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ATD Blog

3 Trends That Will Humanize Work in 2022

Monday, January 24, 2022

There’s a tectonic shift taking place in today’s workforce. Facing burnout, safety concerns, and a general feeling that it’s time to rethink what really matters, workers across industries are taking bold steps toward career change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 2.9 percent of the workforce left their jobs in August 2021, and just one month later, an additional 4.4 million Americans quit. The Great Resignation needs no introduction.

The business implications will be felt throughout 2022: new data from Fortune and Deloitte shows that 73 percent of CEOs agree that “a labor/skills shortage is the most likely external issue to disrupt their business in the next 12 months.” In response, employers need to adjust their strategies to provide the kind of healthy, sustainable, and integrated work-life experience that workers want, while establishing and maintaining the structures, processes, and policies necessary to sustain growth.

For executives, managers, and HR professionals looking to create work environments that attract and retain top talent, here are three trends to shape your 2022 strategies to put people front and center.

Reskill to Close the Talent Gap

Clearly, the talent gap is widening—and that pattern will continue. McKinsey estimates that up to 107 million workers may need to change jobs by 2030. That’s roughly 12 million more than the pre-pandemic estimate. But qualified hires are hard to come by—and the resources required to locate and secure top candidates are increasingly costly. Organizations need to rethink their hiring strategies to meet changing demands.

One powerful strategy is reskilling. Reskilling is training current employees on a new set of skills to take on an entirely different role. For example, a bank may reskill a customer service representative to become a software engineer. Not only does this approach preserve and invest in in-house talent, it’s cost-effective. One study found that companies could save $136k per person by reskilling existing tech talent as opposed to undertaking layoffs and new hires.

Reskilling isn’t only an internal strategy. More and more businesses are using reskilling to build and broaden candidate pipelines of junior talent. This strategy not only helps businesses fill roles, but also allows them to tap into a more diverse pool of high-potential talent.

What about the common fear of investing in employees only to have them leave? Reskilling seems to encourage the opposite, actually boosting engagement and loyalty. It shows employees that their employer is invested in them. On average, companies who have reskilled with companies such as General Assembly have seen retention rates at 91 percent.


Make Digital Transformation More Human

Digital transformation can make workers feel uneasy. When they hear about new technology automating tasks that were once theirs, that can come across as a threat to their employability. In fact, employee resistance is one of the reasons over 70 percent of digital transformations don’t reach their goals. Companies need to focus less on what systems, tools, and tech to buy, and more on how to enable and encourage the people who will use them.

This attitude must come from leadership. “Investing in training programs puts your employees at the heart of your transformation,” says Nathalie Doré, a transformation leader at BNP Paribas Cardif. Over the past three years, she’s partnered with General Assembly to continuously upskill members of the company’s 8,000-person workforce. The program has changed not only what people do but how they think. “We saw an impact on the mindset of employees. The idea that someone studied marketing but can be a UX designer tomorrow ... I think knowing they can learn new skills without having to leave their job encourages people to think differently about what they can do in the company and what their career path could be.”

In the end, effective transformation isn’t about simply handing work off to machines. It’s about integrating technology more seamlessly into daily workflows to elevate the entire work experience—and that message must be made abundantly clear.


Foster Cultures of Meaning

Before the practical concerns of adjusting to work during a pandemic took center stage, there was talk about finding purpose at work, especially among millennials. The research showed that employees didn’t just want a paycheck; they wanted to make a meaningful contribution. Then the pandemic hit, and we all got knocked down a few pegs on Mazlow’s hierarchy. Suddenly, it was all about hanging on to your job and keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Regrettably, “meaning” took a back seat.

As we’ve settled into the new normal, the hunger for a work experience that aligns more closely with one’s personal values and professional ambitions is re-emerging. In terms of the Great Resignation, research from Gallup suggests that it’s not a desire for more pay or better benefits that are driving people to quit; it’s disengagement. People simply aren’t connecting to their work. Organizational psychologist Fredrick Herzberg’s two-factory theory (also known as Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory and dual-factor theory) states that what makes people happy at work is what they do, but what makes people unhappy is the situation in which they do it.

This wisdom is more relevant than ever today. To boost morale, retain talent, and meet hiring needs in 2022, companies will need to double down on designing and nourishing cultures that not only support career-pathing and professional goals but also accommodate personal priorities, ranging from flexibility around childcare to concerns around diversity and inclusion. Increasingly, workplace cultures need to support workers for who they are—real people with real emotional needs, psychological struggles, family responsibilities, and social concerns. In other words, whole humans, not just employees.

That sentiment is the driving force behind all of these workforce trends. Companies need to take a more holistic, human-centric view of their workforce. In a recent interview with Yale Insights, former Google HR Chief Lazlo Bock may have summed it up best: “While there’s been a lot of discussion about ‘essential workers,’ many organizations have historically taken an ‘essential jobs’ approach. They see the jobs as essential, but the people in those jobs as expendable. That’s starting to change, in part because, in 2021, employees finally said, ‘I’ve had enough.’”

If you’d like to discuss how General Assembly can help you upskill your teams for a more people-centric future of work, get in touch.

About the Author

Brian Nelson is a senior account director with General Assembly’s Enterprise team. He has spent over five years partnering with individuals and employers on identifying reskilling needs to properly drive digital transformation and help bridge the digital skills gap.

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