READ the December 2021 issue of our magazine: Work in 2022: What's Next?
2021 was a significant year; it did not have the shock factor that 2020 brought to us as the pandemic first unravelled. Last year, on the other hand, was marked by acceptance, resilience, and fortitude. We learned to live with the changing ecosystem and innovated to push new boundaries.
There is no question the world has changed. We have changed as individuals, so has society, and no doubt organizations have evolved too. Certain industries are under duress while new ones emerge. But as we all cope, if not thrive, in this situation, the one trend which defined the year was the adoption of digital. Digital technologies now are an infrastructural requirement on which solutions are built. The workforce has become more diverse, as we see a blend of multi-generational, multicultural collaboration. With the emergence of gig working, the approach to work and its very definition is changing. In all this, what has helped us stay ahead is an agile mindset and skill set.
While none of the above is a flash in the pan, these trends were in the works, to say the least, over the last few years. The pandemic simply accelerated the adoption to usher in the future of work – redefining the work, worker, workplace, and ways of working.
Goodbye 2021, here’s what you taught us:
It’s almost with a Darwinian spirit that I believe that being agile is what will help us survive. Of course, agile as a skill set is of great help, especially as you move into leadership roles. But an agile mindset is simply a must-have leadership behavior. To me, being agile connects to so many other success tenets – curiosity, multi-tasking, goal-orientation, collaboration, decision making, and of course, speed.
Paul Stoltz, in 1997, coined the term Adversity quotient. Like Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), Social Quotient (SQ), he proposed a measure to score people on their ability to handle adversities. This becomes resilience or your ability to stay focused, be back on your feet, and forge ahead in a much broader context. They defined organizations that better navigated during the pandemic between this and agility.
Hybrid working is here to stay:
While we continue to work remotely, two distinct workplace trends have emerged. Remote working is here to stay, but the benefits of meeting people at a workplace are incredible too. So, 2021 allowed us to opt for the best from both worlds and cast us into a hybrid formula that truly worked for many.
To begin with, the restrictions on travel did not start with a green agenda, but as we went along and analyzed the environmental benefits, managing our carbon footprint did become a defining topic. It created more and better conversations on what more we can do about sustainably.
Well, for one, the pandemic should not be a point of trigger for this. But as the incidents unfolded and things settled in over the year, what remains is a profound sense of gratitude for the people we have in our lives and the time we got with the people who are no longer around. Many of us went through life-altering introspection on what we need from our lives and careers. One thing is for sure, we all took a moment to stop everything to appreciate how we came together as families, friends, and communities.
As we look at what’s ahead for us in 2022…
As much as I want to put in drastic resolutions for this new year, the truth remains that we will be carrying forward a lot of our learnings – building on what we started and strengthening measures that worked. Here are some topics which I believe will be prominent next year:
The investment into medical infrastructure and research is at the forefront of everyone’s agenda. But what is heartening to see is the conversation about holistic wellbeing is taking center stage. This includes physical, mental, financial, and social wellness. This will profoundly impact the way we work next year – like flexibility, gig working, remote working, making time for oneself, skilling, and reskilling all have roots in how we define our wellness.
In continuation to the previous point, we are no longer talking about work-life balance. We are now focused on work purpose and connecting it back to personal purpose. This means more people will be intentional about what they do next year, and more organizations will go back to the basics on values.
Work goes to Talent, instead of workforce moving for work:
As the hybrid working and gig becomes a norm – we will have a more mobile workforce. This will allow us to tap into Talent from remote cities. While this trend will catch momentum, it will impact the socio-political landscape of Talent.
War for Talent will get real:
We coined the phrase ‘war for talent’ to describe the rush of jobs in the post-pandemic economy (post the slow-down triggered by the first two waves), as we observed, an acute demand and supply gap. Employees benefited from this resurgent job market. But as reactive market forces give way to strategy, there will be a higher focus from organizations to invest in ‘best bet’ (people with leadership skills and learning agility, but not all the aspects of the technical skill sets) or ‘stretch fit’ (people who have the foundational skill but will require to be upskilled or trained in certain aspects of the job) candidates rather than acquire the ‘best fit’ (exact skill match) candidates. What does it mean? It means we will see more investment towards growing in-house Talent. Focus on skilling and learning frameworks will benefit the workforce ecosystem positively in the longer run.
To conclude, there continues to be a sense of ambiguity about the pandemic and its impact across the globe. As challenging as it may have been, we have learned to function in the environment. We have adopted new ways of working to adapt to the challenges – thereby ushering the future of work.