The world of work is changing – and so is the employee experience. It’s now becoming clear that the last two years of the pandemic were not just a crisis where everything will go back to “normal” afterwards. Instead, it’s a paradigm shift, and the top HR trends for 2022 are reflective of this reality.
In order to provide an environment where employees thrive (and want to stick around), HR or People teams need to be watching these latest trends. To support these efforts, we reached out to industry experts and asked them this question:
Answers came in from HR and People leaders at an impressive array of companies:
- Tom Jewell – People & Culture Partner / Client Partnerships Lead @ Unleashed, a collective of senior People leaders who support fast-growth startups to grow and scale through People and Culture
- Verónica Aguado – Head of People, European Markets @ SumUp, a mobile payments company headquartered in London
- Jessie Danyi – Head of People @ Pleo, a business expenses solution with smart company cards
- Ann Wagner – Head of People Experience @ sennder, a digital road freight logistics partner headquartered in Berlin
- Jessica Zwaan – Chief Operating Officer @ Whereby, a browser-based video calling platform
- Michael Becher – Chief People Officer @ wefox, a fully digital insurance provider
- Anneliese Britz – Senior Manager People & Change, Strategy Group @ KPMG Germany, a professional services provider and Big Four accounting firm
- Judith Nguyen Thanh – Director of People @ CareerFoundry, flexible learning and upskilling programs to land jobs in tech
- The team @ LifeLabs Learning, provider of lab-based and research-driven training for leaders, managers, and executives
Read on for valuable insights to start your People efforts on the right foot in the new year.
2022 HR trends impacting the employee experience
1. The rise of flexible benefits
This was the most common trend mentioned by experts in the industry, which comes as no surprise after many employees experienced WFH or flexible setups during the pandemic.
According to Tom Jewell (People & Culture Partner / Client Partnerships Lead at Unleashed), the rise of flexibility in benefits will have a massive impact on People Experience in the coming year.
“The ever-changing macro conditions created by the pandemic mean that providing your people with rigid benefits will not allow them to really make the most of what you offer. In contrast, companies who offer flexible and unlimited approaches to time off will retain happier teams; and those who allow their people to choose from a range of wellbeing, financial and leisure benefits will better serve a variety of wants and needs in their culture.”
SumUp’s Verónica Aguado (Head of People, European Markets) spoke about this trend as well, using the term “holistic and inclusive rewards”: “Our way of looking at rewards after COVID needs to change. We need to give flexibility of choice. For example, having fresh fruits and ping pong in the office is no longer relevant for those who work from home, and maybe not fair for the companies who are hybrid. Also consider salaries: some companies are paying HQ salaries in countries with low cost of living and therefore disrupting the market.”
Jessie Danyi, Head of People at Pleo, agrees that flexibility will impact EX in 2022, but says there are caveats.
“In order to keep our employees happiest, we need to listen and understand what they want, and see if we can make it happen. Of course, we can’t make everyone happy by doing whatever everyone wants. That’s not good for everyone. It would be chaos and a lack of clarity brings unhappiness, so it could actually make people unhappier than before. What I think will have the biggest impact is if we build flexibility as a principle in any product, service, or process that People teams and leadership bring.”
2. The 4-day workweek and output-oriented working culture
Judith Nguyen Thanh (Director of People at CareerFoundry) believes there is a shift toward a way of working that focuses more on output versus time. (This ties into the flexibility trend as well.)
“I feel like we’re moving towards a more output-oriented and flexible working culture with things like sabbaticals, 4-day workweek and flex-work becoming the new normal. It’s something that has a direct positive impact on people’s lives.”
An example on workweek duration from Jessie Danyi at Pleo:
“More people are asking for 4-day workweeks and reduced hours so that they can do other things that they love beyond work. At the same time, for full-time positions companies still tend to expect employees to work 5 days. If organizations embrace building with flexibility, they could easily tweak their workflows to make them asynchronous, move company-wide meetings to the middle of the week, and do some other small operational changes – which could then accommodate a 4-day workweek employee. This doesn’t mean that the whole company needs to work 4 days, it means that the company is ready to be flexible to look after their current people and attract new people in this way, considering that this is such a hot topic for employees right now.”
Jessie concludes: “If we – the builders – are able to make sure that people are valued as individuals, then their loyalty (and overall experience) will be high.”
3. A focus on improving workplace experience
According to Michael Becher (Chief People Officer at wefox), we’ll be discussing the topic of workplace experience even more in 2022. “For example, how to engage remote employees or how to emotionally connect people to the company where in-person interactions are lessened. On top of this, inclusive benefits will play an integral part in staying attractive as an employer and becoming the employer of choice for a variety of talents.”
The team at LifeLabs Learning thinks navigating workplace expectations – hybrid work, working hours, safety protocols, etc. – will heavily influence EX in 2022 as well. “As organizations adjust to appeal to the modern workforce and keep that workforce safe and productive, we’ll see the need for skills to manage distributed teams, create inclusive workplaces, lead change, and keep employees happy through quality feedback, coaching, and adaptivity among other things.”
Ann Wagner, Head of People Experience at sennder, puts a different spin on it, arguing that the biggest impact on the employee experience will stem from HR teams “creating joy” in the workplace.
“Throughout the pandemic, many employees are verbalizing more and more feelings of being unhappy in the workplace and a general sense of feeling stuck. Recently the Harvard Business Review wrote about joy in the workplace – i.e. the opposite of unhappiness – and stated, ‘research tells us that joy comes from taking advantage of our strengths, as well as being courageous, authentic, grateful, and connected.’”
According to Ann, the biggest impact HR teams can have in the coming year on employee experience can be summarized as creating joy. Her key points were:
- Provide purpose. Focus on employees strengths and create opportunities and development plans where they can be maximized. With a focus on strengths, employees become more engaged. When they are more engaged there is a greater feeling of purpose. Important to note engagement and experience are not the same thing.
- Provide awareness and platforms for mental health and wellbeing.
- Provide ample scope for development. Empower and teach leaders to be vulnerable and create a constant community of feedback. Giving and soliciting feedback is about learning and growth, and understanding who we are and how we respond to people around us is the foundation in this process.
“What an employee learns, does, sees, and feels all contribute to the employee experience, and the need for HR teams and leaders to be aware of these facets throughout the entire lifecycle of an employee is crucial,” she says.
4. The all-company event
Jessica Zwaan, Chief Operating Officer at Whereby, foresees more focus on all-company events in 2022. “I think the move to remote culture will start putting new strategic pressure on the company offsite, something which has long been a bit passé in Silicon Valley. I think companies will start being more and more creative and considerate when crafting their all-company get-togethers as we exit COVID and enter the new remote reality. The HR team has a big part to play here with L&D opportunities, recruitment marketing, skill-sharing and recognition.”
5. Ownership of Employee Experience outside of HR
Anneliese Britz (Senior Manager People & Change, Strategy Group at KPMG Germany) thinks we’ll see EX being shaped by other stakeholders across the enterprise in 2022. “I would like to see (sooner rather than later) how the Employee Experience topic grows more and more out of the HR space, and truly becomes an enterprise-wide topic. Similarly to how the Customer Experience topic outgrew the Marketing corner. Together with better quantifiability (which is becoming a reality at the moment) – that has true revolutionary potential for organizations.”
How will the EX change in 2022?
All in all, the People leaders we spoke with seem optimistic about how current HR trends will shape the employee experience in the coming year. The overarching topic of flexibility continues to dominate the discussion as companies are coping with the Great Resignation. At the very least, we know the topic of EX is being discussed more than ever before – so this won’t be the last time we’re talking about this important issue.
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