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5 Workforce Trends for 2022

The “Great Resignation,” the “Great Mismatch,” the “Big Quit”—whatever buzzword your organization uses, unprecedented workplace changes show no signs of slowing down.

Over the last two years, businesses, leaders, and employees have adapted to challenges brought on by record-level turnover, job openings, unemployment, and shifts in power dynamics. But with great challenge lies great opportunity—employees and candidates alike will be looking to employers to continue reshaping the workforce.

Let’s explore five workforce trends that will shape 2022.

5 workforce trends to watch in 2022

Trend 1: Learning & development (L&D) moves to the forefront of employee retention tactics

Throughout the pandemic, employees have been asked to expand their roles to meet business needs. Despite fluctuating team sizes and responsibilities, workers have proven their ability to fulfill duties previously assumed to be out of their reach. Now, the workforce is looking to reach their full potential.

Employees expect their employers to provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. During quarantine, 92% of people learned new skills—57% of this skill growth driven by personal fulfillment, and 46% for a current job or upcoming career change.

As industries continue to utilize technology and automation, organizations need skilled workers who are knowledgeable on these new technologies and up-to-date on skills in their fields. And employees believe it’s vital to build new skills and upskill to remain relevant in the workforce—but because these needs are business-driven, employees expect their organizations to provide them with needed training.

Are employers ready to respond to employee needs for continual training and upskilling? Organizations that can train at the pace of industry will stay competitive, but reskilling can be an organization’s biggest opportunity and its biggest challenge.

Trend 2: Accountability to deliver on DEI initiatives

Throughout 2020 and 2021, many organizations and senior executives made public DEI pledges. Now, employees are looking for tangible progress on these pledges.

Seventy-six percent of employees and job seekers report that diversity in the workplace is an important factor when evaluating organizations and job offers, compared to 80% of employees and job seekers who identify as Black or Hispanic, and 79% who identify as LGBTQ.

While full-time U.S. workers agree that their organizations have made progress on DEI initiatives, patterns in responses emerge as we hone in on the people DEI programs intend to help. When asked how much their employer values DEI initiatives, 42% of white employees agreed that their employers place a “high value” on DEI while 40% of employees of color report no noticeable progress on their employers’ DEI efforts since 2020.

Overall, 66% of respondents stated their company’s DEI strategy impacts their feelings about how long they plan to stay in their position.

Trend 3: Responsible AI tools and talent management

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have become essential to recruiting and talent acquisition teams, and the numbers back this up: at least 98.2% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS.

However, ATS and Recruitment Management Systems (RMS) can cause roadblocks for non-traditional, non-White, and non-male applicants. In a study conducted by Harvard Business School, 88% of these U.S. “hidden workers” reported that they believe employers’ hiring practices discarded their applications for positions they’re qualified for based on not fitting the exact criteria outlined in the job descriptions.

Recent measures in New York and California have passed that will require employers to perform an annual bias audit before being permitted the use of automated decision-making tools for screening job candidates and evaluating current employees for promotion. These measures are designed to prevent AI and technology from infringing on civil rights and discrimination acts that are a part of existing employment laws. Both of these measures will take effect on or around January 2, 2023, and other states and localities will likely begin enacting similar legislation.

Trend 4: Prioritizing the employee experience

Year over year, employees and executives continue to rank employee well-being near the top of their list of priorities. Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends study surveyed nearly 4,700 executives and individual contributors on the most important outcomes they hope to achieve in their workplace transformation efforts for the upcoming few years. “Improving worker well-being” ranked number three on individual workers’ lists and at number eight on senior executives’.

These results mirror trends observed by Alex Hripak, Credly’s VP of Technology. Alex predicts that HR technology will continue to advance work-life balance for employees: “Many employees come from a culture where taking time off is taboo, even when a key to retention is good mental health. At scale, work-life balance can easily be lost in the shuffle of daily work.

In 2022, technology will need to do a combination of gathering insight from employees and using AI against existing signals to glean when people should take time off. We’ve already seen advancements in scheduling software like Google Calendar implementing office hours and offering users insight into how their time is utilized. We’ll likely see more features developed over the next year to help workers be more efficient with their workday and expand opportunities for more personal time with the goal of finding that balance between productivity and burn-out.”

Trend 5: Looking inward

Employers are keenly aware of the ever-widening skills gap—when surveyed by Deloitte, 72% of executives ranked their employees’ abilities to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles as the most important or second most important factor to navigating future disruptions.

However, only 17% of these same executives believe their workforce is ready to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles. When surveyed about how they’d build their workforce capability, 41% of executives agreed that upskilling, reskilling, and mobility are the most important actions to take to transform work.

When an organization knows the exact talents of its employees, it can deploy them into operational gaps. HCM professionals can address the widening skills gaps by engaging with employees to see overlooked skills, workforce strengths and weaknesses, and training opportunities for people already familiar with their business to continue to grow within their organization.

The road ahead

The road ahead is still paved with uncertainty, but the trends toward building stronger, healthier workforces and cultures can prepare employers to face the unprecedented.

To see the impact implementing some of these trends had on IBM, read this case study: Learning During Lockdown: An IBM Digital Credential Case Study.