The last two years have brought more than their share of challenges to the workplace, and HR has grappled with shifts in work trends driven by the response to the pandemic. With the widespread adoption of remote work and hybrid work for the long term, HR is at the crux of logistical challenges as organizations transition to managing dispersed teams online. HR teams are looking for ways to gather input from people, manage onboarding and offboarding from a distance, and support managers as they continue to manage their teams remotely—all while trying to maintain a positive organizational culture. 

According to research from Gartner, developing critical skills and competencies is the top priority for 2022. For many companies, decisions initially made as temporary responses to the pandemic are now the mainstays of the new world of work. To meet the needs of today’s post-pandemic workplace, employers need to determine what to focus on for the coming year and plan accordingly.

How a company adapts to meet people’s needs in the new reality of the post-pandemic workplace provides an opportunity for HR leaders to lead the way in navigating the organization’s path. Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the following five goals should be at the top of every HR’s list for 2022:

  1. Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)
  2. Introduce breakthrough benefits
  3. Invest in developing a remote/hybrid workplace culture
  4. Promote learning and development
  5. Use an HRIS for robust HR delivery

Goal #1: Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion

The choices companies make today will have consequences on gender equality for decades to come. Research by Traliant and World Business Research published in October 2021 found that while 89 percent of organizations have a formal DE&I strategy in place, only 43 percent of them have dedicated resources and budgets to DE&I initiatives. Of those, 79 percent say they’ll allocate more budget and resources to DE&I next year.

The report found that 48 percent of respondents considered DE&I initiatives to be HR’s responsibility, but “DEI must be a holistic effort that encompasses the entire organization if it is to be effective.”

It’s clear that hiring diverse talent isn’t enough—it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive. But, with so many people now working from home as a result of the pandemic, conversations about DE&I and bias can lose their impact in a virtual setting. Building meaningful mentoring and sponsorship programs within a mostly remote workplace is also more challenging.

Diversity and inclusion companies are more likely to make better decisions, which is a critical capability during times of crisis. Tina Shah Paikeday, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Services at Russell Reynolds Associates, a New York City-based executive search and consulting firm, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that many companies have indeed been more proactive about reaching out to telecommuters and keeping them engaged. That mindset could help diversity efforts, she said.

Furthermore, in light of the Great Resignation across all industries, research by HiBob and Fiverr found that 22 percent of people across all industries are choosing to quit their jobs to become freelancers. Being open to a remote workforce and the talent it brings with it provides organizations with even more opportunities to increase diversity. With retaining current people and recruiting new talent no longer tied to physical locations, companies have newfound flexibility to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

In addition, some companies are utilizing technology to increase their diversity efforts remotely, offering people access to other perspectives, such as through this film which Starbucks made for its employees to help understand diverse customer perspectives. Other companies are hosting webinars or offering online courses about unconscious bias.

Next step for 2022: One way to build a strong, more inclusive culture is to create a diversity and inclusion committee. This group of people works together on DE&I projects such as creating a code of conduct, cultural programming, employee education, and management training.

Goal #2: Introduce breakthrough benefits

The pandemic has illustrated the importance of examining employee benefits, identifying gaps, and correcting disparities. In early 2020, 57 percent of employees said their benefits package was more important to them than ever before.

Today, those benefits include flexible work arrangements, and 38 percent of people working from home prefer a hybrid “onsite/work-from-home experience in the future.” HiBob research found that 62 percent of people find that hybrid work enables more work-life balance. 36 percent say they’ll leave their jobs if their company forces them to return full time to onsite work.

In the midst of a health crisis, employee health and wellness should be the number one priority and working to determine the type of benefits that mesh with your employees’ current circumstances is key. “There is a huge concern about employees’ mental health during the pandemic, especially people living alone,” LoriAnn Penman, SHRM-SCP, Director of Human Resources at technology firm TTC Inc., told SHRM.

The pandemic has made maintaining physical and mental health a struggle for many, with almost one-third of people saying their mental/emotional health has deteriorated during this time. Adding or enhancing telehealth benefits and mental health care benefits could be a welcome change and would help provide the type of support people need.

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Manage your company’s benefits

Other benefit package changes companies are considering include increasing cost-sharing for health plan expenses such as deductibles, premiums or co-payments, adding or expanding voluntary benefits, augmenting services for managing high-cost claims, adjusting leave policies, adding life insurance options and childcare benefits, and expanding flexible work schedules. With the move to remote work, many organizations also include financial benefits to set up a home office for existing employees and incorporate it into their onboarding package for new joiners.

While the pandemic mandated the implementation of remote work, it also gave people a benefit they’ve been requesting for a long time. And many employers are planning to expand or increase this offering. Data from Gallup shows that as the world moves into the post-pandemic era, a solid 45 percent of people are still working remotely at least part of the time, and 90 percent of “remote workers want to maintain remote work to some degree.”

Next step for 2022: Use an online survey to gather employee feedback about the benefits they want and need. The real-time analytics will help you understand people’s attitudes and perceptions toward remote and hybrid work.

Goal #3: Invest in developing a remote/hybrid workplace culture

In 2022, HR will need to continue maintaining a positive remote or hybrid workplace. When working in the same space, people’s connection to the organizational culture often evolves naturally—during conversations in the break room, while connecting at group events, or sharing ideas during in-person meetings. That can be more difficult in a remote environment.

