- As the standard work environment changes, businesses should focus on several important trends throughout 2022.
- Employers should expect an increased demand for modified employee benefits, including health and wellness programs and flexible work arrangements.
- HR professionals should pay special attention to new laws, regulations and guidelines regarding COVID-19 and prepare to accommodate employees’ changing health conditions.
- This article is for small business owners and human resources professionals who are interested in learning about important HR topics for 2022.
An excellent human resources (HR) department is vital to any company. HR’s constantly expanding functions include recruiting top talent, shaping a company’s culture, distributing employee benefits and enforcing company policies.
HR best practices are always evolving, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll explore cutting-edge HR trends that can help HR professionals support employees and their organization.
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10 ways HR is changing in 2022
Here are 10 HR trends businesses should be aware of in 2022, along with some changes companies can make to keep up with the future of human resources.
1. Companies will provide progress reports on 2020 diversity and inclusion efforts.
During the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, companies across the country were forced to reckon with their biases, including racist, exclusionary hiring practices and hostile work environments for Black and Indigenous employees and other employees of color.
Many businesses responded by creating diversity and inclusion training programs in the workplace and making promises and plans to adopt more equitable hiring practices. Two years later, clients, customers, community members and employees are seeking results. Companies have begun releasing diversity reports and other results to demonstrate the efficacy of their efforts to create a culture of inclusion.
In 2022, HR departments will release information publicly to outline the steps they’ve taken over the past two years to address racism in the workplace and the progress they’ve made toward their goals, thus demonstrating that their genuine commitment to racial justice goes beyond optics.
Tip: To promote diversity and inclusion, small business owners should get employees committed to diversity, change language to include gender-neutral pronouns, and clearly state their commitment to diversity in all documentation and mission statements.
2. HR departments will lean on technology for automated HR processes.
Jared Rosenthal, CEO and founder of the automated onboarding and screening system StaffGlass, pointed out the growing trend of adopting cloud software to automate and manage workflows. In 2022, the workplace automation trend is expected to keep growing, spreading into industries that have traditionally been slower to adopt automated tools.
Although many companies already use software to recruit employees and to aid in the employee onboarding process, the coronavirus pandemic created a bigger need for digitizing these processes. Automated onboarding tools, in particular, will become commonplace in 2022, thereby accelerating and optimizing the hiring process for employers and employees.
The popularity of the best HR software will persist in a post-pandemic world, Rosenthal told Business News Daily. “It’s simple: If you’re going to compete in the post-pandemic world, you need to move as much to the cloud as possible, including seemingly offline HR activities like drug testing and pre-employment occupational health testing,” he said.
Even small business HR processes could benefit from technological innovations and cloud-based computing, including remotely hiring and onboarding new employees.
3. Companies will adopt dynamic in-office and remote policies.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to shutter their doors in 2020, in-office employees abruptly transitioned to working remotely. Managing a remote workforce has since become a permanent situation for many businesses. Remote work options have proved valuable for responding to new COVID-19 variants and surges and meeting employees’ needs.
“Employees love the flexible schedule and the absence of a commute so that there is more time in the day to spend with their families,” said Angela Rochester, former assistant general counsel and human resources consultant for Engage PEO and current deputy general counsel for labor and employment at GoHealth. “Employers should leverage technology as much as possible to maintain employee engagement.”
Despite the popularity of remote work and flexible work policies, some employers and employees prioritize in-office time to collaborate more efficiently as a team or to get a change of scenery. In response, more offices in 2022 will adopt hybrid policies for remote and in-office days, offering employees the flexibility to make the best decisions for their situations and pivot according to changing public health needs.
Depending on your company’s size, this policy might include a schedule or sign-up sheet for your team to coordinate their in-office days.
Tip: Remote working tools can help your team communicate and stay connected. For example, Slack makes messaging effortless, and Microsoft Teams combines workplace chat, video conferencing, cloud storage and app integration.
4. Employers will virtually maintain company culture and employee engagement.
Entirely or partially remote organizations must find creative methods to keep remote employees engaged and foster the company culture. Without a physical office space and daily routine to connect with co-workers, employees – especially new hires – may feel isolated or disengaged.
“Maintaining employee engagement is crucial, as remote work looks set to continue,” said Nicole Reid, chief people officer at Xero. “To keep people engaged, they need to be connected to a purpose. It’s important that every member of the team has a clear sense of the company’s direction and how their role contributes to it.”
Prioritize employee engagement and culture by hosting virtual meetings and hangouts, surveying employees about their interests, and increasing internal communication. Keep in mind that many employees are starting to suffer from the online-meeting fatigue known as Zoom burnout, so it’s crucial to consult your team to find the perfect communication balance.
5. Employers will focus on their employees’ well-being.
Health and wellness are hot-button topics. Employers are more aware than ever of the importance of employee well-being and its impact on business success. However, employees’ well-being and mental health will undoubtedly fluctuate during stressful and uncertain times.
“Small business leaders must step up to support their employees’ well-being and engagement, likely in ways they haven’t had to before,” Reid said. “They must find ways to create a flexible and healthy work environment and support mental well-being in some of the toughest times we’ve seen.”
Company leaders can help improve their employees’ health and wellness by maintaining transparency and clear communication within their organization.
“Make sure that people aren’t getting too exhausted and burning out,” Reid said. “Have conversations so you know how your team is feeling as well as what they’re doing.”
