As businesses start into 2022, great uncertainty is hanging over the heads of many executives. Execs are faced with two different realities: a pre-vaccine world of remote work and a post vaccine world of figuring out how to safely engage with employees, job candidates, and customers. To help business leaders better prepare, here are some thoughts about reimagining what this new world of work will look like in 2022 and beyond:
- Don’t let location limit hiring efforts
- As remote work becomes more widely accepted, landing a job won’t and shouldn’t be dependent on where talent lives. As remote work becomes more mainstream, we will see a democratization of opportunity and spread of skills across the country. Workers who may not have had the means or desire to leave their current job areas will have access to new jobs, and companies will have access to different skills and talent.
- Plan for a permanent framework of virtual recruiting and hiring
- As the talent pool grows, expansion of recruiting and hiring practices must also occur. According to LinkedIn’s latest report, 81% of talent professionals agree virtual recruiting will continue post-COVID and 70% say it will become the new standard.So, as we transition to the new standard of a hybrid workforce, so will a hybrid hiring process that combines virtual and in-person elements.
- Consider a variety of ways to collaborate
- Think about how your business can build community through software. While video calls are nice to connect with team members, they can cause fatigue…they miss an organic sense of connection and community and it’s beginning to take its toll. In 2022 we will see more internal investment from companies trying to figure out a good way to continue building community in the virtual workplace.
- Businesses will also need to continue to consider if and how they bring employees back into the office once safe. The most important challenge for every business culture in 2022 and beyond will be adopting workplace designs and innovations that bridge the gap between in-office and remote employee experiences.
- Prioritize employee well-being and learning
- Regardless of where people are working from, employee well-being will remain critical in 2022. I think that smart business leaders will continue to dismantle programs and processes that don’t add value. They will re-imagine the basics of work life: physical offices, standard operating hours, how meetings happen and why, and the ways technology is used. Employee well-being will be at the heart of their decisions.
- Review your hiring procedures and forms to reinforce employee return-to-work safety. Think about revamping your job application form to include something like this…”This position requires that you be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless you need a reasonable accommodation for religion or a a health-related need.” Then, after you make a job offer, you ask for verification of vaccination or begin the process of working out a reasonable accommodation for someone with a medical or religious exemption. The courts have consistently upheld a business’s right to mandate vaccines for employees as long as you have the proper exceptions for religion and medical issues. Be consistent with reinforcing your prioritization of employee well-being.
- Contributing also to an employee’s well-being is their personal growth and opportunities to continue to learn. Learning is similar to other benefits like paid time off or a gym stipend. A continuous learning program will be a perk that smart companies will use to retain talent. It’s a win-win situation: companies get more skilled, motivated employees, and employees can cultivate skills that will help with long-term career growth.
- Focus on virtual go-to-market strategies
- Prior to the pandemic, companies were just beginning to test the virtual business world, but the pandemic accelerated these tests. I think virtual selling is now the standard and face-to-face sales meetings are the ‘maybe’ moments. The “digital front door” is here to stay. Virtual selling will lead sales with much more scrutiny on the why, how, and ROI of face-to-face meetings. Industry conferences as well as services like business mentoring will be online-offline hybrids in 2022 and for years after, serving people who don’t want to travel away from home as well as those who wish to attend in person.
- Final thoughts on “returning to normal” in 2022
- Of course, even the idea of returning to “normal” needs some adjustment. Businesses (especially local businesses) have had to adapt and transform so much in the past year and a half that things shouldn’t simply return to how they were before. Under the emerging normal, changes brought on by social distancing and cautious isolating will continue being driven by consumer preference. The companies that can keep the benefits of their COVID-era efforts by investing now in the tools customers want will see major benefits.
- Here’s some suggestions on how local businesses can thrive in the recovery economy: Return to in-person when it matters, but keep the remote options any time you can. Providing a personal touch is one of the biggest pandemic-related challenges for companies. Lots of businesses differentiate from competitors based on their customer experience, and those that could not adapt as COVID set in generally had to close their doors. Now, as the world begins to recover, it’s very tempting for leaders to pull their organizations back to where they were in March 2020. But that would be a mistake.
- Trying to replace in-person services for health and safety concerns introduced a lot of businesses to benefits like online chat, virtual queueing and touch-less payment tools. Companies that offer home services, for example, have been able to shift a lot of troubleshooting to video chat, enabling people to fix small problems without needing to invite a person into their home. Virtual waiting rooms are also important for companies that bring customers in, like healthcare providers or takeout restaurants. Whether patients or customers, people could wait in their cars, remaining socially distanced, and enter when the doctor was ready or their pizza was done.
- Now that businesses are beginning to reopen as normal, many people still want these benefits. People may be ready to be around other people again, but most don’t count that as waiting for a technician to come to your house when it’s a problem someone could talk you through on a video chat. Or sitting in a waiting room when you could be relaxing in your car, listening to your music. When the story of the COVID era is written for business books, it will be a tale of drastic, accelerated digital transformation. Businesses simply had to catch up with technology or they stopped operating– there was no middle ground. Although many businesses were challenged by these circumstances, the changes they made in one year might have taken ten years without the external push. Continuing digital transformation will be the next challenge, and it is absolutely vital for businesses to keep their foot on the accelerator.
- Efforts at transformation were undertaken across the entire range of companies, as everyone had to learn new ways of doing business. Every company should consider how it can best seize this moment and follow along. Now is the time to invest.
- The health and safety challenges of the pandemic may have forced companies to adopt remote interaction methods, but smart organizations will continue to embrace these tools because they are the backbone of an improved customer experience. Businesses should continue investing in seamless customer experiences through digital tools by keeping as many online, interactive and touch-less options available as they can, while continuing down the path of digital transformation.
For more thoughts on human resource management, view the free video entitled Human Resource Management.
Copyright ©John Trenary 2021