Leading Insights, Tips and Strategies from 15 Experts
This is the second year in a row where we’ve said, “Well, that was a year like never before.”
And it’s safe to say that 2022 will continue to have its ups, downs and surprises — especially in the world of benefits and HR. So we took some time to *virtually* chat with C-suite members, HR professionals and thought leaders to pick their brains on how we can prepare for another rollercoaster of a year.
Between the “Great Resignation,” talent shortages, nationwide vaccine mandates and overall exhaustion felt by the greater HR community, these folks offered us real insights and tips that you can actually use as you start the new year. We know as HR and benefits professionals, your main job is to support your employees, but we want to ensure that someone’s supporting you, too! So, grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and dive into our five hot takes for the HR space in 2022.
Meet the Speakers
We chatted with a wide range of leaders, from C-suite to authors to HR to social media influencers and thought leaders, all with one thing in common—they work with employees in the HR realm.
What are the biggest things HR teams should be prepared for as we head into 2022?
We asked our experts five questions, and this first one was by far the most popular (you’ll note, correspondingly, it’s our longest chapter). But stick with us! There are some real gems in here to help you prepare for 2022. So, because we had so many thoughts on this query, here are the four “biggest things” you should get ready for in the upcoming year.
Surprise Surprise: The “Great Resignation”
If it feels like the phrase “Great Resignation” is all that you hear lately (it’s basically 2021’s version of “unprecedented”), you’re not alone. Every expert we spoke to referenced the COVID-perpetuated changes that led to a mass exodus at companies large and small. Here are the three best strategies for benefits and HR professionals to navigate this tricky time.
Strategy 1: Understand the driving factors at play
The consensus seems to be that returning to normal isn’t going to happen. (Heck, we’ve been saying it all year: we’re never going back to the old way of doing things).
Strategy 2: Get ahead of talent shortages
Unfortunately, all sectors and companies are facing talent shortages at the moment. Again, most experts alluded to the fact that we need to continue to prepare for hiring roadblocks, candidate pipeline scarcity and overall talent challenges.
In short, the pandemic put many things in perspective for individuals, and they’re no longer willing to settle for less when it comes to their career choices.
Strategy 3: Bolster your retention strategies
While this may be obvious to HR professionals, the best way to handle talent challenges is to focus on the happiness of your current team. But it’s easier said than done.
A specific tactic can be increasing access to your learning and development resources to ensure folks understand available advancement opportunities.
After weathering a two-year storm, HR professionals are tired. CNBC recently interviewed U.S. HR leaders who confirmed they’re burnt out from the relentlessness of current workplace circumstances. “The pandemic has caused a nonstop deluge of work…some HR workers say there’s simply too much work to be able to fully step away and prioritize their wellbeing.”
And, unfortunately, the current labor market means it’s not getting easier any time soon.
So something you can do to get ready for 2022 is to have more empathy for yourself and your colleagues. It’s been a rough couple of years! The holiday break might not be enough to reset and get ready for the challenges ahead.
Hybrid and remote working options
Alright, this is another item we can file under “Enough already!” — evolving for hybrid and remote work options. But you can’t fight city hall, because it’s still a roadblock for many teams as they source talent who are unwilling to return to the office full-time.
What is new for 2022 are the unique insights our experts provided on not only switching to remote or hybrid models but establishing effective workplace cultures as we stay remote — not always easy!
COVID vaccination policies
Now to address the big elephant in the room — COVID vaccinations. This issue has become hyper-charged and highly politicized in recent months as nationwide vaccine mandates continue to roll out. And HR teams are in the middle of the fray.
HR teams have no choice but to stay up-to-date on their state and national requirements and continue to adapt their organization’s policies as necessary. (As well as deal with any fallout from employee opinions).
Should your company charge unvaccinated workers a fee?
Which employee benefits and perks should employers be most focused on in the coming year?
With the competitive talent market, companies need to stand out from the crowd to retain and attract the right team members. As such, our next question focused on the specific benefits and perks that organizations should offer in 2022.
Salary and other financial benefits
It’s true what they say; money makes the world go round. The foundation of any working relationship is compensation. And as we make our way into 2022, that’s no different. Yes, comprehensive benefits packages and company culture also play key roles. But at the end of the day, a paycheck is the main motivation for most workers. Companies need to continue to prioritize not only salary but benefits that equate to money in people’s pockets.
The good news is that some organizations seem to be getting this memo. A Bank of America report found that 46% of employers offered financial wellness benefits in 2021, up from 40% in 2020. (However, there’s definitely still room for improvement!)
Adam Perry, VP of People at Perkspot, suggested that you could also offer home office subsidies to ease the cost of remote work—while John Baldino favored the idea of “incentive-based bonuses and experiential rewards, such as cash compensation or personalized gratitude options, which will help to make the employee experience stickier.”
