For this week’s newsletter, I interviewed Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP. A thought leader on performance, development, and talent strategies, Dr. Mullen is executive director of The Workforce Institute, a think tank with international board members from a variety of industries. In addition, he leads the HCM Strategic Advisory Group at UKG, leading global provider of HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions.
In our conversation, we spoke about several key trends reshaping the world of work in 2022. We also discussed how companies can adapt to these trends, and why this is especially critical right now amidst the Great Resignation.
What key components of the employee experience are workers looking for in 2022, and why is it important that companies adapt quickly to these evolving expectations?
For many companies, the landscape of the employer-employee dynamic has dramatically shifted. The power has swung to the employees, as we have clearly seen from the Great Resignation. Employee experience will play a major role in attracting and retaining talent, as more and more employees are looking for better salaries, benefits, and programs.
The question for companies becomes how to meet these demands. Of course, increased wages are important but so is giving employees autonomy in their work schedules and access to information through mobile technology. Employees also want flexibility and choice in where, when, with who, and how they work. And then there are benefits like competitive PTO plans and family-related leave and care benefits, which will be crucial to attract and engage office and frontline workers alike.
As we move into 2022, business leaders need to take time to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked, respect people’s boundaries and balance of life and work, and reimagine a truly employee-centric future of work.
People have long preferred to work for employers whose mission and values align with their own beliefs, but their expectations around this are increasing. Can you tell us a bit more about this trend?
Employee expectations are certainly increasing in this area. We’ve seen a shift from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to now Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). We’ve also seen that Diversity has now expanded to include equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Employees want their employers to do more and be more in all of these areas. But while many employers made important commitments relating to diversity, equity, and social justice over the past two years, 2022 will bring revitalized employee expectations.
In addition, employees do not want these goals to just be talk. Rather, they want public and measurable accountability from their company’s executives as they take action on some of today’s most meaningful and relevant issues.
Why will managers play a key role in optimizing the post-pandemic workplace experience, and how can businesses support and empower these leaders?
Managers have always been an important part of the corporate structure. But with so many employees leaving during the Great Resignation, companies must focus on retaining true people leaders — because if you retain great people leaders, you have a much better chance of retaining great employees.
To accomplish this, businesses need to focus on training and developing their current leaders, while also working to pave the way for and develop the next generation of leaders. When we support leaders and empower them to improve their skills, they can increase their trust and care for employees.
However, the training that companies provide to their leaders has to be practical and applicable. Just like anything else in life, learning a new skill or concept takes practice. People leaders need to practice what they have learned, and they need coaching to refine those skills. So, supporting people leaders involves much more than just a class. They need more support so they can better support the employees who work for them.
Why is it important to avoid a “one size fits all” approach for the employee experience, and what approach should organizations take to determine what’s best for their unique business and workforce?
The employee experience varies widely from one company to the next, and even within one company. Years ago, employees were looking for a customer-centric experience where they received the same type of experience as the customers. This included everything from the technology they used at work to how they were treated internally.
But as technology has evolved, so have our expectations around our experiences. The next step in this evolution is people-centric experiences where companies treat employees as people, not just as workers. This might mean providing employees with not just pay and health benefits, but also with mental and emotional support and financial wellness tools.
How might a company go about this? Well, for starters they need to listen to their employees and ask for their feedback through surveys. But one point of caution here: when implementing surveys, you must have a communication plan and be willing to actually do something about the employee feedback and results.
Improving the employee experience and caring for employees holistically certainly isn’t easy — it takes an immense amount of time, energy, and resources. But when done right, it can pay off big time in the long run. Once the word is out that a company cares for its employees and their experiences, that becomes the company’s brand and its calling card.
Compliance issues are a significant challenge for many organizations right now. What are some of the regulatory changes that employers should be aware of, and why is it important for companies to stay ahead of the curve?
Compliance has always been (and will always be) important to employers and keeping track of all the regulatory changes is nothing short of a full-time job. Companies today are being tasked with staying on top of issues ranging from minimum wage requirements to vaccination mandates and workers’ rights. And it is not just regulatory changes that companies need to be aware of, but also trends that have taken place over the last couple of years.
For instance, when to bring employees back to the office is not just a global or national decision — it now needs to be addressed at the local level. The question employees are asking is, “Do I really need to come back to the office every day?” Remote work, hybrid work, and returning to the office are all normal trends and wants from employees that could pose compliance concerns, because health mandates are changing on a monthly basis.
Each industry and business is different from the next, but the one piece of advice that I have is to consider all your options for your company and your employees and try to find a win-win situation. Employees will be happier and more productive and you’ll still be increasing your company’s bottom line.
I hope you enjoyed this Q&A with Dr. Mullen – be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn!