HR industry experts and leading associations are looking forward to 2023 by analyzing insights from 2022. I’ve gathered the hottest topics and trends about what’s been happening and what we can expect from the workplace as we wrap up 2022. They group pretty neatly into four broad groups:

Responding to Work Changes

I’ll start with the most often discussed trend, but also the one that might be less of a highlight in the future. We’ve experienced major changes in the last couple of years, and work has had to adapt to those big changes. The biggest workplace change has focused on the need for hybrid work models and flexible schedules. The traditional office environment is outdated, and workplaces have had to adapt new practices to meet current needs. That leads to multiple HR adjustments like not focusing on location in hiring and engaging employees remotely (to name just two of many).

Other workplace changes that have been topics in 2022 include how to better attract and retain talent and how to improve the agility of businesses overall. Unsurprisingly, all of these conversations revolve around the pandemic and the large economic fluctuations we’ve seen. Although I don’t expect these conversations to go away, they’re so ubiquitous that they’re no longer trends… this is just how we work now.

Focusing on Health and Wellbeing

The next most common trend I’ve seen (and one that hasn’t gotten close to peaking) is the critical need to focus on health and wellbeing. These conversations dig into granular aspects of health and wellbeing (e.g., how to offer better childcare benefits or how to adopt fair chance hiring practices), but they also are taking on big structural changes. The most popular of these structural changes are around implementing effective DEI and people-first strategies.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a buzzword for many organizations for a while. But organizations have lacked the budget, experience, and ability to really make a change. I’ve seen a dramatic shift in 2022 about how workplaces can actually tackle initiatives that make positive changes in leadership, culture, and support.

Revaluating Skills

I see three big skill conversations of note: power skills, reskilling, and upskilling. “Power skills”—rebranded from the historically more common phrase “soft skills”—are skills that focus less on very specific capabilities and more on behavioral skills that are transferable across jobs and industries. Leadership and HR are talking more about the power of power skills (pun intended?). A recent MIT Sloan study showed that focusing on power skills training returned roughly 250% ROI in less than a year.1 Key power skills include coaching, communication, problem-solving, adaptability, and time management.

Related closely to power skills, upskilling and reskilling have also garnered a lot of attention. Reskilling is learning new specific skills that are different than earlier responsibilities, and upskilling is expanding current skill sets with new tools or practices in the same skill pathway. So reskilling is pivoting in a skillset, and upskilling is expanding the current skillset. Employers and HR are seeing more and more opportunities to adopt continuous learning in the workplace.

Internal HR Changes

And the last trend big 2022 trend I’ve seen? Changes within the HR department itself. This one is a challenge for multiple reasons. Many HR departments are under-staffed and over-worked. HR leaders would love to have the time and flexibility to rethink internal HR processes but turning that into a reality is challenging. Even so, I’ve seen a couple themes appear multiple times throughout the year: centering HR in organizational design and change management, HR as brand leaders, and more HR tech innovation.

The first two are closely related. Historically, HR has been siloed, and if HR leaders are involved in big business conversations they’re involved late. Unsurprisingly, more and more organizations are recognizing that HR is critical to a company’s big picture. We’re seeing more requests for HR to be a critical stakeholder in key business strategies and processes: organizational design, change management, brand awareness, brand strategy. Let’s hope that we see HR’s budget and staffing grow to meet these demands (and to better represent how valuable HR is to an organization).

The conversation around HR technology isn’t new to 2022, but it has evolved and grown. HR professionals are more and more interested in how software and systems can better support their needs and the needs of the employees as a whole (this goes back to the people-first and wellbeing trends too!). Ideally, HR wants better technology to be a force for good. Automation can help HR focus on what matters, streamline workflows, and make onboarding processes better for everyone.

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