More Companies Will Invest in People in 2022 – Here’s Why

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In a world that is constantly innovating and creating, the people need to remain at the center of a company’s attention. The pandemic has put the majority of firms on the same page about this (a bleak shift for some, less for others). Nevertheless, the importance of the “human element” in business is gaining speed. This will be the year that companies start seeing their employees as real people – a shift that is a long time coming.

SHRM’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report tells us that being treated with respect is the most critical factor for employees, ranking above compensation and other benefits. This reinforces the idea that HR professionals have been preaching that profit cannot eclipse employee well-being for years- even decades.

Some corporations have proven the benefit of investing in people, and it’s safe to say more companies of all sizes will follow suit this year. Whether it’s due to higher expectations by employees and talent or the shifting needs of a growing remote-first workforce, 2022 will provide optimal opportunities for businesses to either get up-to-speed or build on existing momentum.

Employee Expectations

People want their organization to see them as people, not just employees. They want appreciation, flexibility, benefits, and incentives personalized to their specific lifestyle. Organizations must rise to the call with unrelenting competition for talent continuing into 2022. A Gartner study released in May 2021 encapsulates the way companies can meet changing employee expectations. Gartner wrote, “employers must redesign their employee value proposition (EVP) to deliver employees a life experience – not just an employee experience – by focusing on the feelings and features that match their needs today.”

Employee expectations will continue to be rewritten in 2022. For example, trust will become a significant factor in employee satisfaction. Employers will be a source of stability and comfort as we enter yet another year of unpredictability and instability on multiple fronts – from a rough economy to political and cultural unrest. People want to be able to trust their employer now more than ever.

Radical Flexibility and Remote-First  

Many companies grappled with how to engage remote employees before the pandemic, but once COVID-19 hit, perfecting this model shot straight to the top of the agenda. Companies know they can’t afford to lose talent due to poor remote culture, yet communicating with and engaging employees without that physical connection is still a messy issue. While every individual will prefer a different style and frequency of communication, businesses will pay more attention to this in the years to come.

Remote work environments bring more autonomy to the employee. It fosters extreme flexibility, changing how companies invest in people-first programs and initiatives. We know that employees crave freedom at work – placing more importance on flexibility than compensation  – so how companies meet that need will determine how well they can engage, retain and recruit talent.

Companies that value and appreciate their professionals see a direct impact on commitment and productivity.85% of companies that spend one percent of their budget on employee recognition see a positive effect on engagement, making it grow by almost 60%. In addition, retaining employees through perks like attractive benefits, like remote work, leads to stronger loyalty and effort on behalf of the employees who feel a greater responsibility to ensure they don’t let their team and the organization down.

The CHRO/CPO and Beyond

CHROs or Chief People Officers are the enablers, the supporters, and the ambassadors for the people. Like a CFO would think about cash flow or debt-to-equity ratio as their primary KPIs, a CHRO thinks about people as the human element necessary to business success. The CHRO is focused on keeping the “human” in human resources. However, in the face of this historic talent shortage and “The Great Resignation,” it’s critical that all members of the C-suite are aligned on these same priorities. As with any effort, a people-first culture must start at the top.

Generating company-wide engagement goes even further than that. Too often, engagement efforts are lost in translation in the middle layers of a company. Managers – the most frequent touchpoints for employees – must be aligned entirely with how core values and the EVP are translated daily. There will be a stronger push in 2022 to invest in better training and growth opportunities for mid-level leadership and how that integrates into the company’s realignment as a whole.

A Culture Debt

Consider a company that has revaluated its post-pandemic culture and realized it’s somewhat of a “culture crisis.” Years and years have gone by where they’ve continued to prioritize profit over people. Culture is toxic. Employee turnover is high. The company has neither an EVP nor core values to share with job seekers, which leads to struggles when recruiting top talent. Things seem to be regressing quickly.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to grab the reins and realign. An excellent place to begin on a journey out of “culture crisis” is to document the main aspirations – The North Star, so to speak, for the company. Then, everyone can see those goals and work toward them in their capacity. Is the company lacking empathy? Is it known for working its people to the bone? Does it have a toxic culture that fosters exclusivity and discrimination?

Whatever the source of the critical issues may be, listening to the need and then documenting the desired solution will allow everyone to get on the same page sooner than later.

What’s come to be known as “The Great Resignation” ought to be called “The Great Reset.” Many savvy companies are rethinking and rewriting their approach to a human-centered organization in the wake of this workplace upheaval. These organizations are coming to recognize several things. To stay competitive, they must meet employees’ needs (a call for more flexibility, freedom, growth opportunities, a sense of belonging and appreciation, value, and inclusivity at all levels).

They also realize that employees are real people who have real families, real problems, tangible goals, and real passions. Understanding this means taking a holistic approach to HR, which truly holds power to propel an organization into innovation and successful competition.


Richa Gupta is the CPO of Globalization Partners.


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By Richa Gupta