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Top 10 HR trends of 2022

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2022 was a busy year for HR professionals. Moving into 2023, it’s time to look back at the top human resources (HR) trends of 2022, learn from the lessons of the year and see if there are any ideas we will be embracing in 2023 and beyond. 

The year saw HR professionals adopt and embrace many new concepts to overcome disruptions caused by the global pandemic. From an empathetic approach to management to embracing technology and data as a vital part of HR workflow, 2022 was a year of innovation and rethinking traditional ways of recruiting and people management. 

The "great" year written on a green background

1: The “Great” year

2022 was a great year. Great, as in big. First, there was the “Great Resignation”, then there was the “Great Regret”, and finally, there was the “Great Breakup”.

The Great Resignation, or Great Reshuffle as it is sometimes known, has been one of the most impactful results of the pandemic in the workplace. The Great Resignation has been one of the driving forces of many other trends that dominated HR news in 2022. 

If not a direct result of the Great Resignation, many critical trends of 2022 were still affected by it. These issues included the need for new management modes, strategies for employee retention, and rethinking hiring practices.

The following “Great” of 2022, and a direct result of the Great Resignation, was the Great Regret. In May, it was revealed that one in four workers from the USA who changed jobs during the Great Resignation admitted they didn't thoroughly think it through. 

As a result, businesses have observed a rise in ex-employees wanting to return to their old workplaces. These returning employees are sometimes referred to as “boomerang employees” due to the fact that they come back.

Finally, November saw the release of McKinsey and Company’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report. The report showed that a worrying number of women in leadership positions leave their organisations. The exodus has been dubbed the Great Breakup. 

A lack of opportunity or other barriers to advancement were identified as key reasons for women leaving. If organisations don’t take action to find advancement opportunities for women, they risk losing their current and future female leaders.

While the mass migration of workers and boomerang employees will slow in 2023 and beyond, organisations that do not make strides towards equality and representation may be dealing with the Great Breakup for years to come. 

Empathetic management and employee well-being written on a dark background

2: Empathetic management and employee well-being are the future of work

Employee Experience (EX) was a hot topic in the HR space throughout 2022.

In January 2022, we looked at the rise of empathy as a form of HR management. We also investigated the trend of taking lessons from the schoolroom and bringing them to an HR setting. Both of these trends pointed towards a similar approach and philosophy of management. 

Three forms of empathy - cognitive, affective and behavioural - were identified as desirable traits in HR management. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels and know what they are thinking. Affective empathy, by contrast, is the ability to respond appropriately to another person’s mental state. 

Similarly, some HR professionals advised taking lessons from a schoolroom to improve inclusion. Treating all staff with fairness and empathy, as a teacher would in a classroom, was shown to be an effective way of making employees feel included and recognised. 

In March, we wrote about the rise of Human Experience Management (HXM). With workforces becoming increasingly remote and virtual, employee experience is challenging for businesses to excel in. HXM is a new HR style that expands the focus from organisational processes to include employee experience and engagement.

With employee experience becoming such a prominent focus throughout the year, it's no wonder that employee wellness became a hot topic by August. Wellness Officers, or dedicated wellness teams, are focused on employee wellbeing. The new role is concerned with how employees are doing, what they need and which programs may help. Wellness Officers may also be responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy.

With working from home and hybrid work being commonplace and the employment landscape becoming increasingly candidate-driven, employee experience and wellness will be a massively important part of HR for years to come. Engaging and motivating remote employees, as well as helping mitigate feelings of isolation or loneliness that may result from working from home, are only some of the struggles that HR will face going forward. 

Remote employee engagement written on a green background

3: Remote employee engagement

With remote and hybrid working rising throughout 2022, strategies for engaging remote employees became a key concern for HR professionals worldwide. While remote working has many benefits for both employees and employers, it also has some problems that must be resolved. 

The key issue for both employees and their managers is that more people than ever before are reporting feelings of loneliness. According to research in the book “Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Teams from Isolated to All In”, 72% of workers interviewed expressed feeling loneliness. Virtual meetings on a screen are no replacement for actual human contact. 

