UPDATE: Looking into the HR Crystal Ball

2022 is officially halfway over, so it’s the perfect time to take a look back at some of the predictions we made when the year first started. How are the year’s biggest workplace trends playing out so far? Let’s see.


Employee Burnout Remains a Concern

At the start of the year, we predicted that burnout would be a major factor in employee satisfaction and retention throughout 2022. As the year progresses, many companies are making investments in employee well-being, but is it enough, and is it addressing the real root causes?


Research from McKinsey shows that individual-centered benefits and wellness programs are not having enough of an impact on burnout. Workplaces that have focused on benefits such as health and wellness programs, mental health support, and other similar perks, are still seeing workers frustrated by institutional issues like high demands on their time, unreasonable workloads, and generally poor treatment. Related research also shows that without addressing the primary toxic behaviors in the workplace, other factors fail to significantly move the needle on burnout.


Companies looking to help their employees avoid burnout, and who are looking to reap the benefits of more productive and engaged employees, must be willing to address the bigger picture rather than focusing solely on individual-level shifts.


Turnover Presents New Opportunities

Heading into 2022, more than half of employers were expecting higher turnover this year. So far, their predictions are correct. According to Gartner, turnover is likely to jump nearly 20% this year, from a pre-COVID annual average of 31.9 million employees quitting their jobs to 37.4 million likely to quit in 2022.


For many, this turnover is directly tied to the misalignment of priorities between employees and employers, especially when it comes to “return to office” mandates and work from home flexibility. Taking your company’s abilities into account, the key to reducing the likelihood of high turnover is to listen to and understand employee concerns and then put together an actionable strategy to address those concerns.  Organizations that establish successful communication between leadership and employees, creating a more desirable work environment as a result, could be rewarded in ways other than retention. Unfulfilled employees exiting a frustrating company will be looking for a great place to land – and your company could be just that place.


Belonging Takes Priority

Diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be major factors in the workplace, but 2022 has seen the rise of “belonging” more than ever before. As the year goes on, companies are making new efforts to ensure that their organizations are truly inclusive and welcoming to people of all communities.


What this looks like in practice may vary from company to company. Gartner suggests three major categories of approaches: working to eliminate the root causes of people feeling like “outsiders” in the company, encouraging everyone to get on board and offer input, and promoting benefits and initiatives that support DEI&B priorities.


Employers See the Value in Reskilling

Earlier in the year, we noted that reskilling and learning are major priorities for both employers and employees in a fast-moving world. Whether by pursuing independent education or through company-sponsored programs, 2022’s employees are more motivated than ever to expand their skills to improve versatility, make their jobs more interesting, and remain appealing to current and prospective employers.


Reskilling is especially interesting to a specific demographic in the workforce. According to McKinsey, mid-career workers aged 45 to 60 face the most negative biases about their skills and adaptability. However, they’re eager to learn and have even successfully retrained for jobs in tech and other sectors.  Reskilling benefits the employee as well as the company.


Former Employees Might “Boomerang” Back

Boomerang employees are one of the more interesting side effects of the “Great Resignation” as well as the current labor market. Former employees who left on good terms can be a smart option for filling vacant roles, avoiding the bigger learning curve of newcomers to the organization. In this challenging 2022 labor market, we are seeing quite a few companies turn to former employees as the solution.


One CNN article asked 2022’s boomerang employees why they returned to their former jobs, and the reasons are largely relatable: an apparent “dream job” that turned out to be a poor fit, or the pursuit of career growth, for instance. When talented, former employees come back around – often with fresh ideas and perspectives gained from their time away – it can be a net positive for the employees and employers alike.


Workers Take Pay Transparency into Their Own Hands

The push for pay transparency remains a hot issue, but for many workers, transparent policies aren’t coming fast enough. Instead, we are seeing more and more employees taking matters into their own hands by forcing the discussion.


While it certainly affects everyone, pay transparency advocacy appears to have a generational difference. According to a Bankrate survey, almost 42% of Gen Z workers (ages 18-25) and 40% of millennials (ages 26-41) reported having shared their salary information with a coworker or a professional contact. These numbers shrink to 31% for Gen X and more so at 19% for Boomers. Younger generations, who have largely come of age and entered the workforce during times of exceptional economic uncertainty, are more comfortable talking openly about pay and expect companies to do the same. Attracting and retaining workers of all generations, but especially those 40 years old and under, will require companies to commit to fair, open, and transparent pay practices.


Remote Work Reveals Management Weaknesses

Offering remote, flexible, and hybrid work options has become the new normal for so many companies. However, one of the biggest struggles has been figuring out how to effectively manage teams without being in a traditional in-office setup. Those challenges have revealed some frustrating truths about the deepening divide between management and employees.


A recent survey by GoodHire revealed just how frustrated employees are with their managers: 83% of surveyed American workers say they could perform their jobs without their managers, 63% say they have too few or too many meetings with their managers, and 62% say their managers digitally communicate either too much or too little. In addition, only 22% say their managers trust them to be productive during remote work, only 32% believe their managers care about their career progression, and only 46% say their managers respect their off-hours. Remote work is a challenge for us all, but it’s also an opportunity for organizations to re-evaluate their management strategies and implement policies that are more inclusive and more in line with how today’s employees actually work.


By Ruben Moreno


About the Author

After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.”  Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.

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