By Robert Boersma
The workforce has been forced to consistently and quickly adapt to socio-economic shifts as a result of the pandemic. While the world as we know it changed in 2020, we are currently living in a “re-adjustment” phase that has brought about its own set of changes and challenges.
Employers and employees alike are juggling what their new normal looks like, and how to integrate pandemic-learned behaviors and activities into a post-pandemic world. An uptake in digital tools allowing for remote work, the creation of virtual company cultures, and an internal focus on employee engagement and satisfaction are all examples of these pandemic-based pursuits that workplaces are looking to blend into their day-to-day.
As a new year begins, a potentially looming recession adds another element of uncertainty that must be accounted for in the workplace sector. It is vital to look ahead to what shifts can be expected in order to provide workers the opportunity to prepare for these changes.
With this in mind, here are the five trends that I expect to gain prominence into the New Year.
Upskilling and developing soft skills will take centerstage
Upskilling and soft skills were themes that gained steam across industry conversations in 2022. As we move into the New Year with economic uncertainty on the horizon, upskilling opportunities for the workforce will become a prominent retention strategy, demonstrating an organization’s desire to drive employee growth and development. Organizations today have picked up on employee’s desire for continuous learning, and so we will see unique learning and development programs set in place as they create an environment where upskilling is encouraged and also allow companies to reap the rewards of developing highly skilled teams.
The current tight market has created a challenge for employers to attract the best talent, making it crucial for both employees and employers to be aware of, or close, any skill gaps. Offering the opportunity to job seekers and employees to develop or learn new skills is a solution for employers hoping to remain competitive in the market and increase the efficiency of their current team.
Additionally, soft skills in particular are invaluable to an organization and possessing these skills often sets top leaders apart. Interpersonal communication, decision-making, time management and collaboration are all soft skills for employees and job seekers alike to focus on in the new year, to increase their value in the workforce.
Hybrid work environments will continue to be favored
Flexibility within the workplace has never been as valued as it is right now. Most employees do not want to feel tethered to their desks for eight hours per day after experiencing the openness of remote work. Lessened commutes and the ability to shift working time to non-traditional work hours allowed employees to improve their work/life balance.
With the world returning back to “normal” after two years at home, employees are not ready to completely give up the elements that have dramatically improved their quality of life in favor of returning to the office five days a week.
Many teams have chosen a hybrid approach. In the year ahead, we will continue to see hybrid work environments being adopted by organizations, allowing employees to have the freedom and independence of remote work that they enjoy while also providing teams with the opportunity for in-person facetime and collaboration in the office. Non-flexible work environments can be a dealbreaker for workers, so workplaces will continue to take employees’ wants into consideration through hybrid work models.
With the wide-spread adoption of hybrid work, employers are enacting efforts to measure employee productivity when not in the office. From tracking hours to monitoring softwares, we have started to see that employers are trying to gain insight into how teams spend their time. However, these measures may negatively impact trust levels within the workplace. It is very important for employers to work collaboratively and be transparent with their teams and to maintain a sense of trust.
Benefits will play a larger role in recruitment strategies
In 2023, we expect to see an increasing importance of benefits in worker compensation packages. A recently conducted Talent.com study, found that close to 60% of U.S. job seekers find benefits to be an important element when looking for a job, second only to salary.
With the continued talent crunch in the labor market, many organizations will turn to implementing more comprehensive and attractive benefit packages to attract and retain top talent. Non-traditional benefits such as access to fertility treatments, financial wellness programs, and pet insurance won’t be uncommon benefits in the year ahead. In fact, they are already highly sought after by Americans.
Moreover, as an increasing number of states move in the direction of pay transparency, jobseekers will also turn to benefits as a negotiation tactic. Increased vacation days, parental leave, and 401(k) matching are a few of the many avenues job seekers will leverage to increase the value of compensation packages.
Pay transparency will continue to gain momentum
Pay transparency is the future of work, and we’ve already seen this shift begin to happen in 2022. New York City and Colorado already have pay transparency laws in place, requiring employers to state salary ranges in job descriptions. California is next to legalize pay transparency, with a similar policy coming into effect on January 1.
Pay transparency is one way to correct wage gaps and erase pay discrimination, which would be a huge victory. A recent study conducted by Talent.com highlights New York City resident’s thoughts on pay transparency. We found that nearly 35% of jobseekers experienced pay discrimination and over 50% of those who did were women. Pay discrimination is an issue that has plagued the employment sector for far too long, and enacting salary transparency can help address the situation.
There are also benefits to engaging in salary transparency efforts for employers, including increasing the quality of applications. When job seekers are able to ensure both the qualifications and compensation of a role fit what they are looking for, the best workers will self-sort accordingly. Providing a good-faith salary range—not too wide of a range—can also act as a powerful brand statement and build positive sentiment among applicants.
Economic uncertainty will create the need for a renewed focus on mental health
Economists suggest that a recession is likely looming and with widespread news coverage of layoffs at large tech organizations across the country, many employees are concerned for the fate of their own employment.
The pandemic produced many important conversations surrounding mental health and wellness inside and outside of the workplace. As a result, many organizations now provide employees with wellness perks such as meditation software, summer fridays to destress, or access to psychological services. Although we have moved past the pandemic, now is not the time to move backward on the tremendous progress made that allowed employees to be open about their mental health struggles.
Times of economic uncertainty bring about a whole new set of fears that have the power to negatively affect mental health. The onus is on employers to recognize these potential barriers and provide employees with ongoing access to resources that can improve their mental wellbeing, and in turn work performance.
In conclusion, the state of the modern workplace is continuing to adapt before us and it’s necessary to keep up with its changes. Keeping these six trends in mind over the next year will set employers and employees up for success, providing organizations and individuals with the opportunity to thrive in a post-pandemic workforce.
Robert Boersma, vice president, operations at North America at Talent.com