Key Trends Redefining the Workplace
March 22, 2022 – If 2021 was largely defined by uncertainty — a seemingly endless transition, with constantly moving goalposts, and no clear end in sight — 2022 is continuing to require forward-thinking leaders to get intentional about what comes next: remote, hybrid, or onsite? Project-based or product-based funding? Interim CFO or full-time hire? According to a new report from Tatum, these are discrete questions. They require concrete answers. And they may well determine the difference between failure and success in the year ahead. To help you navigate, the executive leadership experts from Tatum sifted through an avalanche of competing forecasts and uncovered six key C-suite priorities for the rest of 2022.
We’ve all heard a lot about the ongoing “Great Resignation,” which many forecasters believe will actually accelerate and intensify as the year presses on. However, Tatum notes that there’s one important wrinkle that has largely been overlooked: namely, the resignation rate peaked last year among mid-career employees — among employees aged 20 to 25, by comparison, the resignation rate actually declined. “So, what really seems to be happening here is talent mobility increasing with tenure,” the report said.
What does that mean for organizations looking to build out strategic capabilities? “For one, the job market is saturated with experienced professionals who are going to be leveraging their existing networks to land their next opportunities,” the Tatum report said. “In other words, the conditions are unusually ripe for you to tap into so-called “boomerang employees” — employees who return to work at a previous employer.” Notably, research shows that these employees tend to be high-value performers (due to their superior institutional knowledge), and that they’re correspondingly more likely to receive promotions than their non-boomerang peers.
Tatum says that’s something to keep in mind because regardless of how the Great Resignation shakes out, many organizations will face talent crises closer to home. According to the results of a recent McKinsey survey, for example, nearly one in four leaders believe their companies are now retaining a larger share of low-performing than high-performing contributors than they were a year ago.
“Probably not a winning formula,” the Tatum report said. “It also suggests a clear and pressing disconnect between executive teams and the managers or HR professionals responsible for driving talent strategy. The best near-term corrective? Tighter alignment and enhanced coordination among C-suite heads, particularly between CHROs and CFOs. Experienced finance leaders, after all, have the power to green light, for example, the kinds of retention-oriented initiatives that might lead to better outcomes.”
Converting Digital Capabilities into Competitive Advantage
Tech-abetted finance processes are poised to reduce the amount of time your teams spend on repetitive, administrative, and non-value-adding tasks by as much as 20 percent over the next 12 months, according to one forecast from Gartner. “Yet effectively leveraging those tools, and parlaying all of that free time into competitive advantage, is often a different matter,” the Tatum report said. “What’s more, it’s an especially daunting challenge at organizations that don’t have, say, mature inhouse learning and development functions.”
One potential workaround: With the gig economy now not only accounting for the majority of employment in the U.S. but expected to grow by as much as 30 percent in 2022, forward-looking leaders should look to augment their existing teams with skilled interim resources. Tatum says that at the end of the day doing so might be the only surefire way to deliver on time-sensitive business priorities.
Mitigating Risks Around Organizational Culture
Remote and hybrid working models have created countless headaches in the realm of workforce management, from productivity monitoring to strategic alignment, motivation to reporting, and nearly everything in between, according to the Tatum report. Yet all of these concerns can also be thought of as subsets of a broader one: Namely, what does the idea of workplace “culture” really mean — and what does it feel like — when you’re 100 percent reliant on screens? The urgency of the question doesn’t seem to hit home for everyone in the executive wing equally. For example, while nearly half of all CFOs in a recent PwC Pulse Survey agreed that organizational culture is the single-biggest challenge associated with hybrid working arrangements, only 36 percent of other C-suite leaders said the same.
“Again, this is an area where greater collaboration across the C-suite will be key to your success,” the Tatum report said. “But above all, leaders will need to be proactive, because organizational culture is anything but a vacuum. If you treat it as such — and fail to mold it in the direction you want — it’s going to be replaced by something you don’t.”
Demonstrating Leadership Around DEI&A
With mental health issues like burnout becoming part of the mainstream conversation as never before, the importance of empathy — as a core quality of leadership trait — is almost impossible to overstate, according to the Tatum report. “Look for compassion to become a meaningful buzzword as well. After all, compassion encompasses both empathy,” it said. “All of this also spills over into adjacent — and increasingly urgent — conversations around equity, diversity, inclusion and access (EDI&A), an area where meaningful gains are long overdue. For example, studies continue to reveal persistent gaps in how organizations are pipelining, developing and nurturing talent: Women, while less likely to receive promotions at the first step up to the manager level than men, are nonetheless more likely to experience burnout. Meanwhile, and still more maddeningly, the same study found that women of color are actually losing ground in terms of representation at every level of the org chart.”
Related: New Workforce Models Bring New Challenges in the Next Normal
As newly appointed C-suite leaders hit the ground running, they should aim to make similarly bold and proactive stances on EDI&A. Ultimately, these issues are going to be front and center for everyone in the year ahead. And faced with more intense pressure around transparency and accountability, organizational leaders must be prepared to respond.
When it comes to remote work, the verdict is in — at least insofar as employees are concerned. In one global survey, for example, 82 percent of employees cited their homes as their “dream workplace.” In another, 70 percent said that working from home on a permanent basis could confer considerable benefits to their mental health and overall well-being. Another found that fully 99 percent of people would be happiest if they could work remotely for the rest of their life, even if that work was exclusively on a part-time basis.
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“Yet flexibility isn’t just the concept du jour for individual contributors right now,” the Tatum report said. “Rather, it applies with equal urgency to those at the top, even if what exactly it entails means different things to different C-suite leaders. Take your more operationally minded executives like CEOs or COOs, for example. In their eyes, flexibility might be a mandate to introduce more agile operating processes and models. For CFOs, on the other hand, it might involve a shift from, say, project-based to product-based funding. Doing so, aligning critical funding to products, as opposed to projects, is often an effective way to ensure that essential capital flows to those areas of the business that are going to generate the highest returns.”
Effectively Competing for High-Value Talent
Mass remote work means candidates from a much broader geographic base can apply for openings, according to the report. At least in theory, that should be a boon for organizations across the board, especially those that are eager to ramp up, grow and build out key capabilities — say, enhancing the digital skills of their finance teams.
Yet in reality, it’s not so simple. Look at the latest time-to-fill data, covering a wide variety of roles and industries, from Burning Glass for proof:
- account executive, 40 days
- construction worker, 41 days
- data scientist, 40 days
- registered nurse, 34 days
- software engineer/developer, 44 days
The onset of mass remote work hasn’t shortened hiring timelines perceptibly. And yet, despite that, companies that don’t tap into this remote talent pool, and instead insist on sourcing talent locally, stand to lose out significantly. In fact, organizations that did so in 2021 were twice as likely to be locked in competition with non-local remote opportunities than they were in the year previous. In 2022, those odds could easily double again.
Meanwhile, with competition for top talent still so feverish, look for the broader trend toward “geo-neutral pay” — or paying top-tier market rates regardless of where an employee lives, a policy rolled out by Reddit, Spotify, and others in 2021 — to be increasingly widely adopted in the months ahead.
“We’re at a key inflection point in the transition from the chaos and uncertainty of 2021 to what should be (hopefully) a more carefully managed and thoughtfully planned 2022,” the Tatum report said. “That said, there can be no denying the scale of the challenges left over in the wake of the past two years, and remotely distributed workforces continue to create hurdles — logistical, technological and otherwise — which many executive teams have still not arrived at consensus to address.”
Related: Future Insights for Engagement, Retention and Communication
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media