Leading people

7 HR trends for 2022

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HR trends for a changed world of work

The pandemic has not only changed how the world works, but it has also fundamentally changed the world of work.

Businesses have had to adapt to many changes ranging from remote and hybrid work to growing concerns around employee mental health.

The bottom line is no longer the only measure of success. Today, businesses need to humanise themselves and put their views and values out there for the world to see.

As such, these are some of the HR trends we expect to see in 2022.

Businesses take a stand and drop roots there

Over the past two years, businesses have taken an active stance on world events.

From movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too to climate change, inclusivity and diversity, and the gender pay gap, businesses have needed to share their viewpoints and how they intend to effect change in these areas.

Purpose must be prioritised above all, ensuring that employees are doing meaningful work and that businesses are working towards a goal that serves the greater good. Companies are also expected to be actively involved in issues concerning their customers and communities in which they operate.

According to the Sage Payroll and HR in SA: Rising to the challenges of change research report, 73% of SMEs are deliberately catering to the needs of Gen Z, while 31% are focusing on concerns of the LGBTQ+ community and the impact of social movements on the workplace.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) agenda must take centre stage in 2022. Remote and hybrid working has significantly impacted efforts in these areas. As the removal of geographical constraints opens up the talent pool, HR needs to be more mindful of maintaining equity in their workforce.

 The future is freelance

Freelance work, or the gig economy, has grown significantly over the past few years as people look for more opportunities, independence, and diversity in their roles.

In 2019, 34% of the South African working population was freelancing, and experts believe this number could rise to 50% this year. The pandemic and the resultant move to remote work has opened up access to global skills, allowing HR managers to recruit contingency workers for a limited period or to work on specific projects, effectively reducing the need for permanent employees and resulting in cost savings.

The ever-growing Millennial workforce is more interested in exploring new roles, taking on exciting challenges, experiencing different company cultures, and learning new skills while they’re at it. They are no longer incentivised by job security or benefits but look for jobs that offer flexibility, greater growth opportunities, and a sense of purpose.

Outcomes vs hours

The rise of the digital economy and the distributed workforce has seen many companies embrace an output-based working model instead of the typical staff requirement to be productive during office hours.

And as remote work becomes the norm for many businesses across the globe, the 9-5 workday is being replaced by flexible working hours, with performance being measured against output or specific KPIs. Research has shown that up to 70% of employees currently work on their tasks outside regular office hours, which has resulted in greater productivity and an improved work-life balance.

HR should consider adopting flexible working hours or an output-driven working model to meet the workforce’s changing needs and positively influence job performance.

Home desk or hot desk?

Pre-pandemic, a few forward-thinking companies were considering implementing a remote or hybrid working model at some stage, either as an employee benefit, to reduce office space, or to access a wider talent pool.

Once the pandemic hit, going remote was no longer optional. Lockdowns saw offices move from physical to digital practically overnight. The sudden change meant no plans or processes were in place, and an equitable remote or hybrid work environment was not immediately achievable.

In 2022, HR will need to re-engineer operating structures into cloud-based models that support remote, hybrid, and flexible working equitably across the workforce. In fact, 86% of payroll and HR professionals who use cloud technology say that it has increased their organisations’ ability to operate in a remote or hybrid environment.

This is the main reason why 64% of medium-sized businesses and 50% of small businesses have increased their use of payroll and HR technology in the past year, and why 50% started hiring, training, and managing employees in a remote or hybrid environment.

 The ever-evolving culture club

HR can no longer use a one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement. Employees are demanding greater flexibility and an employee-centric company culture.

As the incoming workforce, the needs of Gen Z are especially important, which puts the payroll and HR function in an advantageous position to structure their cultures and ways of working to attract the best young talent.

The talent market is incredibly volatile, and HR will need to focus its efforts on talent acquisition, retention, and creating a workplace culture that is appealing to both new and current employees.

Gen Z is redefining what it means to be loyal to a company and what they expect from their employer in return. With cloud-based HR and payroll software performing the mundane tasks, professionals can focus on the things that make a company a great place to work, such as:

  • Managing employee engagement to increase productivity, motivation, and morale (48%)
  • Increasing employee satisfaction (40%)
  • Supporting employees and managers with growing needs around mental health (43%)
  • Strengthening organisational culture to create long-lasting team bonds (38%)
  • Managing talent to retain top employees (37%)

Knowing what you need to know – now

To create new training programmes, HR teams must determine which skills their staff will need going forward. However, with the never-ending advancements in technology, the volatility of the job market, and the need for rapid adaptation to changing workplace demands, it is near impossible to identify which skills will be most in demand and when.

HR leaders need to focus on building critical skills and core competencies. Still, they find it challenging to create practical skills development solutions at a pace that matches the needs of their organisations.

In 2022, HR leaders will need to revamp their existing training practices to teach employees new skills more efficiently. Virtual learning will take pride of place for the remote workforce, while on-the-job training will be the primary source of development for gig workers. Regardless of the training requirement, HR will need to find an inclusive, equitable way to deliver it.

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A la carte benefits

With a workforce mainly comprising Millennials and Gen Z, companies’ benefit packages have had to be overhauled to attract top talent.

Research has shown that 60% of Gen Z and 65% of Millennials want benefits that will help them succeed professionally, financially, and personally. While the basic traditional benefits are still valued, the younger employee requires more individualised benefits and places value on flexibility, learning, support, and purpose.

HR departments have responded by recalibrating their benefits packages to suit employee needs. Many have included tuition reimbursement or help to pay off student loans, while others have opted for offering employees a fixed amount to spend on the benefits of their choice.

There is no doubt that 2022 will see even more changes in what matters to employees and how they wish to be supported by their companies. It will be up to HR to adapt accordingly –  and quickly – to retain the talent they require.


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