Employers will also continue expanding employee-assistance programs to provide a broader range of tools, including mental health days, more access to counseling, health and wellness plans, and updated services that can help employees take a holistic approach to their health.
Reid also advised small business owners to lead by example. Take the time for self-care, and set boundaries and expectations so your team can follow suit.
6. HR teams will modify employee benefits.
The pandemic shifted employee benefits and working arrangements. As employers seek to provide their staff with the best possible health insurance and benefits, they should consider their employees’ evolving needs. For example, free lunches and commuter benefits aren’t as attractive; instead, employees prioritize healthcare, wellness programs, and job perks like home office credits.
Reid also recommended supporting employees by offering flexible work arrangements.
“Enable flexible work, whatever that means for the individual,” Reid said. “Some parents of young children, for example, might need to juggle childcare and work during the day, and being able to work in the evening instead could be one less stress. A key point is that everyone has their own unique circumstances, and you’ve got to open those conversations, listen and take actions that are supportive.”
Employers are also offering more thoughtful vacation options that suit workers with unconventional schedules. For example, some companies have adopted a policy of offering new employees two paid weeks before they start their new positions.
7. Employers will face COVID-19-specific paid sick leave and accommodations.
As COVID-19 variants lead to more surges, employees will need time off to isolate and recover. Furthermore, long-haul COVID-19 symptoms, or “long COVID,” have affected up to 23 million people in the United States, often leading to a wide range of severe health issues. In fact, American with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations recognize long COVID as a disability, as it can significantly affect people’s daily lives and abilities.
Rochester said employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ COVID-related disabilities that create new or different circumstances for them in the workplace. “Employers should continue to do what they normally would with respect to accommodation requests and identify the limitations that a disability imposes on the employee’s essential job functions, engage in an interactive dialogue to determine whether a reasonable accommodation exists and, where circumstances require, provide an accommodation,” Rochester said.
Additionally, many state and local jurisdictions have expanded their paid-sick-leave laws to apply to COVID-19-related circumstances.
“Employers should familiarize themselves with the paid-sick-leave requirements for the jurisdictions in which they conduct business so that they can update their policies accordingly and understand which laws apply when dealing with COVID-19-related sick time,” Rochester said.
Key takeaway: Businesses must understand sick leave laws and employees’ rights regarding COVID-19-specific paid sick leave and accommodations, including accommodations for long-COVID symptoms.
8. Employers may update their offices to become more COVID-safe.
When companies open their offices, it’s critical to take every reasonable precaution to keep their teams safe from COVID-19. For some workplaces, this has meant implementing mask policies and providing employees with high-quality masks, like N95s. Other companies have instituted vaccine requirements.
In 2022, in addition to these measures, we will see more widespread adoption of COVID-mitigation techniques built into the workspace itself.
Many companies have updated their HVAC systems to improve office-wide ventilation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends high-efficiency particulate air-filtration systems to move air quickly from communal settings like offices. In areas where an HVAC overhaul isn’t possible, the CDC recommends ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, which can be added to existing ducts.
Other interventions include moving into an office space with many windows you can open, high ceilings and ample space between work areas. In addition, outdoor spaces within office settings are in high demand right now.
9. HR departments will face new compliance requirements.
As laws and guidelines change, HR departments will grapple with new compliance requirements. HR managers will rewrite employee handbooks and reevaluate rules pertaining to workplace harassment measures, leave benefits and drug testing.
HR departments will also have to navigate the pay transparency laws that are rapidly becoming more common across states. Illinois and California have laws requiring businesses of a specific size to report aggregate pay data to their labor departments.
Perhaps most notable, however, is the preponderance of laws mandating salary range disclosures on job listings. California, Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut, Washington state, Rhode Island, Nevada, New York City, Cincinnati, and Toledo, Ohio, have laws requiring employers to provide salary data upfront. In 2022, as this requirement becomes more commonplace, more HR departments will move toward increased transparency around compensation.
Did you know?: Some state business labor laws protect residents even if they work remotely for businesses in other states. If your company hires remote applicants across the country, ensure your practices don’t violate state laws.
10. HR teams will grapple with marijuana usage laws.
In the past few years, more states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use to various degrees, and that trend will reach a fever pitch in 2022. As of early June, 38 states have legalized medical marijuana use and 19 have also legalized recreational use.
Although employers still have a right to implement drug-free workplace policies, Rochester said companies operating in multiple states should understand that testing policies can vary by location. Employers should stay current on the marijuana laws and regulations in their states and local jurisdictions.
“If an employee or an applicant tests positive for marijuana, employers should be mindful of ADA considerations in connection with medical marijuana use and proceed accordingly,” Rochester said. In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, employers can prohibit use at work or during work hours but can’t prohibit use outside of work. Some states, like New York, do not allow employers to test their employees for marijuana unless the role requires testing based on state or federal law.
In 2022, HR departments will have to adjust their policies to recognize these complex changes in laws surrounding marijuana usage.
In 2022, flexibility is key
Flexibility is the thread connecting 2022’s HR trends. The past few years have proved that companies must adapt to survive the constantly changing public health circumstances brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, businesses have had to adapt their policies in response to growing social justice efforts and the dynamic needs of the labor force. Moving forward, HR departments should prepare to offer employees a wide range of options that accommodate their changing circumstances so they can focus on working toward the company’s goals.
Skye Schooley contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.