We asked employees what benefits they wish they had. Their response: financial wellness resources.
Flexibility in all facets of the workplace
Employers (especially those stuck in more traditional mindsets) often struggle with providing flexible schedules. They fear they’ll lose productivity or accountability. Alan Walker suggests that in 2022, you should be able to provide flexibility by “measuring outputs, not inputs.” In other words, help your organization shift its focus to results versus clocking in and hours logged.
A few of our experts suggested exploring a 4-day work week as a competitive advantage for flexible workplaces.
Mental health resources
Mental health benefits aren’t a ground-breaking suggestion, but they continue to grow in importance. Companies can’t just pretend they promote mental wellness; they need to “walk the walk.”
To take it one step further, consider incorporating company-wide mental health days. There’s a much greater benefit when all of your staff shuts down — a peace of mind that everyone’s relaxing just like you, and there won’t be a slew of emails to respond to when you get back.
Find out why our current mental health benefits continue to fail our employees.
Addiction recovery assistance
Substance abuse has become an increasingly prevalent concern for many Americans as they cope with the stressors of the past two years.
Beth is correct that organizations can provide a unique type of support to their people by understanding the long-term effects of this pandemic and offering recovery resources in a safe and welcoming environment.
What specific benefit offerings do you see as most important for DEI efforts?
DEI is a complex ecosystem
“It’s hard to quantify. There’s far more work needed around pay equity and role definition to make sure DEI is a reality and not an ‘effort,’” says Steve Browne.
To put it another way, DEI can’t just be another box to check for HR teams, or you’ll fall into the dangerous domain of virtue-signaling. Modern workers are savvy to authentically inclusive initiatives. You need to provide tangible resources and programs that incorporate your actual staff and match their diverse needs. That’s why we asked experts for specific examples to bolster benefits offerings when it comes to DEI.
Parent and Caregiving Benefits
Reports show that a disproportionate number of women left the workforce due to the pandemic, and a leading roadblock for their return is caregiving responsibilities. Consequently, more than one of our experts mentioned caregiving benefits, such as enhanced childcare resources and paid parental leave.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that caregiving isn’t simply a female issue but a broader discussion in the realm of DEI.
What’s more, it’s not only childcare that you need to address. Zoë Harte, Chief People Officer for Upwork, reminded us during our Open Enrollment webinar that many workers are a part of the sandwich generation, caring for both children and older parents. As a result, we need to also explore eldercare as a resource and benefit. (It’s no wonder a few of our experts also mentioned eldercare in their discussion of DEI benefits).
Examine healthcare and benefits cost-sharing
Deb Gordon provided illuminating advice on how health care and benefits cost-sharing can impact certain groups of employees more than others:
Jon Hill explains how mentorship can be more than just a learning and development tool, but also further DEI efforts:
Healthcare costs are on the rise, with no end in sight. How can employers address these increases?
The age-old question, how do we tackle rising healthcare costs?
Unfortunately, so much is out of your hands when it comes to the cost of employer-provided healthcare. But the good news is that you can offset the unnecessary costs with one very powerful tool — education! C-suite leaders believe that 53% of healthcare spending is wasted due to employee confusion.
If that’s not catalyst enough, Beth Pinkerton nicely laid out the foundation for doubling down on benefits education:
You might be missing opportunities to maximize your benefits investment and save on healthcare costs.
What’s missing from the HR and benefits space right now?
This question is a bit self-reflective as we essentially asked leaders and HR professionals where they’re slacking. Not an easy mirror to hold up after a difficult year. Regardless, we still got some very thoughtful responses about where we can do better. (Thanks, everyone!)
We need to adapt recruiting to better match our new world of candidates
Anna’s absolutely right, and this is a resounding sentiment we see in our HR community and via social media. Candidates are complaining about archaic ways of hiring and that they simply don’t need to put up with it anymore. For better or worse, the ball is in their court, and HR teams need to adapt or get left in the dust.
We need to prioritize financial literacy
Yes, we’ve already discussed the importance of financial benefits. But what about helping our people become more financially literate and independent? It’s not enough to simply offer the resources. We need to educate and empower them so they can put their families into a better financial position for the future.
Larry Brand pinpoints this HR deficiency:
Deb Gordon agreed, commenting, “I don’t think we’re talking enough about consumer financial vulnerability and the role employers can play to ease employee anxiety.”
Putting Ideas 💡 Into Action ⚡️
You can read about all the ideas you want, but nothing will facilitate true change other than action. Of course, not each of these chapters will resonate with your ecosystem or match the unique needs of your employees. But hopefully, a few of these insights spurred inspiration on how you can adapt your approach to benefits engagement and optimize your HR leadership for the upcoming year.