Leading through change and ambiguity in 2022: Workplace challenges
After two years of unprecedented social and economic disruption, businesses can be sure of just one thing in 2022: greater uncertainty.
To survive – and even to thrive – against a backdrop of volatility, leaders must steer their organisations through the unknown with confidence and agility, deftly selecting and adapting the strategies that will help them navigate the choppy waters that lie ahead.
At qpeople, we predict that some of the biggest business challenges of the year are likely to be related to effectively recruiting, retaining and managing a more distributed workforce in the short to medium term, while developing and nurturing the skills and expertise needed to underpin longer-term success.
Attracting and retaining the best talent
The war on talent is already underway. Organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies with top talent – and it’s a problem that’s set to persist. While remote working has enabled recruiters to throw their employment nets a little wider, it’s not yet been enough to close the yawning skills gap.
Businesses will need to develop two key talent-building strategies: one that’s focused on establishing an efficient – and most likely, global – talent supply chain for the future and the other to nurture and grow a culture of upskilling and promotion from within the organisation itself.
Building key skills
Developing a robust plan to build critical skills depends on an accurate skills-gap analysis – a process that can’t be skipped (though it often is). It’s never a ‘one-and-done’ exercise, either, as it can be hard to predict which skills are going to be in demand a few years down the line, due to rapid advancements in tech or global events.
Doubling down on key skills may also require a more fundamental rethink of learning and development philosophies. For instance, as less-hierarchical leadership models become commonplace, switching to professional development programmes designed to build competence across a much broader employee cohort, and using more engaging methodologies, will be crucial.
Leaders who overlook the chance to create a more accessible and inclusive workplace are missing a crucial opportunity to rewire their talent infrastructure.
Tackling Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) issues isn’t about gaining corporate brownie points or framing progress in a paragraph of rhetoric on the bottom of an annual report; it’s about championing fairness, as well as building relevance and resilience in a changing world. Doing the right thing can also be the smart thing. In fact, the benefits are abundantly clear: companies with diverse executive teams and inclusive practices also reap greater financial rewards. There’s no good reason to delay action on DE&I.
While many organisations are transitioning away from pandemic-driven remote-first operations, the majority are expecting the trend for hybrid working to continue for the foreseeable future. A recent YouGov survey reported that almost 80 percent of senior decision makers didn’t think people would ever return to their pre-pandemic work patterns.
Overseeing a more distributed team – possibly extending to remote contract and temporary workers – means a fundamental shift in how HR leaders manage human capital, facilitate effective communications and maintain productivity.
No matter how diverse or highly skilled your workforce, unless employees are safe, happy and well, they won’t perform to the best of their ability. Fostering a working environment that is both psychologically and physically healthy is a challenge – but it’s one that must be met to prevent fatigue and burn-out.
With teams having less in-person contact, it’s more important than ever to ensure that company culture is strongly collaborative and that healthy behaviours are modelled from the top.
Drawing triumph out of adversity
No two businesses will experience exactly the same challenges in 2022. Nevertheless, some responses will be more useful than others when it comes to meeting the workplace challenges that will test us all.
It is possible, for example, to continue to build high-performance organisations through adversity if leaders invest in creating a workplace culture that’s designed to elevate operations and inspire excellence with the buy-in of employees who are highly motivated and supported by a visionary leadership team.
Without the touchpoint of a shared workspace, implementing this kind of winning culture is tough – most likely it will require a radical rethink of long-held practices. Building trust and a sense of connection among physically remote teams, at the same time avoiding the creation of unhelpful departmental silos must be a key aim for all leaders looking to drive organisational change for good.
Making the right connections
This fundamental shift in priorities will need to be matched by a much more precise affiliation between L&D, organisational development and performance management. As companies look to build a more resilient workforce and to deepen the bench to better weather future storms, expanding employee skills and core competencies at every level has never been more important.
Embracing innovation is a defining quality of effective leadership; indeed, the willingness to challenge established orthodoxies has always been critical for forward-thinking business leaders. This year it could be even more influential in a shifting landscape, where agility and innovation will be key to survival.