The Future of Work Tops the 2022 Priorities List for Leading HR Organizations.

Several research organizations have published their HR Priorities for 2022. I was particularly impressed with the findings of Fuel50 because it looked at an issue the “Best-in-Class” HR organizations are prioritizing: The Future of Work. This priority did not make the top five lists of lesser-performing HR organizations.

Here is the breakdown of the top five strategic priorities for the Best-in-Class HR companies:

  1. The Future of Work (89 percent)
  2. Career Pathing (84 percent)
  3. Employee Experience (83 percent)
  4. Diversity and Inclusion (83 percent)
  5. Internal Mobility/Employee Reskilling/Leadership (78 percent)

Fuel50 is an AI digital solution company that provides internal talent mobility (job transfers and promotions) and workforce reskilling. Their priorities warrant close attention because these Best-in-Class-HR organizations have lower voluntary turnover, higher internal mobility, lower recruitment costs, fewer unfilled positions, higher employee productivity, and increased training and development spending. The companies of “Best-in-Class” HR organizations outperformed other organizations in business performance by showing higher revenue growth, higher total revenue, better revenue per employee, larger percent of market share, better net promoter scores, and higher sales growth year-over-year.

Organizations that did not meet the “HR Best-in-Class” criteria did not prioritize “Future of Work” and showed a different order for top strategic priorities, with leadership and diversity and inclusion rising to the top:

  1. Leadership (85 percent)
  2. Diversity and Inclusion (84 percent)
  3. Employee Experience (83 percent)
  4. Employee Reskilling (80 percent)
  5. Internal Mobility/Career Pathing (75 percent)

One other researcher organization, Gartner, also found The Future of Work as a top-five priority for HR leaders in 2022, with the Future of Working coming in at fourth place. Other top priorities from Gartner’s list in priority order are: Building Critical skills and Competencies (59 percent), Organizational Design and Change Management (48 percent), Current and Future Leadership Bench (45 percent), Future of Work (42 percent), and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (35 percent).

Mercer also published a top five HR priorities list. Like the others, it includes diversity, equity, and inclusion, and upskilling to enable organizational agility. Mercer has three other recommendations that are not on the others’ list. The first is the Great Reckoning. Mercer points out that this year’s rise in turnover and pay is really occurring among front-line hourly workers. Pay is a big driver (see my recommendations on pay and performance management for 2022), but paying to market is only the minimum for retaining and attracting hourly workers. Mercer recommends providing these workers the benefits often reserved for salaried workers in the US, such as greater workforce flexibility, sign-on bonuses, paid leaves, increased health and wellness benefits, career progression, and the re-design of work itself. I would add to this list the upskilling and reskilling of workers and assuring safety with the surge in Covid-19 infections.

These recommendations are a bit of a mixed bag, which can be due to the target audience of each of these research organizations when they conduct surveys and the industries and priorities of these organizations. After all, HR priorities need to match the business strategies of the organization.

With that said, below is my list of HR priorities

1The Future of Work.

I agree with Fuel50 and Gartner that The Future of Work is a top priority, not only for salaried workers but also hourly workers. However, The Future of Work is really a misnomer. The Future of Work is taking place now, and employers who act in 2022 will be the leaders in their domains.

What is The Future of Work? It is more than endorsing hybrid work models to meet the demands of office workforces that have demonstrated they are more productive when working remotely. It is also about assuring safety in the deadly persistence of Covid-19, which has gone from a 2020 pandemic to a 2022 endemic: it will keep mutating and challenging the ability of medical science to develop strong vaccinations and cures. Organizations need to remain nimble to stay open and keep their employees safe. Employees first and foremost want safety. This is no surprise if you remember Herzberg’s model of hygiene and motivational factors? Safety is a critical hygiene factor.

