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In the two years since the sudden start to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic no industry has been left unscathed as business leaders have had to navigate a tumultuous economic and social climate unlike anything witnessed since World War II.

“The pandemic-inflicted leadership challenges in 2020-21 forced organizations to take extraordinary measures in real time, with zero planning. Things changed drastically and dramatically, leaving no industry across the world unaffected,” writes Forbes Council Member Kiran Mann.

“Expect the Unexpected” is likely carved on most business leaders’ desks by now.

As they prepare to meet the challenges of 2022 and beyond, here is what they need to be prepared for:

Digital Demands: Transformation Equals Survival

Prior to the pandemic the idea of digital transformation was being embraced by many businesses, but overnight it became apparent that it was no longer a choice to transform but a matter of survival.

“While most companies had extensive digitalization plans spread across several years, the outbreak compelled businesses to compress those processes into a few months,” wrote Mann.

Long-range planning was crumpled and thrown in the waste bin as businesses compressed several years of digital transformation almost overnight as much of the population moved to working, shopping, socializing, and playing online.

Those 70 percent of companies that had a digital transformation strategy in place or were working on a plan had a leg up on competitors when the pandemic struck.

While the mantra might have been “new digital solutions take time”, businesses now embrace rapid employment of digital tools.

Eweek says that digital transformations being undertaken in 2022:

  • Hyper automation: Simplest way to reach scalability, efficiency, and reduced costs
  • Cybersecurity Transformation: Cybersecurity solutions are being prioritized by companies of all sizes
  • AI Growth: Software and cybersecurity solutions will be based on AI
  • Agility is Essential: Companies must be prepared for coming uncertainty such as cyberattacks
  • Low-Code Tools: Complex systems can now be built with little or no coding experience
  • IT Budgets Expand: Digital transformation takes money and companies are committing their resources
  • Data Democratization: More data will be open to all to analyze and draw insight

Employee Engagement Tops HR Agenda

Employee engagement took on new importance during the pandemic as workers relied on their employers to keep them connected and supported.

And, unfortunately, many employees found those steering their companies lacking with a survey early in the pandemic finding only 32 percent of U.S. employees believing their organization had trusted leaders and managers to navigate the crisis.

That survey by Eagle Hill Consulting found that:

  • Less than half (45 percent) say their organizations moved quickly to adapt to changing realities
  • Few workers (24 percent) thought their organization had a culture that fostered innovation and collaboration to deal with the pandemic
  • Just over one-third (35 percent) thought their organization had the resilience to withstand the crisis

“Now more than ever, employees should feel connected to their companies’ overall purpose, mission and values and clearly understand the impact of their contributions on the growth and recovery of their organization,” wrote Mann.

Companies are focusing on the following employee engagement trends in 2022, according to Human Resources Today:

  • Inclusive and Diverse Workplace
  • Putting the “Human” Back in HR
  • Using Employees as the Voice of their Brand
  • Improving Feedback Structures and Implementation
  • Promoting Health and Wellness at the Workplace
  • Valuing and Recognizing Employees
  • Investing in Employee Growth and Development
  • Tech Integration at Every Level (Cloud, AI, ML)

Retaining Talent to Stem “The Great Resignation”

As CNBC reported in early May, “The Great Resignation” which started during the pandemic is still red hot with a record 4.5 million workers quitting their jobs in March.

“Voluntary separations are elevated as workers are enticed by ample choice and better pay elsewhere,” said CNBC. “There were 11.5 million job openings at the end of March, breaking December’s record of more than 11.4 million openings, according to the Labor Department. Job openings reflect business’ demand for workers.”

To compete in this historically tight labor market, companies need to prioritize development and retention of their employees.

“Most of the reasons responsible for record-breaking resignations, like upgrading to a better pay package or reevaluating work-life priorities, in many ways, stem from an organization’s inability to develop and retain talent,” wrote Mann.  

If companies can develop strategies such as “stay interviews” they can prevent workers from leaving, especially those that ultimately regret their decision to part ways with their current employer.

Workplace Flexibility is Now the Norm

It is very hard to put the genie back in the bottle and with employees enjoying work-from-home, hybrid, and other flexible work experiences, they now expect those options going forward.

“Be it working from the office, remotely or a hybrid model, there is no denying the fact that companies should now offer more flexibility to employees. And the flexibility is not just about when or where the employees work. It is also about what kind of work they are required to do when they are in the office and at home,” wrote Mann.

In other words, the days of employees suffering through soul-crushing commutes to answer email and do other cloud-based activities that do not require in-office interaction are over.

According to the OC Tanner Institute’s 2022 Global Culture Report, collaborative tasks or tasks that require a lot of communication and connection are better managed from the office, while tasks that involve creative thinking or focus can be easily done from home.

Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer at Microsoft, is quoted in the report saying, “flexibility can mean different things to each of us, and we recognize there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the variety of roles, work requirements, and business needs we have.”

The goal for businesses in 2022 and beyond is to create the best strategies to maximize employee roles, preferences, and experiences to create a better workplace culture that will ultimately lead to greater productivity. If you need our help, please connect with us.


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