Workforce Trends Our Workforce Technology Practice is Watching, Beyond the Great Resignation

By Natalie Marinaro, VP, Technology

The pandemic brought tremendous change to the way we recruit, hire and work. In the last year, we have seen one of the largest labor market shifts in history. A record (net) ~6 million people left their jobs. Remote work environments were concretely established with 81% of Americans using videoconferencing technology. We rallied around better benefits and pay (despite little progress). This created dramatic changes in workforce trends and issues.

As we enter 2022, SHIFT’s Workplace Technology Practice has the privilege of hearing from many leaders (our clients) about what’s next in the workplace. And we’re sharing that insight here with a list of workplace trends businesses can expect to see in 2022.

Skills-based learning will continue to boom 

As employees continue to look for opportunities to do more within their role, achieve internal mobility and/or find ways to pursue their passions (since the pandemic ignited pretty strong feelings of “living your best life”), learning a new skill(s) is one way they’re finding happiness in their current roles. And the appetite for e-learning and skills-based learning will only continue in 2022. 

In 2021 alone, we’ve seen brands like Coursera and Udacity go public and prep for IPOs. Masterclass raised $225 million to fund growth and traditional e-learning brands created new product offerings to support the demand for skills-based learning. We’ll continue to see new brands enter and compete in this market and more employers invest in skills-based learning to retain talent and differentiate benefit offerings.

Leaders have to stop forcing people back into a physical office 

One of our clients who coaches some of the most well-known CEOs in business, said it best when we asked her what advice she would give CEOs if they want to keep high performing employees and grow their business in 2022. “Stop going into the office. You’re literally killing employee performance and making it easy for employees to quit.” 

Her argument on this workforce trend is simple: most “A players” are comfortable working remotely. When you set a precedent of going into the office in hopes of luring more people to join you each week (because that’s what you’re comfortable doing) — it creates a frenzied anxiety for employees who now think that they HAVE to show up to do “great work,” get promoted, or stay on your radar. Today’s workers are digital natives, comfortable with doing great work behind a screen. They have a passion to do more than just sit behind a desk all day just. You must recognize that flexibility is key to retention and resist the urge to return to “the good ole days” when we all went into a physical office 5-days a week. If anything, our client advocates that decreasing or eliminating your office space will only help your bottom line.

DEI is still a priority — and now there is emphasis on fair chance hiring 

While we’ve seen some progress and more corporate accountability in DEI efforts, there is still an entire population of workers who are isolated from employment in America. Americans with a conviction history are unemployed at a rate of over 27%. This is higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period. Every year, more than 600,000 Americans transition from prison back into communities, but they are widely shut out by the labor market and face discrimination throughout their job search. 

Fair chance hiring — hiring those with a conviction history — is truly the last frontier of DEI and until all states have ban-the-box laws in place, unfortunately, we don’t have equality in the workplace. But thankfully there are innovative technologies and initiatives to help. Much in the same way employers have adopted new hiring practices to reach more diverse talent, we envision employers adopting more fair chance hiring programs to increase their DEI efforts in 2022.

The Great Resignation will stagnate — and companies will welcome back boomerang employees 

While many employees left their old jobs to chase their dreams, get a promotion or take an exciting pay raise, we will see the mass exodus of employees taper off. We’ll also see some returning to their old jobs because the grass wasn’t necessarily greener or quite simply because employers have “learned their lesson” and are willing to increase pay and benefits to entice old employees back. 

Our clients have dubbed this workforce trend “The Big Boomerang.” Instead of more resignation, they anticipate we’ll see some form of a “Great Return” where old employees are recruited back and encouraged to “jobcraft” a new position that more aligns with their needs and passions. So, if you’ve got an employee that got away in 2021, start making your game plan now on how you can lure them back. But, be prepared to think radically and offer a new role and create a new path for these people.

We must get women back to work — and paid fairly 

Not only do women continue to face legislative setbacks in paid leave. They also face huge barriers when it comes to actually getting back to work post pandemic, which widens already-large pay gaps. 

Recently, Payscale released a report that detailed just how far behind America is when it comes to getting women back to work post pandemic: Women’s labor force participation is at a 33-year low as more women take on caretaker roles at home due to remote schooling. When women do return to the workforce, they may face the unemployment penalty. This penalty refers to the lower wages typically observed when people return to the workforce from unemployment. Because of this, COVID-19 may impact the gender and racial pay gap for years to come.” 

In 2022, we should see employers pay special mind to each of these workforce trends and issues— and we should see these topics heavily discussed and written about in the news. 

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