Establishing a sense of connection can be harder to create and maintain when people log in from their coffee table, juggle interruptions from people at home, and feel like they are on a never-ending stream of video calls.

Your company’s remote work culture doesn’t have to stray from the culture you’ve been enjoying, but you must recognize that it may look different. If elements of your work culture require people to meet face-to-face, the new year brings an opportunity to translate that to a remote modality.

As one CEO explained, his organization is nurturing camaraderie, despite the distance. They’re using virtual quizzes and a game called “Spy,” in which they must determine who is fabricating a story.  

Maybe your teams enjoy sharing monthly happy hours to celebrate each other, or there’s great enthusiasm around the quarterly in-person town hall meetings. Identify what makes the employee experience rewarding and connects your people to your culture. Then find a way to recreate those elements as part of your culture in virtual form.

In addition to the overall culture, as people continue to work and interact remotely, employers must be sure to address topics such as harassment prevention and maintaining confidentiality in the new normal. These topics are essential for maintaining a good work environment for in-person and dispersed workforces. Harassment and discrimination erode company culture, no matter where it happens.

Next step for 2022: Review this webinar to get actionable insights from some of the fastest-growing companies in the world about how they’re driving employee engagement across global remote teams. Use what you learn to create remote-specific HR programming designed to cultivate an inclusive and engaging work culture.

Goal #4: Promote learning and development

Seventy-one percent of learning and development leaders surveyed said that more than 40 percent of their workforce required new skills due to changes to work brought on by COVID-19. According to Shelley Osborne, VP of learning at Udemy, “The future of work many of us have been talking about is no longer an eventuality—it’s our current reality. Around the world and across industries, organizations are fundamentally rethinking every aspect of how we work.”

“As we look ahead to what the workplace will look like [next year] and beyond, our recent report shows that continued upskilling and learning agility will be required to keep pace with our new normal,” Osborne told TechRepublic.

Kudos

Last year, data from Gartner indicated that the total number of skills required for a job is increasing by 10 percent year over year, which means HR leaders need to adopt a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying talent and find ways to develop skills as new needs arise. New research from Gartner shows that “40 percent of HR leaders say they can’t build skill development solutions fast enough to meet evolving skills needs.” A dynamic skills approach anticipates skill shifts as they occur, as opposed to attempting to predict the future, then addresses shifts iteratively. HR can then address skills as they shift in real time.

This approach goes beyond traditional learning and development tactics, such as on-the-job training and in-person learning. When supported by the right technology, HR can leverage existing resources to enable people to develop new skills at the time of need.

Next step for 2022: Evaluate your organization’s learning culture against five key building blocks. Then look for ways to tackle the critical skills gap by enhancing and driving a learning culture that gives people the chance to acquire new skill sets through the workshops, training, and team-building activities made available to them.

Goal #5: Use HRIS for robust HR delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the workplace landscape. The days of being in the office and stopping by someone’s desk to ask for data are largely gone, as are local files and departments operating in silos. HR leaders see the need now, more than ever, for the right tech to support their strategies and priorities. At the 2020 HR Technology Conference, HR analyst Josh Bersin noted dramatic transformations in the HR field, saying that “companies are redesigning the ways things get done at a pace I’ve never seen … They’ll need technology to support their efforts.”

Indeed, to be as effective and strategic as possible, anything related to the people side of the business needs to be on one system. A unified system allows the necessary people—HR leaders, managers, admins, and specialists—access to all the information they require when creating reports and tracking the main KPIs of HR.

Gallagher’s 2020 HR Technology Pulse survey found that respondents’ focus transferred to other areas compared to previous years. Now, the focus is on HR technology solutions for payroll, time tracking, performance management systems, and employee communication tools. The researchers attribute the trend to the growing importance of HR’s ability to support the expanding remote-work environment.

The need for collaboration continues, even as we move into the post-pandemic era. People are 3.5 times more likely to partner with five or more teams when working remotely than when they work in an office setting. This means providing a platform that ensures people can easily connect to the organization and each other, regardless of their location, is vital. Equally important, these solutions need to enable managers to support their teams and provide ongoing development opportunities for their people.

Next step for 2022: Examine five key ways an HCM can support continued remote operations for your company. With a platform like Bob, you can maintain cross-company communications, manage time and attendance, onboard new hires, keep people engaged, and preserve the important relationships that make your organization run so well.

As the workforce adjusts to the changes brought on by the pandemic, we will likely face even more challenges in the coming year. But by identifying the top HR priorities to focus on and implementing the tools needed to support those efforts, you can position your company to successfully navigate the challenges and provide your workforce with the support they need to be productive and stay engaged. Make the most of what 2022 has to offer with intelligent decisions and priorities that set your people and your organization up for success.

Meet Bob

At HiBob, we’ve built a modern HR platform designed for modern business needs—today and beyond.

We focused on building something robust yet intuitive and easy to use, which has led Bob to be the platform of choice for thousands of fast-growing modern, mid-sized organizations. 

For HR, it automates many common processes, allows greater oversight and visibility of the business, and centralizes all people data in a secure, user-friendly environment.

For managers, it provides access to data and insights to help them lead more effectively and streamline processes.

For employees, it’s the tools and information they need to connect, develop, and grow throughout their journey.  

In a short time, Bob can be deployed to enable communication, collaboration, and connectivity that drives stronger engagement, productivity, and business outcomes.