HR Trends and Predictions for 2022

By Doug Dennerline
January 7, 2022
5 minute read

Last year was challenging for HR leaders. There were highs (moving into hybrid and remote environments allowed many to recruit top talent from anywhere) and lows (dealing with restructuring complications, fluctuating wellness benefits, and working through The Great Resignation). Human Resource Professionals have been incredibly busy and are exhausted. In 2022, we have an opportunity to rethink how people will experience work and what it means to be an employee. Questions about remote work, enabling employee performance, and strategically aligning HR to company goals will be top-of-mind for many leaders in 2022. The processes of the past were compliance-driven and are a tax to the employee. HR needs to develop processes the employee sees as a value add and help them achieve and grow.

Here are a few of my team’s and my predictions for this year. 

HR will experience an increased need for data-driven insights and AI

HR is a crucial business function that will determine the health and success of companies as they work to recruit, retain, and foster top talent. These teams have never been busier. Because of this, I predict there will be a greater emphasis placed on analytics, insights, and AI. This will bring data to HR to help them make informed decisions that are not based on recency biases.

HR leaders will come to expect HRIS and performance management systems that are integrated and equipped with the data needed to make performance and development decisions for employees and teams. Data and analytics will make it possible for people teams to understand their work better, have more time to focus on strategic initiatives, and reduce some of the stress of daily tasks. 

But how will this happen? First, we know that a massive quantity of data doesn’t always translate into easier decision-making for HR leaders, and it needs to be valuable and actionable. 

For example, at Betterworks, we sit on a gold mine of data. Our platform helps you understand what employees are working on, their progress toward their objectives and key results (OKRs), their conversations with managers, their development goals, their feedback from peers, and how engaged they are. In 2022, technologists (including ourselves) will continue to integrate and develop new toolsets that will help HR leaders understand performance, engagement, and development needs so they can make informed decisions.

An example would be integrating a traditional HRIS platform with a performance enablement platform. These integrations would aggregate data so the viewer can better understand ALL employee data, including engagement, feedback, performance, tenure, and compensation — giving the viewer a comprehensive status report of employee (and therefore company) wellbeing. And once you add AI, HR leaders will have the opportunity to reimagine how companies interact with their employees.

We believe that AI will help automate and streamline administrative tasks, allowing HR to focus on strategic initiatives and personalize the people experience.

For example, people teams will begin using AI-based solutions to provide real-time feedback regarding the quality of the OKRs an employee creates to better align work with company goals. Recruitment teams will continue to use AI to auto-screen resumes and categorize them based on each position which will help automatically build the talent pipeline to focus more on personal outreach. AI will also aid in upskilling workers by identifying their strengths and weaknesses so managers can recommend tailored learning opportunities. 

Employees will expect holistic support 

Research has shown that the 70+year-old annual performance review process doesn’t work. People don’t want to receive months-old feedback about behavior or projects completed in prior quarters, and managers often feel uncomfortable giving long-winded, static, annual assessments that are filled with recency bias. And each year, more Gen Zs enter the workforce who grew up with online content curated to their specific needs — why wouldn’t they expect the same approach from an employer? Gen Z and millennials want to receive ongoing feedback regularly; they want opportunities to learn and grow and expect holistic support from managers, who need to coach the next generation of the workforce. 

It can’t be done through a traditional performance process. Therefore we predict that there will be a sharp rise in continuous performance enablement — this will overtake traditional performance management processes as employers look to combine their performance with the employee experience. Even the word “management” is offensive in today’s work experience.

Employees now expect regular feedback, communication, and check-ins with managers. They want to understand the company strategy and see how their work impacts company goals. They expect support for mental health and burnout, and they want employers to be aware of the lives and responsibilities we all lead outside of the office.

Adopting a performance enablement strategy can help HR leaders address these needs for employees while ensuring that each employee contributes to company ROI. 

Employees want learning, upskilling, and reskilling opportunities

According to a 2020 Gartner study, “the number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10 percent year-over-year.” Employees are aware of this and seek employers who can foster their career growth through upskilling and reskilling opportunities. To proactively address these skills gaps, L&D teams are collaborating with executive leadership and HR to develop upskilling/reskilling programs that ensure employees have the necessary skills to remain relevant in the workplace. These programs include “hard skills” such as learning data analytics or a cloud collaboration solution, and “soft skills” such as leadership training that focuses on team building, decision quality, and effective collaboration.

Additionally, a 2020 McKinsey survey of executives and L&D leaders found that 60 percent of those surveyed plan to increase L&D spending over the next few years, and 66 percent want to boost the number of employee-training hours.

We predict that HR leaders will collaborate with L&D to integrate learning programs into the performance enablement process. This will ensure that employees receive the holistic support they seek while allowing HR teams to manage this data and learn from it. As you can see, these trends and predictions are all connected! 

Managers are taught to coach

The role of the new manager is evolving. And thanks to “The Great Resignation” and ongoing employment shuffling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing employees quickly promoted to management positions for the first time in hybrid and remote environments. And new managers are being faced with a growing list of responsibilities. Not only are they being tasked with driving performance, setting goals, creating plans, and providing performance feedback, but they’re also expected to know about social issues, and champion work cultures. They should understand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and manage things like microaggressions that occur on a Zoom call. 

To be a successful manager today, you must be a coach for your team and demonstrate leadership to your company.

Therefore, I predict that there will be an increased need to train, support, and onboard new managers to be set up for success in their positions. HR is expected to facilitate culture and coaching, develop training, provide mentorship, and foster inclusivity for new managers and their teams. With The Great Resignation expected to continue into 2022, these increased trainings and additional support opportunities will need to happen quickly.

Flexibility will continue to be prioritized

This last trend will come as a surprise to no one; we predict that flexibility will continue to be prioritized for distributed workforces. Whether your company has adopted a hybrid, remote-first, or in-person work model, HR teams will likely continue to make office adjustments based on the evolving needs of their employees and the health and safety regulations in their area. 

The process of developing a hybrid work model that works for you and your teams is fluid. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and what you design will need to be customized to the needs of your team. For example, your company might choose to save money on real estate and instead rent a few co-working spaces where you have a high concentration of team members. Or you might adopt a remote-first culture (it’s what we did at Betterworks), so you can expand your hiring pool and select top talent from a time zone that makes sense. 

Regardless of what you choose, HR leaders will need to remain flexible, survey employees, and test different strategies to learn what works best for their teams. 

To learn more about our trends and predictions for 2022 and to hear about what other experts in our industry are saying, we encourage you to explore our EmpowerHR: A Betterworks Summit video library