Business & Leadership lessons of 2021Dec 19, 2021
At this time of year, it's always an opportune moment to reflect upon the lessons learned over the year and look forward to the new year ahead.
2021 could be considered the biggest year for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve seen companies starting to recognise the impact that diverse teams have, not just when it comes to business innovation and profitability but also in team morale. We’ve also seen some very public examples of brand and reputational damage, as well as personal trauma when organisations continue to have a tick-box approach to inclusion.
But when all seems bleak at the end of what has been for many been another challenging year our screens were illuminated with the glittering representational joy of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing final.
So, what else have we learned from a people perspective in 2021?
Well, one of the hottest trends that we've seen in 2021 is the introduction of the hybrid office or workplace. This has primarily been driven by organising needing to have a much more versatile approach to employee psychological and physical wellbeing. Some individuals wanted to continue to work remotely, others could not wait to return to the workplace environment and there were others who wanted the hybrid approach.
We have however seen organisations become creative with their solutions, creating workplace bubbles offering the opportunity for teams to come together this creating an almost rotational workforce.
Review of real estate
We have seen organisations really think hard about their real estate strategy. Many are rethinking their approach to long term office let's in premium city centre locations and are exploring larger spaces which are likely to accommodate social distancing requirements.
There has, understandably been a significant focus on employee wellbeing. The need to tune into the demands placed on employees not just within the workplace but in wider society as a whole. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on health inequalities, and the effect of long-covid are still unknown. Organisations and their leaders need to tune into the signs of stress and fatigue which many employees are experiencing and look for ways in which they can support their employees, whilst recognising that there is no one size that will fit all.
Redefining Employee Experience
2021 we have seen the recognition that organisations need to redefine the employee experience. Employee experience is often associated with the phrase ‘a great place to work’ place considered bricks and mortar/ a physical workplace building. This is where organisations look to the provision of things such as on-site restaurant facilities and even on-site gym as being great employee experiences.
However, employee experience is holistic. It encapsulates everything an employee thinks, feels and sees during their tenure with an organisation and enabling them to be at their best. Therefore, looking forward to the future we see that there will be a shift with things like employee benefit packages as they will need to be accessible for those who may not be present in the workplace. The emphasis on employee experience in 2022 therefore will not be directly connected with a physical place, but a company culture.
2021 has probably been about finding that middle ground and a remote approach that works for everyone. And whilst flexibility and more free time with loved ones can and has potentially been beneficial not all the extra time has been invested in a better work life balance as many individuals have been challenged with the demands of family life and career responsibilities, In addition organisations have reported that the continual demands of online meetings has caused presenteeism challenges, with employees feeling the need to be online and available as much as possible, responding instantly to colleague communications. The lines therefore between home life and work life for some have become blurred, impacting upon morale, productivity and mental health.
Inclusion & Diversity
2021 could be considered the biggest year for diversity, equity and inclusion. And whilst it's certainly surfaced to the top of many board agendas as companies are starting to recognise the impact that diverse teams have, not just in Business Innovation profitability but also in team morale, there is also the stark realisation that there’s still a lot to do! Many organisations now need to translate what may be seen by some as a tick-box approach to inclusion to one which moves beyond the boundaries of HR and becomes part of an organisations DNA, embedding inclusion into all organisations activities so that it can really become culturally transformative.
Positive Impacts and Purpose
Positive environmental and societal contribution are also featuring heavily when it comes to career choices. For some employers therefore this may mean dialling up messaging about their approach to social responsibility recognising that things that make an employer of choice is purpose beyond profit,. The pandemic has given many employees an opportunity to reflect upon what they want from work and life, we are therefore seeing many employees becoming increasingly motivated to work for businesses that prioritise doing good and having a clear purpose. It is also important to recognise that purpose also means having the opportunity to do something meaningful for a cause which an employees believes in. and where there's a degree of autonomy and decision-making ability.
The role of the Manager
We have observed the need for managers to manage their teams differently. Employee independence has increased, some have thrived with the new working environments, others may have felt isolated. Managers will have had to learn to flex their style and reconsider the approach to people management and they will be the key to creating a workplace of inclusion going forward.
2021 has taught us many lessons including that our future requires us to look at diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through a completely different lens. We cannot revert to the old ways of doing things or try to implement initiatives and strategies that have simply not worked prior to the pandemic in the hope that somehow they will now drive change. Inclusion and belonging will be a critical success factor in 2022, and we truly believe that Belonging + Inclusion = Great Place to Work, so whatever goals you've got planned for 2022 make them B.I.G
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