive advantage.
For 2022, HR will have to align itself with business strategy, work closely with line managers and brush up on their data and technology skills.