After much consternation and consideration, here are our predictions for the top five people and culture trends of 2022, which we believe will form the foundations of organisational culture work in 2023.
● The two-speed workforce – hybrid, but not as you know it
● Humanity versus technology – connecting in the right ways
● Organisational culture valued – finally!
● Laggard capability build – the labour market trends
● Community building as a leadership capability
Here’s a little more detail.
Two Speed Workforces (and Teams)
Two different ways of working, side by side
We’re definitely seeing a two-speed workforce, and a two-sided conversation about it. When we say two-speed workforce, we’re talking about two different workforces and ways of working, next to each other.
On one hand, we’ve got the hard guardrails of shorter days, shorter hours, less commuting, and work styles that suit an individual’s unique needs. On the other hand, we’re also experiencing uneven workloads and often as consequence, unequal opportunities – and that’s something we’re only just starting to talk about.
The divide lines between the two speeds in many organisations seem to be divided on a number of elements. The top three would be:
i) hierarchy, with the executives and leaders taking on more to protect their team from further exhaustion
ii) gender, with still biased work at home schemas allocating more work to women
iii) a perception of ‘grit’ or ‘energy’, where some people are perceived to be able to take on more, add to their loads, or respond quickly to new opportunities, while others are perceived as already overwhelmed.
Discussions are fluctuating from wellbeing to exhaustion, from individual needs to programmatic approaches, from an opportunity to achieve great things to being so overwhelmed that even the thought of offering any extra effort – even to help a colleague – sees people saying things like, “But that’s not in my job description.”
As one CEO once put it, our resiliency has become increasingly brittle.
Only time will tell which of the two speeds owns both this moment in time, and, perhaps even more importantly, the future.
Where to from here:
· Fairness – from N=1 to N=Everyone
· Wellbeing to resilience and collaboration as part of wellbeing
· Work design for wellbeing AND achievement
Constant tension between humanity and technology
The need for physical/social connection balanced against ever-ready technology.
These have been exponentially challenging off the back of two-speed, hybrid approaches to work. There’s the now very much appreciated need for physical/social connection balanced against the opportunity to live and work virtually, with the added appreciation that constant connection can be damaging.
This is playing out on a few fronts.
One part of this conversation is about energy and time, and how we get ‘value’ for every moment. Less meetings, less time in the office, less time commuting, and less time training.
Can I do any of this more efficiently? This comes in the self-report of, “I’m more productive with no meetings, no commute, no training, and no faffing about conversations in the corridors”.
The other part is the omnipresent fear of technology addiction, or, just as threatening, a failure to form human connections other than ones we live with. That’s the tension.
Technology makes us speedy, but is that the only goal?
Humanity – and human connection – uses up our time, but without it, how do we learn, collaborate, workshop and create together?
The past three years have already taught us that both are critically important. Now we need to get them more balanced and in harmony.
Where to from here?
● Work is designed for efficiency and connection
● Learning is designed for growth
● Technology is used to support us – not capture or control us
Organisational culture is valued – Finally!
We’ve finally seen an appreciation for the fact that as work changes shape, what connects us, our organisational culture, is an asset that benefits us all.
At the most fundamental level, it’s an appreciation of cultures, respect and decency – it’s the feeling that we’re not at risk and where we feel we can thrive and contribute to a culture that foregrounds psychological safety.
Above that is an increasing understanding of the complex systems that form culture, and how that is measured, mapped, understood and leveraged.
Perhaps even more importantly, it’s the appreciation that culture work is never done. It is a lifelong priority for every leader and every organisation.
After all, people are the only facet of the organisation that is truly uncapped, voluntary and ultimately unique.
This is also the foundation to new ways of creating human-centered EVPs (Employee Value Propositions) – bite-size stories of culture that attract the right people to your team or organisation.
Five years ago, organisations built impressive marketing campaigns to ‘attract’ in a war for talent. Now, you have to build a good culture to create an environment that means the right people stay and thrive.
Where to from here?
● Culture as a complex system, not sentiment
● Culture as everyone’s responsibility and opportunity
● Focus on data not opinions
Laggard capability built
Big, brash articles about ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘The Great Resignation’ are subsiding for the reality of a ‘tight labour market’.
But the conversations are often failing to mention two key things:
i) Some skills haven’t been built at anywhere near the rate we need them
ii) Some jobs are just plain unattractive
We called BS on ‘the Great Resignation’ in Australia. It was coined by a US-based professor of management, and so was truer in US context.
It was probably about marketing in Australia. We were a little more balanced and saw it as a natural correction. The labour market ground to a halt when COVID-19 hit, and so people were hesitant to move, then they did as they felt safer to do so.
That didn’t change the reality that we build whole industries with little real investment in developing the right skills. The originally US-based tech companies arrived here only as subsidiaries. Despite the big brand names, the reality was that these companies only had small domestic teams. When we started building them here, in a global market that was short as well, we needed capability at scale.
We still have no educational machinery to build it quickly. We’ve only got our toes in the water in terms of building them in bite-sized pieces to attract a working workforce to change skill areas. Micro-credentials were not fully supported, internal training was too hard on virtual technology, and we didn’t have access to imported talent and skills during the COVID-19 period.
For too long we umm’ed and ahhed on whose job this was – individuals, organisations, industry bodies, universities, government or others? Now it’s a problem for everyone. And it won’t be solved by ‘mapping capability’. We’re simply short of some critical skills – starting with tech, trades, medical, and caring.
The hottest topic we get asked about is learning and fast capability building – how to build the mindset around wanting to learn and structure it to move fast.
Where to from here?
● New designs for learning for people who are already working
● New designs for learning for people from different fields
● New understanding of capability building away from job specs and qualifications
● New understanding of the role of culture in learning agility
● New understanding of the role of every employee as a teacher
The just plain unattractive jobs need a rethink, a redesign, and a whole bunch more love. This means redesigning work and the workforce at scale in the industries that have no future, and just are not attracting anywhere near the volume of skilled people they need.
Community building as a leadership capability
Yes, it’s part of the job; it always has been.
Connection is where it’s at. We all want to be part of something. Something that matters and is worthwhile – somewhere where we can thrive.
But what does it take to thrive? Assuming the baselines of safety and fairness are in place, our five years of research shows us that people stay for four reasons:
● Purposeful work
● The people they like working with
● The agency and freedom to work their own way
● High expectations of their contribution and feeling valued for it.
Leaders have a responsibility to create that environment. For every single person. For every team. And for the organisation. And yes, it’s part of the job. Building a community where people thrive has always been the most important thing any leader had to do.
Where to from here?
It requires a change in leadership development to include:
● Work design
● Communication and storytelling
● Performance and expectations
● Growing capability
So, those are our big five trends from 2022. And if they didn’t keep you awake this year, then trust us, they are coming at you fast in 2023.
What do you think?