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6 world of work trends set to shape 2022

Workers around the globe quitting their jobs as part of “The Great Re-Evaluation.” Companies re-evaluating their flexible working arrangements

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, January 10, 2022

The CEO of Adecco Group, Alain Dehaze, has laid out some of the most prominent trends facing the world of work in 2022.
The CEO of Adecco Group, Alain Dehaze, has laid out some of the most prominent trends facing the world of work in 2022.

by Alain Dehaze*

Workers around the globe quitting their jobs as part of “The Great Re-Evaluation.” Companies re-evaluating their flexible working arrangements. Further transitioning to a more green future. The Covid pandemic’s systemic impact on labour markets, policy, and regulation. Debate about the plausibility of a four-day work week.

The end of 2021 is fast approaching, and I find myself reflecting on the past year. Over the past 12 months, leaders and organizations continued to adapt as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on. Corporate leaders have grappled with questions deeply affecting their workplaces, culture, and employees. It is clear that skills investments need to be embedded as a solution for nearly every question on the table, from talent scarcity to retention to employee engagement, especially when dealing with the Great Re-Evaluation.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty, the resolve of my Adecco Group colleagues has been truly admirable and I want to sincerely thank them for that.

I believe the next year will be all about consolidation as many workplace trends come to the forefront: economic recovery, flexible work, the green transition, sustainable and inclusive business models, digital transformations, and more.

As 2021 wraps up, I’m looking ahead at critical trends that will shape the workplace in the coming year:

1. Talent scarcity in the forefront.

Heading into 2022, talent scarcity is one of the key lenses through which we will see the entire world of work.

The reasons are myriad. Some are long-standing, such as the shift towards automation and digitization, the green transition, the lack of decent working conditions, the push towards higher education in place of work-based training pathways, and the mismatch between education and workplace needs all contribute to the issue, among other factors.

But the events of the past 24 months have also worsened the problem: countries closing borders hampered talent mobility; many countries saw a disproportionately high number of workers retire early and leave the workforce. Finally, the virus itself impacted talent scarcity, affecting people’s health and ability or willingness to return to the workplace. This is one reason the home/office hybrid workforce is here to stay in 2022 and beyond.

The supply chain and talent scarcity crisis will impact the economic outlook for the next year, as well. The global recovery is continuing but its momentum has eased and is becoming increasingly imbalanced, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook. The OECD report predicts a rebound in global economic growth to 5.6% this year, and 4.5% in 2022, before settling back to 3.2% in 2023. The contingency? The world’s richest countries need to invest in reskilling and upskilling efforts quickly if they want to avoid a long-term rise in unemployment.

2. The Green transition takes shape

The Green transition is here, and economies around the world will be impacted by the shift to a more sustainable future. In 2021, the conversation revolved around green skills, but failed to comprehensively address how to make that transition happen in a just way for people. The majority of alliances formed and the majority of commitments made neglected to address the “how”, beyond financing.

In 2022, we need to marry the social with the environmental rather than see them as two distinct pillars. It’s time to take a human-centric approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation and prioritize investments in people to ensure that the oncoming green transition is a just and inclusive one.

The first step for employers should be putting together a cohesive talent strategy. That starts with assessing the skills your organization will need in the next two to five years. For example, the Adecco Group is supporting key players in the automotive industry to upskill and reskill workers from mechanic specialists to software engineers to better prepare organizations for the electric revolution.

3. Digital transformation and hybrid work arrangements will continue to change companies

There are two key parts to a successful digital transformation. The first is the transformation of industries and companies and the effect it has on skills (for example, looking at production and manufacturing), as discussed above. The second is the impact digitization has on the culture of an organization (for example: digital and remote recruitment, onboarding, and leadership).

All industries are going to become “smart industries”, and digital transformations are affecting all companies equally. It’s one thing to talk about the digital transformation, but it’s an entirely different thing to implement these changes. It’s not only a case of building the right tools, technology and infrastructures to facilitate this transformation, but also having the right people and skills to manage and work with them. Chief people officers and talent partners will play a crucial role in future-proofing organisations, defining the skills needed in the future. Studies show that 68% of HR leaders currently don’t have a strategy for the future of work. But workers want it. Our research found that 66% of workers believe they need to gain new skills to stay employable in the years ahead, and only 37% of non-managers feel their company is investing in their skills and career development.

