How did work change in 2021 (and what’s next)?
It’s safe to say that it has been another disruptive year for people leaders. The rapid changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic show no signs of slowing down, and alongside this we’ve seen some significant acceleration in digital adoption and automation, plus societal changes like the Great Resignation/Migration and a greater focus on well-being as well as diversity and inclusion. But now is the time to take a breath, reflect on what’s happened so far, and look forward to your 2022 strategy.
Workforces have been challenged like never before, and this will continue over the next year.
Digital skill shortages
For example, digital transformation was accelerated by two years in the first two months of the COVID-19 global lockdown. Yet, digital skills have not kept pace. Currently, only 12% of India’s total workforce is digitally skilled. This number will have to increase nine-fold by 2025 to keep up with demand. For people leaders, there simply isn’t enough digitally skilled talent out there to hire. Building such talent from within will have to be more of a focus in 2022 and beyond, if we are to match skill supply with demand.
Attrition is rising
Simultaneously, many organizations are feeling the impact of the Great Resignation/Migration. This is affecting technology jobs the most. People are resigning in droves, going to work for other companies or in gig jobs (that are becoming increasingly popular for clerical, non-manual roles). There are many opportunities on offer for digitally-skilled workers and they are leaving roles that don’t fulfill their work/life balance, purpose, and that doesn’t make them feel valued.
The rise of gig work
Speaking of the gig economy, it has grown significantly over the past year with the advent of technology platforms like Swiggy and Ola. Over 200 million people are now part of the gig workforce globally and, if Indian companies were to embrace this new talent pool, it could add up to 1.25% to India’s GDP in the long term. India’s gig economy is predicted to grow at a compounded annual rate of 17% to reach $455 billion USD by 2023.
A time of great change
This produces unique challenges for today’s people leaders. Workforces are becoming more agile, they don’t just consist of permanent, in-office employees but numerous different workstyles in a hybrid set-up. People have more freedom to pick-and-choose the type of work they want, that meets their sense of purpose and matches their lifestyle and family commitments. The employee value proposition, or EVP, needs to fundamentally change based on this. The same applies to HR and learning processes.
Firstly, consider the rise of hybrid working. Two-thirds of employees report higher job satisfaction when working remotely. It can provide greater flexibility and autonomy. For employers, there’s the potential to reduce fixed costs like expensive city centre rents. Indeed, some employers are even considering opening small remote offices in smaller town locations to give employees the opportunity to spend more time with their families without the need for multiple homes or lengthy commutes.
Supporting the whole person at work
This ties closely with another shift occurring in many organizations. Increasingly, employers are going beyond managing the employee experience to supporting their entire life experience. The pandemic gave employers new visibility into the personal lives of their people and how this impacts work.
Understanding employees as holistic individuals, with families, hobbies, and other personal lives, will pay off in higher performance, loyalty and retention. Which is particularly urgent in the wake of the Great Resignation/Migration. Gartner research has found that employers that support employees with their life experiences see an increase of over 20% in the number of employees reporting better mental and physical health. They also realize a 21% increase in the number of high performers compared to those who don’t support their employees as much.
The shift towards more hybrid and remote work necessitates a different approach to communicating and enabling people. Anywhere operations will become more vital in 2022 so employees can be empowered to work from anywhere and services can be delivered no matter a customer or employee’s location. With this implemented, employees can flow through different locations (home, offices, co-work spaces, factories and more) with the same outputs.
Skill data to support changes
With workplaces becoming more distributed and, in many ways, splitting into the basic building blocks of work (projects and tasks), having access to easily understood, relevant data is critical. Skill data offers a good starting point for many of the changes I’ve discussed. Having up-to-date skill data will help people leaders to find the best people for a project, task or role based on their current skills and experience. They can tap into wider talent pools, like contingent workers, alumni, or other people in the organization.
Using skill data ensures that everyone gets a chance to work on the projects that interest them and align with their career goals. Especially if you offer them experiential learning opportunities like stretch assignments and mentoring. In a hybrid workplace, where there’s a chance that those working remotely might be overlooked for opportunities, leveling the playing field with skill data can really help to improve the visibility and accessibility of career and learning opportunities and reduce bias.
It’s time to embrace the new. There have been many changes in 2021 and more on the horizon. But with change comes opportunity and people leaders have an unparalleled chance to make workplaces more productive, supportive, and agile. As with all trends and tips, pick and choose the ones most relevant to your organization. But get started with it now, to set your organization up for success in 2022.