One of the trending topics of September was the need to create an open culture at work. Both physical and virtual spaces need to feature time and space for empathy and socialisation so that employees feel welcome and part of a community. If an employee feels accepted and part of a group, they are less likely to feel lonely.

This concept builds on a trend we covered back in February - the importance of employee recognition. There is a need for employee recognition programs that help engage and reward remote workers. Proper recognition can help make employees feel less lonely and can also help motivate remote employees.

Keeping remote and hybrid teams motivated was a hot topic in April. There are many possible methods for motivating employees in addition to recognition and praise. Strategies include pulse surveys to identify pain points for elimination and a “morale budget” used to keep the job fun and the team happy.

Employee recognition has been a priority for HR professionals for a long time. With the changing face of the workplace, it’s important that HR managers find new ways to engage and recognise both face-to-face and remote workers. Remote recognition will likely be a trending topic in 2023 and maybe for years to come.

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4: Upskilling, reskilling and employee retention

While employing new talent is an important part of company growth and performance, retaining your employees is equally important. Companies can hire all the new talent they like, but if existing employees keep leaving, valuable skills are lost, and productivity may be impacted due to the disruption. 

One recurring trend in 2022 was the effectiveness of employee training or reskilling programs as part of a retention strategy.

In May, we discussed how investing in training your people can encourage loyalty. Loyalty can boost employee retention and save time and money on recruitment costs. 

Before committing to training, organisations should understand the difference between upskilling and reskilling and choose the training model right for them. Upskilling refers to adding new skills applicable to a current role, while reskilling is training in skills required for a different role.

The idea of reskilling and upskilling ties back to one of the hot topics of January. How do you make training effective and less stressful or exhausting for employees? Short sessions or focused learning rather than long courses or degrees make learning less monotonous while remaining highly effective.

The concept of an internal mobility culture was one of the dominant trends in August. Employees who can use skills gained on the job to transition to a vital position can help streamline hiring. Internal mobility allows employees to progress in their careers and skills while promoting greater loyalty and retention. 

Employee training has long been a part of the workplace. In 2022, HR professionals started rethinking how skills development may be used to help both employees and organisations. Upskilling or reskilling can be a valuable investment for an organisation that can pay dividends in many ways. Not only do vital roles get filled, but employees who are shown to be valued are much more likely to stay in an organisation.

Training and retaining employees will always be one of the challenges faced by HR professionals.

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5: Rethinking hiring practices

HR professionals have always been rethinking and reworking the hiring process. In February, we covered the fact that global hiring had levelled off after an all-time high. One of the key topics on the minds of HR professionals in 2022 was rethinking hiring practices to find the best talent after such a busy time. 

In the months following February, we saw trends such as the Mindset Gap, Blind hiring and personalised outreach, illustrating how HR professionals were thinking about hiring. Trying new and innovative methods proved to be the key to success.

In April, we explored the idea of the Mindset Gap. Finding the right fit for open roles is tough. Talent Acquisition (TA) specialists are increasingly looking to hire for potential and mindset rather than inflexible experience and qualification requirements. Mindset gap recruiting opens up a large new pool of potential candidates and can reduce time-to-hire.  

By July, the concept of blind hiring was a dominant trend. Blind Hiring is a technique in which you remove identifying information when shortlisting candidates to eliminate any unconscious bias. One study suggests that this can include up to 60% more candidates in your hiring pool.

Soft skills, such as emotional intelligence and adaptability, were increasingly valued in a remote or hybrid working environment in 2022. In August, we wrote about thinking of them as “power skills” to highlight their value in the employment marketplace. By emphasising the importance of power skills, recruiters can tap into a larger pool of talent that has the potential to succeed instead of simply looking for those with relevant qualifications.

In September, a major trending topic was rethinking talent outreach in the hiring process. Rather than taking a broad “spray and pray” approach to outreach, personalising your outreach to individual candidates can achieve great results. Connecting a candidate’s experience and the role on offer can help them feel seen and valued. Personalisation can also make them more likely to want to join your organisation.