Transforming the way we work also, has been and will continue to be challenging for many leaders. But there is no going back. The shift to more flexible and hybrid working environments is here to stay. With the adequate policies in place to assist the transition to flexible work, its long-term implementation will boost productivity, foster a better work-life balance, and open hidden pools of talent, that will help address the talent scarcity issue. It is crucial to accompany the digital transition and shift to flexible working models to make it inclusive, fair, and profitable. It’s about involving the organization as a whole.

4. Talent retention troubles will continue to expand throughout the world

The relationship between companies and their employees is undergoing a radical shift. We’ve all witnessed “The Great Re-Evaluation” this year: workers are rethinking what is important in their working lives, which in some countries (like the U.S.) is leading to people leaving their jobs in record numbers. For the first time in years, employees have the upper hand.

It’s led to a more pronounced talent scarcity problem, as I’ve mentioned above. Prior to the pandemic, we were already seeing talent scarcity problems due to an ageing workforce, skills mismatch, and other factors, like limitations to labour mobility, coming into play.

But this trend has only since grown, and it’s much more serious than handing out signing bonuses or other workplace perks. There’s a disconnect between workers and their leaders; many workers feel disengaged and disenchanted with their positions and career prospects. This trend has been much more explicit in the U.S., where data shows that in July alone, at the start of the trend, four million Americans quit their jobs. That number remained abnormally high in the following months.

Next year will be the year of workers’ power in the workplace. Companies will have to prioritize workers’ career development through upskilling and reskilling, allowing flexible schedules and hybrid working models. Likewise, healthcare and wellbeing will take centre stage in the world of work as workers demand more, and better, benefits as well as greater work-life balance. I see this trend expanding from the U.S. to other countries.

For me this is a question of corporate empathy. As employers and leaders we must listen and understand workers’ needs if we are to provide them with opportunity and a sense of purpose.

5. Equity and social protection in the workplace.

In the wake of the pandemic, inclusion, equity and equality will become a key focus for many. Each worker has different circumstances, and as leaders, we need to allocate the specific resources and opportunities they need to reach an equal outcome. Let me explain.

I would go one step further and speak about equity, rather than just equality. This recognizes that each person has different circumstances and that we thus need to allocate the specific resources and opportunities they need to reach an equal outcome; equality simply means that everyone is given the same resources or opportunities, but doesn’t take into account their different starting points, needs and circumstances.

Think about the context of women in the workplace. It’s clear that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. Decades of hard-fought progress on equality have been undone as women were forced out of the workforce to care for family. Data shows that fewer women than men will regain employment during the Covid-19 recovery, according to the ILO.

Especially during the pandemic, we saw the importance of social protection for workers, but unfortunately not all workers have equal access to such protection. As a society, we need to better ensure access to social protection especially for informal workers, as well as self employed workers - for example, in the context of platform work.

Inequality also means the differences between countries and regions across the world. Inequality is rampant between countries and regions. During the pandemic, we saw workers take control of their work environment. For some, that meant moving to smaller towns – and those small towns lured them with perks. In the coming year, expect to see this economic balance between big cities and small towns, or different regions across countries, play out.

And finally, inequality and inclusion also refers to the differences between in-person workers (whether they be office-based, or frontline workers) and remote workers. What advantages will remote workers have versus in-person workers – and vice-versa? And how will leaders balance their team management with flexible working schedules? Frontline workers, for example, often get the shorter end of the stick far too often – and that’s where we’re seeing the Great Re-Evaluation take place.

6. Leadership transparency and accountability.

Driven by new legislations, investor coalitions, worker power, and more, transparency and accountability will be crucial for leaders and companies moving forward. Corporate empathy will play a major role in this new era. How leaders better understand their workforce and show compassion for their workers will make a world of difference.

2022 will be the year of accountability. Countries and companies alike will be judged on how they live up to their thought leadership and their public pledges, especially in wake of Black Lives Matter, COP26, and other major shifts in public opinion.

It’s no longer acceptable for companies to make empty promises and leave behind the action. Data shows that 36% of HR leaders say they struggle to hold business leaders accountable for D&I outcomes. The year of the reckoning has arrived, and workers in turn want to see things change on the ground.

The Adecco Group stands ready to support organisations and individuals navigate these trends to make the future work for everyone. Last, but not least, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful year-end holiday with your families. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2022.

*CEO of The Adecco Group
**first published in: www.weforum.org

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