Looking Forward – January 2022

As January begins, the outlook has started to look a little less bleak. We’re hearing of a ‘living with Covid’ plan from Downing Street, Holyrood has begun removing restrictions and a sensation of clarity is forming (unless you’re involved with Chester Football Club). There’s a rising confidence that organisations can plan again.

This year will see employers divided into two camps – those mandating returns to the office, and those formalising their agile working policies. I suspect this will correlate with those who hold long and inescapable leases on large buildings.

Talent issues will continue. We need far more assistance from the Government to avoid the visa system becoming an option only for employers with large in-house legal departments. Smaller organisations and HR teams simply don’t have the capacity to learn the rules, so will only recruit domestically.

Inflation is on the increase around the world, and with it demands for pay increases. Your bike to work scheme doesn’t put food on the table, so employee benefits must be aligned with employee needs. Retention, already a challenge, will become even more so.

Whilst we can replace skills, we can’t replace knowledge. The people who know why a thing works, not just how. Passing on organisational lore has always been hit and miss, but remote working adds even more barriers to knowledge sharing. As always, resolving this issue will probably fall to HR.

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Use our free Calendar to plan your diversity programme in 2022. High impact activities could include asking the CEO to talk about their own experiences, recognising relevant individuals or sharing the results of a survey.

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New Challenges

As I write this, my phone alerts me that a human bird flu case has been confirmed by the NHS (not now, 2022), but I hope that this year will see Covid slowly disappear from the headlines. HR shouldn’t get complacent though. We should look at the pandemic as an opportunity to improve safeguarding protocols for vulnerable employees; flu hasn’t disappeared and like Covid is incredibly dangerous to those with existing health issues.

2022 should see us picking up where we left off with pay gaps. The gender pay gap has increased and encouraging early work on race and disability pay gaps has, in most cases, fizzled out.

Generational inequalities will increasingly become employer’s problems. Home working is much easier when one has space in one’s home to work, and with large proportions of young people shut out of the housing market we may begin to see migrations from traditional centres of business to places where house prices are lower. This influx of talented, hungry young people may be the missing ingredient which revitalises communities long seen as left behind. Whether this is powered by remote working or employers following the talent and investing in up-and-coming locations remains to be seen.

2022 will likely be a good year for HR technology vendors. Employers will finally have the headspace to replace systems which couldn’t keep pace with changes to working practices during the pandemic. Start by identifying all the workarounds and bodges users have to do to make the system work – and then create a ‘shopping list’ of features your ideal system needs.

Taking action

Trans issues will become employer challenges as relevant legislation drifts apart between the UK’s devolved administrations. Following criticism of Stonewall and the advice it gave to Sussex University, it remains crucial that processes and procedures are based on up-to-date independent legal advice. If you believe you have employees that may be impacted by the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, action taken now could avoid legal issues later.

Mental health is set to be a major issue. Many people have been living with social anxiety for almost two years, and even for those who aren’t in an ‘at risk’ group of Covid, returning to ‘normality’ will be hard. Like all change, it will fall to HR to support employees as they adjust to living with Covid, both in and out of the workplace. Recruiting Mental Health First Aiders is a good first step, but introducing support groups to deal with what I suspect will be a very common concern may help employees resolve issues without HR input.

As I said earlier on, it’s looking like we can make plans again. To help you plan your diversity agenda for 2022 we’re delighted to offer you our free interactive diversity calendar. Use this calendar to identify events, themes, and activities, then engage senior people, employee groups and key teams.

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Develop your own calendar – use this one as the basis and consult your people to identify other dates you would like to include. Focus on D&I as there are so many dates now that celebrate a wide range of events, situations and people.

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