Hiring practices need to keep up with the expectations of the candidate and the strength of the employment market. During 2022, HR professionals around the world saw the changing job market and started embracing new ideas to identify and recruit talent.

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6: Data is power

Using data for hiring has transformed the way that many HR professionals perform their jobs.

Embracing data was a key trend from the beginning of 2022. January brought to our attention 10 recruitment metrics every HR leader should know to optimise the recruitment process. Hiring managers can optimise their processes by analysing data points detailing the hiring process, such as the number of candidates that complete applications, time-to-hire and cost-to-hire.

Nothing was more indicative that recruitment is becoming an increasingly data-driven profession than this October trend detailing predictive analysis in recruitment. Using modelling, machine learning and statistics, predictive analytics can provide accurate predictions about the potential for a candidate to succeed within the organisation. These predictions use metrics other than qualifications and experience, such as past behaviours and potential. 

Data was again an overarching theme in April, but this time it was data drawn from employees within an organisation, in the form of easily understood people analytics. People analytics help HR professionals save time, unify teams and allow HR and Business Intelligence teams to make informed decisions.

Gathering data about candidates and employees allows organisations to do many things, including:  

  • strengthen and optimise processes 
  • pinpoint areas in a business that need attention 
  • highlight the strengths and weaknesses of teams or individuals
  • make predictions of future performance 

With such scope for use in HR, it’s no wonder collecting, using and analysing data was such an important topic in 2022 and will undoubtedly be a key focus of HR well into the future.

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7: Embracing and balancing technology in HR

The utilisation of data in 2022 was such a major part of HR technology that it deserved its own entry. Of course, data was not the only technology trend that dominated 2022.

Embracing technology to help perform tasks can greatly benefit HR professionals. One of the trending topics of June was how the human touch could be given during the virtual onboarding of remote workers. Understanding when to use technology and when a personal approach is required was one of the key technology trends.

How can HR professionals use technology while still treating people with kindness and empathy and keeping their finger on the pulse of what it is to be human? Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are powerful technologies with the potential to streamline many HR practices, but how they are implemented can mean the difference between effective outreach and engagement and a robotic, dehumanising experience. 

Google launched an AI interview preparation tool in July to help candidates prepare for upcoming interviews by asking basic questions and providing feedback. The AI identifies certain overused job-related terms and phrases, generating common talking points to improve responses. Whether this will improve interview techniques in the long term or simply lead to candidates giving the same answers remains to be seen.

Chatbots for customers are commonplace, with many websites using them to answer simple questions for customers or routing enquiries to the appropriate party. 

In July, one of the trends most discussed was the use of chatbots for staff rather than customers. HR chatbots could potentially help to uncover employee needs. From hiring a new employee to managing remote workers, chatbots may be used to cut down on admin whilst keeping workers engaged. Again the effectiveness of chatbots comes down to how they are used. 

A chatbot used to answer common HR questions, such as how to apply for time off, can save both employees and HR personnel time and frustration. Effective HR chatbots could leave HR professionals more time to concentrate on tasks that require the human touch.

Xref specialises in technology that supports HR professionals to make confident, people-focused decisions, throughout the talent journey. Our online reference checking platform allows hiring managers to save time and gather candidate data by sending customisable surveys to referees for feedback on candidates. Completed reference surveys are compiled into a report with easy-to-understand graphs and actionable insights. 

Referees can also opt-in to receive job offers from the organisation seeking the reference, opening up a huge talent pool for that organisation to fill future positions.

Integrating technology such as AI and Machine Learning has the potential to revolutionise the way HR professionals complete tasks, but too much reliance on technology could have a negative impact. There will always be a need for the human part of HR, so finding the balance between technology and the human touch will be an important goal for years to come.  

