Before we dive into HR trends for 2022...

This is going to seem a little counterintuitive, but bear with me. 

Y’all know, it’s been another wild year. And while some of you reading this are (thankfully) feeling supported and ready to take on 2022, others may be completely and totally exhausted. Burnt out. In desperate need of a break.

So before we launch into next year’s HR trends, I want to invite anyone reading this who hasn’t paused, processed, rested, and closed the books on all the incredible labor you’ve done in 2021 to bookmark this post for later. Trends, strategies, and plans will all be here waiting for you when you’re ready.

Thank you for all you do.

It’s been another year for the books.

And the roller coaster doesn't seem to be slowing as we enter 2022.

As the ups and downs of this pandemic continue, people are quitting their jobs in droves to find workplaces that fit their needs, wants, and values. And this movement, dubbed “the Great Resignation”, only seems to be picking up speed as we head into the new year.

This is actually a major opportunity for organizations that can adapt and become truly people-first. But adaptation and transformation require work—much of which has fallen squarely on the shoulders of HR leaders and practitioners.

You may be navigating shifting employee expectations and demands amidst push back from leadership. Or, the current piping-hot, candidate-driven job market. Or, our new hybrid work world. (To name a few.) 

So how do you balance your employees’ wants and needs with organizational goals in a world that has changed dramatically, practically overnight? Effective management, employee retention, and talent acquisition are more important in today’s workplace than ever. In this post, we explore five essential HR trends in 2022, and strategies to help you become a most loved employer in the new year.

2022 HR trends and strategies:

  • Employee retention
  • Talent acquisition
  • Employee belonging
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Boundaries at work

#1 Employee retention: Most loved employers will invest in the people who make their company great. 

No surprises here: employee retention will be a tippy top HR priority in 2022. But while a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits package are critical, they’re no longer enough to keep your top talent.

“One of the top reasons people leave organizations is because they’re not growing, they don’t feel seen, and they don’t feel valued,” — Jeff Smith, VP of Strategic Initiatives at 15Five

The thing is, people want to do meaningful work. They want to feel like they’re making progress on that work. And they want to be seen and recognized for that progress. Purpose, growth, and connection are essential for employee retention. 

New research (full report coming soon!) from Blueboard shows that 77% of employees want to work at an organization where they feel connected to the purpose and the people. And almost 60% would consider quitting if they didn’t feel connected at work. The numbers are even more stark when you look at younger generations of workers.

Here are a few strategies to keep your people connected and satisfied at work:

Employee retention strategies in 2022:

  • Show employees how their work connects to broader organizational goals and their long-term career objectives. A large part of effective management is transparency. Push for transparency at the leadership level and support your employees through intentional goal-setting processes to set them up for success.
  • Keep your company mission, vision, and values top-of-mind. This can be tricky in a hybrid workplace. That’s why many companies are introducing values awards to bring their core values to life and celebrate employees who live them—no matter where they are.
  • Invest in your people to help them grow their professional (and personal) skills. Empower your People managers to work with their direct reports to identify what’s important to them, where they want to grow, and provide pathways to help them get there.
  • Be generous with employee appreciation and introduce meaningful employee recognition programs. Companies that use recognition to facilitate employee connectedness are 10x more likely to report that they’re successfully addressing challenges with employee connection at work compared to those that don’t, according to our new research. Schedule time with our team to talk about how recognition can support your retention goals.

Is employee retention a 2022 priority for you? Get even more tips and strategies in our ebook: "Retaining top talent is your top priority".

#2 Talent acquisition: Most loved employers will show prospective employees why their company rocks.

Remote work has opened up so many opportunities for workers and it’s made it that much more challenging for companies to attract top people. Today, we are truly in a global job market, and the competition to attract top talent is fierce. 

