Written by Marc Bolick
Human resources leaders face unique, daunting challenges in 2022. Accelerated by public health necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging demands of an exhausted-yet-vocal workforce, big changes in the world of work are no longer looming—they are here.
Data, predictions, and recommendations surrounding HR trends and challenges abound. Research and advisory firms Gartner, McLean & Company, and Deloitte have conducted their separate yearly analyses. Prominent HR-focused providers and professional organizations like ADP and Society for Human Resource Management have shared viewpoints of industry experts. Publications like Forbes and Harvard Business Review have featured articles and columns written by well-informed journalists and thought leaders.
A deep dive into these sources illuminates key struggles happening within most industries in the US, if not globally:
- Unusually high rates of employee turnover, driven in part by “The Great Resignation,” is intensifying competition for talent.
- Profound change within the world of work is rapidly altering which skills and competencies are necessary and desirable.
- The popularity and practicality of remote and hybrid work is compelling organizations to rethink where and how the work gets done.
- Amid widespread public conversations and discord about race, fairness, and justice, employers are being pressured to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
- The physical and mental toll that the pandemic is taking on individuals and teams is deepening any existing cracks within organizational cultures.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by these challenges, but they carry with them the potential to spur positive transformation that may improve organizational value and performance over the long term. Embrace and explore them with transparent determination, and you not only will address the immediate pain points of your organization, but also may find a well of untapped growth potential for the future.
Luckily, the aforementioned HR sources have outlined priorities, strategies, and possible solutions to help HR teams address these pressing issues in 2022. We share some of them in this 3-part blog post series—Part 1 aims a steady eye toward the future, Part 2 toward the evolving mechanics of work, and Part 3 toward the spirit and equity of organizational cultures.
Throughout all of our research, we noticed a common thread essential to the success of these efforts: a human-centered approach to problem solving that puts people—your vital customers, team members, and other stakeholders—at the forefront of your organization’s collective efforts.
As design thinkers, we’re familiar with the power of championing empathy for and understanding of others besides ourselves—indeed, this perspective is the heart and soul of our approach. It’s a simple mindset shift that, when paired with methodical exploration, sets the stage for innovative insight to materialize. Genuine, authentic empathy can be the foundation that places each of your HR priorities on a path for innovative, unstoppable success.
Developing Skills and Competencies for the Future Is Priority One
Identifying and building skills and aptitudes for the future is the number one priority for nearly 60% of HR leaders, according to Gartner. There’s heavy pressure to ensure access to skills, talent, and proficiencies when and where they are needed, within the employee base as well as management teams.
SITUATIONAL CHALLENGES ORGANIZATIONS ARE FACING
Consider these statistics, cited from our research:
- 40% of HR leaders say they can’t build talent strategies fast enough to meet evolving needs.
- 64% of managers don’t think their employees’ skills will be able to keep pace with demand.
- Nearly one in three skills needed for jobs in 2018 will no longer be needed in 2022.
- 70% of employees say they haven’t even mastered the skills they need for their jobs today.
- Only 13% of organizations report proficiency in design thinking, a forward-looking approach that has strong correlations to ability to innovate and adapt.
How can you predict what skills and competencies will be necessary for success in the months and years to come? What if you invest in the wrong areas? How do you prepare team skill sets for something as unpredictable and fast moving as “the future”?
ACTIONS ORGANIZATIONS ARE TAKING
Prevailing advice from experts suggests that organizations may choose from many tactics:
- Conduct a skills gap analysis to identify and define critical skills.
- Prioritize soft skills for greater creativity, responsiveness, and resilience.
- Develop existing, adjacent, and new skills of current employees, particularly those specializing in expiring skillsets.
- Cross train current employees to enable temporary or permanent assignments to new roles or teams.
- Adopt a talent acquisition or outsourcing strategy to hire skills as needed for short term or sporadic demands.
- Redesign structure, workflows, roles, or networks so existing employees can more effectively perform work requiring needed skills.
- Purchase or develop technology (AI) for repetitive, mindless, or tedious work.
HOW ORGANIZATIONS CAN USE THE POWER OF DESIGN
These are only a handful of possible tactics—how do you know what’s right for your organization? Design thinking can help. According to one of our clients who is a chief human resources officer (CHRO) for a major US company, the approach “puts the human back into human resources.”
Start with a humble approach. Seek new insights (things you currently don’t know) about experiences of the humans—associates, managers, etc.—and the skillsets needed throughout their critical journeys. Key to this way of thinking is to NOT jump directly to problem solving. First, gather objective, qualitative data about your stakeholders’ lived human experiences—only then should you identify the right problems to solve (i.e., the challenges that have the highest impact on employee experience) and go about solving them through a test-and-learn iterative process.
Design thinking, referred to by many as human-centered design, is a structured methodology that puts the people you are designing for at the center of the process. We help our clients’ HR teams zoom out for a 30,000 foot view of their function’s ecosystem, then dive deep to construct a rich picture of employee experiences at all levels, including individual contributors as well as management. Following the design thinking process helps HR teams to purposefully design critical employee journeys and create a “service blueprint” that shows how different parts of the organization (typically HR, IT, management, and external vendors) orchestrate their actions to create the desired employee experience.
In late 2021, DTG designed and facilitated a strategy development process for the talent team of a global pharmaceutical company. A set of workshops and coaching sessions guided the talent leadership to co-create a 12-month strategy transforming the quality, cost, and manner of delivering the services needed to support the company’s overall strategic direction. In a mere six weeks, they were able to create a well founded, actionable strategy—based on objectives and key results—while gaining critical alignment among leadership about the strategy and process of developing future team strategies.
How to Get Started
Curious about using this methodology to equip YOUR team to excel in 2022 and beyond? Dig deeper into the benefits and processes of design thinking:
- Read more about how design thinking might aid your HR leadership team’s efforts to predict and address future needs. A good place to start is Human Resource Design: Steering Human-centered Innovation within Organisations, a new book by senior service designer Martina Rossi.
- Sign up for a course that provides a thorough, interactive, actionable learning experience. DTG’s expert facilitators frequently offer live-online instruction—view our current offerings.
- Schedule a consultation to discuss challenges and opportunities unique to your team, organization, and industry. Email email@example.com.
Deloitte, 2021 Global Human Capital Trends
Harvard Business Review, 11 Trends that Will Shape Work in 2022 and Beyond
McLean & Company, 2022 HR Trends Report
Society for Human Resource Management, HR Tech Takes Center Stage in Addressing Work Challenges