Embracing diversity in the workplace on a green background

8: Embracing diversity in the workplace

Embracing diversity in the workplace is not a trend unique to 2022, but it is still an essential one. With the change in workplace culture, ensuring that everyone is welcome and appreciated is essential for making a workplace enticing for new talent and retaining existing staff.

International Women’s Day takes place in March. A major trending topic that was talked about during March 2022 was the importance of gender equality in the workplace. As one pillar of diversity, this trending topic also sheds light on ensuring equality and inclusion across workplaces for all people. 

A June article by People Matters showed that diversity could hugely impact teams. The data showed that racially and ethnically diverse teams are 35% more likely to perform better than non-diverse teams.

Having multiple points of view can help teams see problems from new angles they may not have previously considered. A diverse workforce is also likely to be able to understand the needs of equally diverse customers or clients.

The data shows that diversity and equality can be of great benefit to the organisations that embrace them. Not only does having a diverse team promote better performance and open up employees to a new marketplace of ideas, but it can also help in attracting the next generation of talent.

New employee expectations on a dark background

9: New employee expectations: diversity, transparency and mental health

The changes to the workplace that have been brought on by the pandemic have shifted the expectations of many candidates. Gone are the days of a straight nine to five and obvious career trajectory. In May, we learned that Generation Z is also looking for flexibility, diversity in leadership, transparency and mental health support. Other job seekers, not just Gen Z, want evidence of diversity, work-life balance and career advancement opportunities.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost half of Gen Z in the US is part of a minority group. The generation has also grown up in an always-online information ecosystem, so they have been aware of struggles for equality for racial, ethnic and gender groups with immediate, up-to-date information. It’s little wonder, then, that Gen Z is extremely concerned with diversity.

Having dealt with the emotional turmoil of the pandemic, it’s also unsurprising that jobseekers are expecting mental health support from organisations. 

In a direct follow-on from the revelations released in May, July saw HR professionals wondering how they could align their HR strategies with employee expectations. Training people managers to effectively manage remote teams is but one of the ways of keeping an HR strategy up to date. 

Plans for diversity, transparency and employee wellbeing are vital to creating a work environment that appeals to all talent. These same ideals can also create a work environment that aids employee retention. Finding and retaining quality talent will always be an important aspect of HR.

New employee expectations: diversity, transparency and mental health on a green background

10: Rethinking interviews to promote openness

A number of trending topics concerning how HR professionals conduct or schedule interviews rounded out the year. These included dealing with an influx of interviews and whether or not your interview questions were consistent. None of the approaches to interviewing have been as impactful as the conversation-style interviews we covered in September.

The traditional interview process, with interviewers asking several set questions, rattled off rapid fire, can feel like an interrogation. They can make both the interviewer and interviewee uncomfortable. 

Conversation-style interviews unfold as a dialogue between equals. Conversations can help a candidate to feel open, comfortable and more willing to share. This openness allows interviewers to delve deeply into the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate, as well as encourage a candidate’s interest in the hiring organisation.

At Xref, we use conversational interviews during the hiring process. Each candidate chats with several Xref staff members, including the People and Culture team, as well as the direct managers of the position on offer. These conversations allow the team to develop insight into the candidate and introduce the candidate to the broader organisation.

Quote image of PR and communications specialist

With interviews being the first real impression a candidate gets of a potential employer, ensuring that the first impression is good is an important step in the hiring process. Knowing how to schedule interviews, juggle multiple interviews, and help candidates feel comfortable and open can help ensure you don’t miss out on recruiting the best talent in 2023 and beyond.

Final thoughts: 

Many top trends for 2022 will likely be an ongoing focus for HR professionals in the new year. Diversity, equality, transparency and meeting the changing needs of the workforce will take ongoing effort. 

The ripples of the COVID pandemic are still being felt. Many employers are still trying to navigate hiring in an increasingly candidate-driven environment. Employee engagement, the use of technology and data, diversity, inclusion and strategies for training and retention will be vital for years to come. 

2023 will bring new challenges and ideas that will drive innovation in HR. We can’t wait to see what’s next for the HR and recruitment community.

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