Some companies have upped their compensation packages in response. But at a certain point, there’s only so much you can offer in the way of money or perks. The good news is, workers are looking for more than just a competitive salary. Here are a few other levers you can pull to stand out from the recruiting crowd:

Talent acquisition strategies in 2022:

  • Be loud and proud about what makes your company culture different. And no, we’re not talking about ping pong tables. Lean into your company's purpose and values. Showcase the work you’re doing and how it’s impacting the world around you. Tell stories about how you show up for your current employees. If your recruiting team doesn’t have bandwidth for brand-building, tap your marketing team for support.
  • Boost employee referrals.  Referral candidates get hired faster, cost less to acquire, and generally stay with your company longer. Consider launching a referral incentive program to motivate current employees to share your open positions with their talented networks.
  • Optimize your hiring process. A recent survey found that over two-thirds (67%) of job seekers have had at least one negative experience in the hiring process in the past 12 months. And more than half (58%) had declined a job offer due to poor experience. Ask: How can we increase communication and transparency during our hiring process to give candidates the best possible experience?
  • Optimize your onboarding process. Onboarding is one of the most important moments where HR can positively impact the employee experience. Is your onboarding process structured? Is it overwhelming? Does it make new employees feel welcome and connected—even in a hybrid world? Are you getting feedback so you can continue to improve it? Consider putting energy into auditing and improving employee onboarding in 2022.

#3 Employee belonging: Most loved employers will get intentional about creating connection.

It’s true—connecting at work might’ve been a lot easier in The Before Times. You could strike up a casual conversation with your teammates in the elevator or over lunch. You could make someone feel seen with a friendly smile and a “good morning”. Your company values were painted on the walls in big, bold letters for all to see. 

Now, feeling connected at work takes a little more, well, work. “Today’s workforce wants to be connected to their company’s purpose and values, and to the people they work with. And now more than ever, there’s this gap where if that’s not intentionally acted on, it’s not going to happen,” said Dustin Goeglein, Senior People Insights Consultant at 15Five on a recent webinar.

Watch the full webinar discussion on belonging and connection with experts from Blueboard, 15Five, and PuzzleHR:

So how do we help our people connect in a distributed work world?

Employee connection strategies in 2022:

According to our research, HR leaders are focused on a few key methods for creating employee connection in 2022:

  1. Hybrid in-person and online events. You’ll need to continue to prioritize dedicated spaces, whether virtual or in-person, where employees can talk and get to know each other. This is a process. Some events will work better than others—the key is to find the right mixture of what works for your employees and company culture. Hint: Talk to your people and find out what they need.
  2. Formal employee appreciation and recognition. Employee recognition is one of the simplest and most effective ways to facilitate employee connection. More than anything, your employees want to feel like they matter and that their work is impactful. They also want to build authentic relationships with their teammates and managers. The right employee recognition program can check all of these boxes.
  3. Technology that facilitates better remote communication and collaboration. The past two years have seen massive growth in technologies to help us stay connected. Whether you’re looking for the right video call platform, the best messaging app, or platforms to facilitate manager-employee relationships or company-wide goal planning—the right HR tech stack is a crucial part of fostering employee connection and belonging.
  4. Manager and leadership training. You’ve heard this fact: People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Now, more than ever, it’s essential that you support your People leaders with training and resources to help them connect with and support their people. When you invest in your managers, the ripple effect is huge.
  5. Expanded employee learning and development opportunities. At Blueboard, we define employee connection as: an affinity to the mission, values and leadership vision for the organization; a positive rapport and authentic, trusted relationships with co-workers and managers; and alignment with one’s professional and personal aspirations. By giving your people opportunities to develop their individual professional skills, you are showing them that you are invested in their individual aspirations. And this can set your organization apart in a big way.

#4 Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Most loved employers will follow through on their commitments.

This year has been tough on all of us, but it’s been particularly hard for already marginalized people. In 2021, women lost their jobs at a much higher rate than men. And employment recovery rates for Black and Latinx workers have been far slower than for white workers.

These facts highlight an urgent need for employers to follow through on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitments. Legacy tactics such as bias training, diversity recruiting, and employee resource groups are still valuable, but they clearly aren’t doing enough.

