browse chapter:
four trends
four trends

four trends that will shape the world of work in 2022

The pandemic remains, but the workforce and talent landscapes of 2022 look virtually nothing like they did during the height of the pandemic. After lockdowns were lifted and additional benefits dried up, employers expected the workers to rush back to offices and job sites — only to find that the workers themselves were in no great hurry to do so.

Meanwhile, those who did come back and those who remained employed during the worst of COVID-19 now have new expectations for everything from salary to where and when they work and beyond. Worryingly, the data from a number of recent surveys seem to indicate that those wants and needs aren’t being heard by C-suites. In order to attract and retain talent effectively in 2022, employers will need to adjust their strategies to align with current workforce trends and evolving job seeker expectations. Considering how rapidly the world of work is changing before our eyes, that’s no easy task. However, concentrating on these four trends will put companies in a strong position to hire and retain talent in 2022.

the great resignation is here to stay

While jobs are being created and job seekers are gradually returning to the workforce, ripples from The Great Resignation will continue to be felt throughout 2022. A staggering (and record-setting) 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in one month alone, and all signs point to this trend continuing. Fifty-seven percent of knowledge workers, for instance, are open to looking for a new job in 2022, up slightly from earlier in 2021.

What makes this trend different and harder to predict is that it's not tied directly to specific market conditions. It's certainly influenced by them, but most of its staying power appears to come from a more intangible, widespread shift in employee attitudes and preferences. The pandemic disrupted the status quo in a major way, and workers in virtually all industries are using this transitory period to reassess how they view work itself and searching for roles that are more meaningful — and better paying.

The Great Resignation is not only making it more difficult for employers to find talent, but it's disrupting the balance of their workforces as well. In just one month alone, 309,000 women dropped out of the workforce — meaning they either quit working or stopped looking for work — while almost 200,000 men joined.

In order to attract talent and improve gender parity against this backdrop, employers will need to focus on connecting roles to meaningful outcomes in order for workers to rekindle their passion for work. Unfortunately, the latter's not always possible. After all, not every role can be tied to a broader, more meaningful mission. The good news is that, despite the many workforce transformations over the past two years, compensation is still king. When all else fails, paying competitive wages remains a surefire way to attract and retain talent, and 2022 will be no different.

workers want flexible work — but the c-suite doesn't always agree

As variant waves recede and others appear, employers are largely looking to hybrid models of working to ensure the health and safety of their teams. However, there's a broad disconnect between what executives want and what employees want regarding when and where they work.

Sixty-eight percent of workers prefer remote work over returning to onsite work, and 61 percent would be willing to take a pay cut to remain remote. Almost half (45%) said they would quit or immediately begin looking for a new job if they were forced to return full time.

monthly survey of over 30 thousand workers found that: 

  • 60 percent of workers reported being more productive working from home than they expected to be.
  • 40 percent of workers reported they were more productive at home during the pandemic than they had been when in the office.
  • Researchers calculate that remote, flexible working arrangements will increase overall worker productivity in the U.S. by 5 percent as compared with the pre-pandemic economy.

Despite this clear employee preference, executives overwhelmingly want their workers back full time. The Future Forum Pulse from Slack shows that more than two-thirds of executives (68%) want to work in the office most or all of the time, and nearly half of all execs in this group (44%) want to work from the office every day.

Given the many logistical and operational challenges involved with balancing a workforce across multiple locations, it's easy to see why companies are split. Those in the finance and banking space, like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, seem set on going back to the office, although both postponed their return dates early in the year. Many large companies, including Microsoft, Apple and Citigroup are going the hybrid route. Others — especially in the tech space — including Twitter and Dropbox are letting their employees work remotely indefinitely. That's a dizzying array of options enough as it is, before even factoring in the many companies for which alternative working models aren't possible. Manufacturing and logistics employers, for instance, have no choice but to proceed with fully onsite workforces. For them, the challenge won't be about balancing an offsite or blended working model, but keeping their safety practices up to date with the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines and local regulations.

evolution of tech tools in the workplace calls for continued skilling

With continued advancements in tech and widespread digital transformation, employers need to invest in building their workforces' skill sets for the jobs of today and the jobs of the future. Add to that the strain of hiring in today's job market, and it's more important than ever to reskill/upskill workers to keep them on board.