However, the Future of Work covers a broad range of issues and there are other critical dimensions of the Future of Work. According to VisualCapitalists, the Future of Work includes the following:

  1. Digitizing the workflow. We are five years into the fourth industrial revolution. Companies need to incorporate digital tools to enable computers to do what they do best. In HR’s case, that is repetitive administration, repetitive communication tasks for recruiting and answering commonly asked employee questions, and onboarding. In many cases, employees and computers can work hand-in-hand on the same tasks, but this human and computer coordination requires involving any effected human beings in the change and plenty of change management.
  2. Upskilling and training digital literacy to the workforce. Everyone in your organization needs to learn digitization skills. The sooner you start, the more competitive your organization will be. Learn more here.
  3. Creating a flexible work environment. Many CEOs see this concept as something that is threatening their long-term profitable growth and culture. I can assure you from my experience it does not. At Medtronic in Santa Rosa, CA, I helped implement a hybrid work model long before the pandemic. Many employers are wringing their hands over when to reopen their offices. With the resurgence of Covid-19, many have once again delayed their reopening dates. Set your workplace up to be bulletproof to Covid19 disruptions over the years, and to endure. Here is a simple recipe for success. Learn more here
  4. Redesigning the office to be a place for collaborating and building relationships. Allow employees the technology, time, and space to work from anywhere and support hybrid work models. Frankly, the crowded, open office bays of the 2000s were never productive, and the hype around happenstance collaboration and innovation was overblown. It is time to redesign the office space for the employees who have to come into the office every day due to their job duties and for those who will work remotely and need to come into the office only one- or two-days per week for meetings, training, and celebrations. Not only will you be able to retain and attract great employees during the Great Reckoning, but you will also have a more productive and innovative workforce and accrue meaningful savings from reducing poorly utilized office space. Learn more here.
  5. Improving employee experiences and wellbeing. Work has always been stressful with demanding goals, impending deadlines, and our busy lives, especially for single parents and two-income families who have the added cost of increasing scarce daycare. With the safety concerns of Covid-19 and restrictions on socialization, life, and work is even more stressful. Gallup, the champion of employee engagement, published an article this year that employee engagement is not enough. Due to the increased stress in the workforce, employers must raise employee wellbeing. Learn more here.

2 – In a long-term labor shortage, recruiting won’t improve without a solid talent management strategy.

I coach organizations on how to improve recruiting. However, improvements to recruiting won’t succeed without a strong employer brand and robust talent strategy. For example, recruiting won’t improve if the organization pays below-market pay. It won’t improve if the organization does not offer employees what they want such as learning and career progression, flexible work environments, and better health care and retirement benefits, including improving the wellbeing of employees. I also coach organizations to calculate the cost of their turnover and compare the costs of upskilling and reskilling the workforce as opposed to recruiting replacements. They will find that the cost of retraining is less expensive than recruiting for many jobs in the era of long-term labor shortages.

Employers need to be strategic about what skills to train for improvement among its current workforce and what skills to hire for. You can learn more from my book, Hack Recruiting: The Best of Empirical Research, Methods and Process, and Digitization.

3- Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

You may have noticed that D, I, and E is on everyone’s list. The reasons are very simple. We are in a long-term labor shortage, and your organization needs to improve its ability to attract and retain every skilled employee. Secondly, more diverse organizations are simply more productive and profitable. D, I, and E is not always easy. However, attending to these items will pay off. Improving D, I, and E begins with the values of the top executives, and having a strong business strategy and deploying goals and measures for all in management to achieve. Learn my seven steps on renewing your commitment to diversity.

4 – Leading Change.

Organizations cannot transition to the Future of Work, improve D, I, and E, implement their new talent strategies without some organizational design and knowing how to lead change. If executives and middle managers do not know how to lead change, they will not succeed. In today’s high stress environment, leaders especially need to learn how to lead change with empathy.

I have found the advice of two experts on change to be very helpful. The first is Stan Slap who has written on leading change. He cites empirical research showsing that 70 percent of change efforts fail, often due to culture resistance. He advises that the real work on leading change for leaders is to understand that employee sub-cultures in their organization are about survival. When you implement change it disrupts the rules of survival and sends the employees into a tail spin. They need to understand the new world and rules for survival.

The second is the Eight Stage Process for leading change by Harvard’s John P. Kotter. I have used it repeatedly without fail. You can learn about his model from his book, Leading Change.

The 2020s will be years of dramatic change in business and the workforce. The smart HR organizations will rise to the challenge by implementing these top priorities, beginning with The Future of Work.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com. 

 

 

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