Your leadership team has to move beyond one-off training sessions and think about how to bring more equity and inclusivity into every facet of your organization. Here are a few different ways to ensure your staff members feel safe and supported at work:

DEI strategies in 2022:

  • Make DEI a part of your overall business strategy. Inclusion isn’t just about hiring or retention—it should be a part of everything you do, from your product offerings and pricing to your digital and physical workspaces.
  • Listen, hear, and act. First, think about how you can create safe spaces for your employees to talk about DEI challenges. From there, make sure you’re actually taking in their feedback and acting on it.
  • Empower your HR team for this work. As you well know, working in HR doesn’t automatically make you a DEI expert. But HR is often expected to lead these initiatives, regardless of you or your team’s experience level. If your leaders claim to prioritize DEI, ask them to invest in resources and training to enable your team to consult on these issues in a meaningful way.
  • Hold leadership and the organization accountable. Show your employees that you’re committed to this work by setting clear, measurable goals that extend beyond diversity representation. And ask leadership to communicate progress on these goals to the entire company, regularly.

#5 Boundaries at work: Most loved leaders will model healthy behaviors.

With so many of us working from home, the boundaries between work-life and life-life have gotten extra blurry. From coworkers Slack-ing you at all hours of the day to kids or pets interrupting your Zoom calls, hybrid work can make you feel like you need to be available to everyone at all times. And that’s a recipe for burnout.

For HR leaders, it can be especially difficult to set boundaries. As Mia E. put it in the chat of a recent panel discussion on boundaries at work:

“[Setting boundaries] is tricky for folks in HR. We have a really hard time prioritizing our time over human needs and emergencies.”

It's hard to put on your own oxygen mask first. But it's so very important that HR leaders (and organizational leaders) model healthy boundaries—so that your entire workforce can do the same. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean shutting people out or giving ultimatums. It’s about creating the necessary conditions to do your best work, while protecting your time, space, and energy. And encouraging others to do the same. Here are a few ways to set healthy boundaries at work:

How to set boundaries at work in 2022:

  • Set clear expectations. Hybrid work can mean some teammates think you’re more available than you are. To avoid falling into the “always-on” trap, set clear expectations around your availability, response times, and work capacity with your coworkers.
  • Get comfortable saying ‘no’. ​​We’d all love to have the boundary conversation once, but it might take some time for people to understand what you will and won’t do. If setting boundaries is tough for you, you can start small. For example, instead of immediately responding to an after-hours message, let the person know that you’ll get to it when you’re back online. 
  • Take time off to recharge. Block out time in your schedule that’s just for you so you can recharge. Take a lunch break and use your vacation days, even if you’re not going anywhere. Also, make these rest periods non-negotiable. Don’t answer emails or check-in, and stay out of your home workspace.
  • Silence your notifications. If you're spending an inordinate amount of time responding to messages, or replying to emails outside of work hours, consider silencing your notifications. This can help you uphold your boundaries and protect your time. Just be sure to let people know when and how they can reach you when they need to.

Boundaries are contagious. And a workplace that encourages and supports healthy boundaries will have a healthier, happier, more sustained workforce.

Prioritize your people: It’s the only way forward

We never really know what the future has in store, and 2021 has certainly proved that. I’m sure we all thought we’d be out of the woods by now, but instead, we’ve faced even more hurdles: The Great Resignation, return-to-work planning, new variants, and more. 

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be proactive. Instead of asking, ‘How can we keep more of our people?’ think about how you can build an organization where your people can truly grow and flourish. Instead of worrying about getting more applicants in your funnel, think about how you can create a better candidate experience.

When you invest in your people, you’ll build a more resilient organization that can handle whatever 2022 throws at it—and then some.


Looking for the best way to reward, recognize and incentivize your top people?

Connect with our team for a personalized demo of our recognition and rewards platform and see our hand-curated experience menus.

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