Forty percent of workers will require up to six months of skilling or reskilling by 2025, and a full 87 percent of executives said their organizations either are currently experiencing skill gaps or expect them to emerge within a few years. However, despite this acknowledgement, nearly four in 10 businesses don't have a plan in place to address the problem. Proceeding with an under-skilled workforce is reason enough to close this gap, but continued de-prioritization of skilling carries severe retention-related risks as well. For instance, one study found that companies where workers weren’t engaged in learning were twice as likely to lose employees before they reached their third year of tenure. A LinkedIn Learning study also revealed that 94 percent of employees would stay with their employers longer if they invested in their workers’ career development. 

The good news is that once employers are ready to invest in learning and development, they'll find a majority of their workers ready to meet the challenge — in some cases, they may already have. Another PwC study found that 77 percent of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. Interestingly, 74 percent see training as a matter of personal responsibility. That could explain why 40 percent of workers worked to improve their digital skills during the pandemic.

These statistics show a profound disconnect between what workers want, what the changing economy increasingly demands and what leadership seems to think their workers and organizations need. But the business case for skilling couldn’t be more clear — and the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Companies that make skilling a priority in 2022 will be much more likely to keep and retain talent, while those that don't will struggle with more than just human capital. They’ll also have a harder time innovating and adapting to our ever-changing business landscape.

employee well-being is still top of mind

The burnout and mental health challenges of living in a pandemic and fielding constant disruption aren't going away. Employers need to make employee well-being a top priority — to support their current workers and attract top talent down the line.

Just a quick look at the numbers is all it takes to understand the magnitude of this new imperative: Seventy-eight percent of workers surveyed by Oracle said that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health and 85 percent said that newfound work-related stress was spilling over into their home lives. Unfortunately, 76 percent also said that companies should be doing more to protect workers’ mental health than what they were currently doing.

Yet again, we see a disconnect between employers and employees on this issue. This time, the discrepancy is about the quality of mental health support employers think they're delivering and what frontline workers feel they're receiving. According to McKinsey’s recent national employer survey, 71 percent of employers with frontline staff reported supporting mental health well or very well, compared with 27 percent of frontline employees who agreed.

So what can employers do to close this gap and provide workers with the support they need? Consider focusing on these key areas first:

  • monitor workloads to distribute tasks as evenly as possible
  • encourage leaders to share their own mental-health hygiene routines with their teams
  • introduce bookends to the workday, refining the lines between work life and home life
  • detect emerging issues through feedback loops, embedding wellness into annual reviews and collecting data around wellness targets

Employers who begin implementing these practices will be rewarded with not only healthier workforces, but more loyal and productive employees, as well. Supporting employee mental health and well-being is an integral part of the larger employee experience. Workers who feel heard and understood by their employers are more engaged in their work, resulting in better performance and less turnover in the end.

the way forward

2022 is expected to be filled with just as much uncertainty as 2021, but offering competitive compensation while remaining flexible and open to adjusting to changing workforce trends will be keys to success in the new year. By connecting workers to meaningful work at above-market rates and providing flexibility, skilling opportunities and mental-health support, employers will find themselves in a much better position to attract and retain talent throughout it all.

Of course, if the task of trying to tackle it all on your own is too great given the many other challenges facing your business today, know that Randstad is here to help. Between our vast network of qualified talent, local presence in hundreds of U.S. markets and consultative approach to staffing and workforce solutions, we can help your business attract and retain the talent it needs to thrive in the face of uncertainty.

browse chapter: