Making Sense of 2022 Workplace Predictions

By February 2, 2022Strategy
If predictions are true, then what can leaders do?

What Leaders Can Do

We’re almost a full month into 2022, and two full years into a global pandemic.  Leaders are starting to ask themselves, “what now?” The rapid switch to remote work and then to hybrid required lots of experimentation and quick fixes. But now, leaders are wondering what they need to do next as things seem to be settling in (hybrid cultures) and new challenges are showing staying power (Great Resignation and inflation). It’s clear that there are structure, market, process, and technology decisions to be made.

Starting in November, I began seeing blogs, articles, and research reports predicting workplace and leadership themes for 2022. I thought it would be interesting (maybe even helpful) to consolidate some key themes from a handful of my favorite “predictions/trends” lists and take a stab at what that might mean for individual leaders. They started to emerge as “If…then…” statements. Meaning, “if” this prediction happens, “then” what can leaders do. 

The 2022 predictions and trends were consolidated from the following sources. 

Many of the major recurring themes intersect and connect with each other. Hybrid work will continue to be embedded as a preferred way of working. This puts the focus on accountability, productivity, and well-being as central issues. Talent shortages will continue into this year. Supply chains, inflation, technology, and new customer demands will require organizations to innovate and reinvent themselves. DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) will require extra emphasis in hybrid cultures, especially as questions of fairness in pay, time-off, and flexibility emerge. 

IF… THEN

  1. IF organizations will succeed only if they reinvent, build new ways of working, and focus on employee retention and growth, THEN leaders will need an even greater emphasis on change agility and relentless learning. 

    Organizations are no longer just making it through the pandemic. Now, they are responding to new customer expectations, a talent shortage, new technologies, and supply chain disruptions, by rethinking how they do business. Leaders can respond to this challenge by growing their teams’ ability to change. It also means building practices of experimentation to innovate faster. Leaders have known that learning and development is important, but now, the speed and quality of learning is paramount. The right learning can accelerate by engaging leaders, experts, and peers in a combination of teaching (training), coaching (application), and mentoring (on the job learning).

  2. IF the great resignation continues to create talent shortages, THEN leaders will need to focus on engaging employees, finding more ways to offer flexibility, and investing in employee development. 

    The Great Resignation and talent shortages will continue through 2022. Leaders will need to find new ways to retain employees. Those who can engage their people through clear communication, learning, wellbeing, and purpose can hold on to their employees. Creating more flexible structures for work (like shorter workweeks) may also help if inflationary pressures make it hard to offer more compensation. Experimenting with approaches that let employees design their hours and schedules may also help build places where they want to be for the long haul. Finally, it may require leaders to take on strategies to skill-up or re-skill existing employees for important roles. 

  3. IF DEI requires a “re-focusing” on inclusion and fairness in 2022, THEN leaders need to address talent management, compensation, technology, and work design. 

    In many cases, hybrid work has made it harder for organizations to practice DEI, particularly equity and fairness. For example, it has been found that higher percentages of men favor working in the office, while higher percentages of women and people of color prefer working remotely. This can lead to tension when career advancement is considered if people believe that there are advantages to being onsite. Granted, these types of changes may require more levers around employee compensation policies, career advancement, etc. But, senior leaders will need to address them.

    Leaders can take more steps to embed inclusion, equity and fairness into the culture, work processes, and talent management. Engaging teams in the design of work and communication flows helps the group share what’s important in how they work. Leaders can pay close attention to what matters most to each employee in their work. This will ensure people feel seen, valued and heard. 

  4. IF hybrid work is sparking a demand for new approaches to accountability and productivity, THEN leaders will need to engage their teams in building agreements and experiments for work processes, technologies, and communication.

    Many teams and leaders struggled to keep track of what work was being completed and when over the past two years. New technologies for collaboration and performance management have become available which can save leaders and teams a lot of time. This also creates more visibility and transparency into the work being done.  Leaders can invite new conversations with the team about what performance should be tracked. They can discuss how communication can work better, and what the best use of meeting times are. Teams that form agreements with each other in these areas will be able to thrive in the hybrid world.

  5. IF wellbeing is the important metric to understand employee experience, THEN leaders should be able to coach and support employees in areas of mental health, physical health, purpose and financial health.

    The pandemic has heightened issues of stress, physical health and burnout. This will continue as we enter the third year of a pandemic. Leaders are going to need to learn how to manage and lead in a hybrid world. They’ll need to coach for well-being (physical, mental, financial, social) while also  focusing on the work at hand.

  6. IF employees will be seeking more purpose in their work, THEN leaders will need to listen and understand the values and beliefs of their people while also clearly communicating the ideological and societal positions of the organization. 

    Working with purpose can come in several forms. Given labor shortages and new work possibilities, employees can find organizations that connect with their values, strengths and interests. Leaders can listen and learn about these and find ways to empower employees to co-create their approach to work. With people so divided along ideological and societal positions, employees are looking for the employers to clearly communicate their positions. Employees want to know their philosophies in how they handle differences of opinions within the organization.

Leaders Can Have Impact

There are certainly a number of forces influencing the workplace in 2022.  Organizations are going to need to make some high-level decisions about structure, technology investments, product focus, talent management, etc. The good news is that leaders can have a huge impact on the workplace in 2022. By adopting some new skills and strategies, leaders can better connect, coordinate, and coach their teams. 

Interested in Further Discussing Your Plans for 2022?

At Thrive at Work, we’re fortunate to be working in all of these areas. We’d be happy to chat further with you about your own ideas, or new ones that you’d like to pursue.

Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.