Excerpted from a Benefits Pro Blog by Sandy Kaminski

In the past 18 months, things have changed faster than anyone could have anticipated. COVID-19, the social landscape and technological advancements have turned the world upside down. HR managers have been thrown into the midst of national cultural changes and economic currents while trying to find and keep talent from surrendering to the “Great Resignation.” As we move in 2022, five key challenges will encapsulate the year.

1. Employee engagement
While engagement emerged as an issue pre-pandemic, it is even more of a challenge now as companies struggle to keep their employees. Engaged employees reflect a positive attitude, are involved in their work and are high producers. Disengaged employees tend to display negative attitudes, produce only enough to get by and are not content with their experience. Because a disengaged worker does not positively contribute to the organization’s overall success, it is imperative that HR finds a solution.

First, HR managers should determine why employees aren’t engaged. Perhaps they are not satisfied with their responsibilities, have an issue with a coworker or are looking to make more money. There are also safety and mental health issues to consider, as offering employees access to wellness programs could be a smart choice for 2022.

2. Reskilling and upskilling
Increasing since the pandemic, reskilling or upskilling is a process of developing employees’ abilities to move into a new role within the organization instead of the alternative of termination and hiring new employees with different skill sets. As the workforce continues to evolve and businesses are faced with changing their model to remain competitive, reskilling allows employers to maintain their workforce while adapting to necessary organizational shifts.

Moving into 2022, employer needs will continue to develop for the organization to survive in future business environments. HR budgets should review the opportunities offered by reskilling workers. Big corporations like Amazon, PwC and Home Depot have already invested billions in upskilling, creating new career pathways for their teams, increasing engagement and attracting new talent.

3. Remote work will continue
Remote work began out of a pandemic-fueled necessity and has evolved into a new normal. According to Gartner, in 2022, 31% of all workers worldwide will be remote, with the U.S. leading in remote workers (accounting for 53%). While many employers wish their employees would come back for in-person work, employees are refusing. As employers must balance the needs of their organizations with the requirements of their teams, this remains an issue of concern.

4. Hiring challenges
There has been a paradigm shift as peoples’ mindsets from living to work to working to live, and increasingly scaling back has increased time for family, friends and hobbies. The result has been an abundance of job openings with no significant talent pool available. Employers are struggling to fill positions, even while offering increased wages.

As we march into the next year, HR leaders must focus on people and technology to combat this challenge. First, they need to recognize how potential employees’ needs and expectations have changed in the last 18 months—and acknowledge that this shift may have been monumental. People want to work for organizations that care about them, so addressing those needs at the beginning of the hiring process will open a wider talent pool.

5. Corporate culture
The only true competitive advantage an organization has is its people, so creating a corporate culture that attracts and retains the best talent is a prominent concern. Organizations have access to the same resources in the marketplace. However, many do not have access to the same people as the corporate culture is a primary differentiator.

Corporate culture is an exciting proposition because it changes and evolves. When we think of what the definition of corporate culture was in 2019, it looks very different two years later. Social distancing has caused a physical divide between people, and connecting with others has now migrated to a digital environment. At the same time, diversity, equity and inclusion are fostering cohesiveness on many different levels.

In 2022, we have a roadmap
The pandemic has proved challenging for HR departments as they have been thrown into chaos and uncertainty without ample time to prepare for the challenges they unexpectedly faced. However, these hurdles would have unveiled themselves sooner or later, with or without COVID-19. Now that they are here, HR leadership must take the lessons from the last 18 months and put them into practice in 2022.

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