The changing face of HR in 2022

What are the country's most resilient HR professionals saying about the future of the sector

The changing face of HR in 2022

HR departments across the country said that 2021 brought some of the toughest challenges to their profession. In 2020, the pandemic seemed like a temporary situation but 2021 proved that challenges were going to continue for some time, particularly around mental health and economic uncertainty. Prompting employers to think about what support employees would need if organisations were hit with more restrictions.

“Managing COVID in 2021 has been more challenging than in 2020 in some ways. When the pandemic started in 2020, while it brought many challenges, it had a temporary feeling around it. However, the uncertainty of 2021 saw a shift in tone,” said Vicky Drakousis, chief HR officer at Allianz Australia.

Mental Health Challenges

Employees faced a lot of challenges during the pandemic, economic uncertainty, distance from family and friends, extended lockdowns, and general ambiguity around when life would return to normal.

“As a consequence, supporting the mental health of employees was more important than ever. At Allianz, we have consistently provided tools and advice for employees to create a healthy separation between work and home and navigate ongoing mental health challenges.”

Drakousis said this had led to a new level of understanding and empathy from employers because employees have more and more been turning to their employer for mental health support, while they’re also navigating their own personal challenges.

“To navigate this, we offered our people leaders specific training to help them manage their teams through difficult periods, while also proactively managing their own mental health. Part of this was having frequent conversations with our leaders about identifying signs of struggle, and how to determine the most appropriate course of action.”  

Modified business models

Perhaps the biggest change to come out of the pandemic was the transition to some form of hybrid working. A shift that is more difficult for sectors that rely on face-to-face interaction but even in those environments, employees have seen the benefits of digitisation.

“We’ve been quite a ‘traditional’ face-to-face business, but interestingly, large numbers of our teams did actually work from home when the pandemic struck in 2020,” said Sarah Derry, senior vice president for talent and culture at Accor.

“That included our reservations and finance teams, and even our front-of-office teams were able to check people in and out remotely. We really had to think on our feet, and the reality for our industry is that we’ve jumped 20-25 years into the future.” Derry continued.

An improved work environment

Derry told HRD that she expects uncertainty to continue for some time. HR will be the driving force through the massive changes happening throughout every organisation. “HR has really been a major player in guiding organisations through these times, and I don’t think that will stop – and I’m excited to see that happen.”

QBEs global head of HR, Vernon Griffith, thinks employees will continue to have the upper hand throughout 2022 and they’ll be looking carefully at what each employer has on offer, which will lead to increased competition.

“The key themes of wellbeing and culture that have emerged over the last two years are set to continue into 2022. Attraction and retention of talent, flexibility and the location of work will all continue to be key areas of focus as we emerge from the crisis. Employees are likely to compare their values with those of their employers and consider what’s important to them,” Griffith says.

“In parallel, I anticipate that organisations in the face of increased competition and financial pressures will be looking to improve efficiency and resilience by examining their operating models, ways of working and use of technology and automation – all of which will require HR leadership and support. Overall, I think we’ve got an exciting year ahead.”  

Take a look at our full special report here.

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