As we go into our third year of the pandemic, the social and economic conditions are accelerating changes in our workforce. We are clearly at a watershed moment. A few years ago, we began seeing trends towards more transparency, increased demand for workforce disclosures, and a higher bar for employee engagement. The higher bar for employee engagement plus increased transparency also increased the need to prioritize “the how work gets done” aspect of work..meaning developing stronger skills at empathy, communication, allyship, and other pro-social behaviors. Lastly, employers will be dealing with the logistics from this pandemic, meaning more FMLA leaves and reasonable accommodations in 2022 to address covid illnesses and mental health issues.
1. FMLA leaves and reasonable accommodations for covid and mental health
We’re now living with the consequences of a global pandemic impacting millions of people’s physical and mental health. Businesses and people leaders should be brushing up on their understanding of FMLA leave (and state equivalents), requests for reasonable accommodation, and the interactive process. Increasing numbers of employees will need time off to take care of their family members and/or their own health condition (either physical or mental). In addition to time off, employees will also need reasonable accommodations, such as a more flexible work schedule. We have two generations of employees who are not that familiar with the ADA and FMLA – both of which were enacted about 30 years ago. It’s time to get all people leaders familiar with these two legal protections; particularly, how to engage in the interactive process to identify whether any reasonable accommodations are feasible. Just failing to engage in the interactive process is a legal violation, in and of itself. Lastly, business leaders should be brainstorming with their Chief HR/People Officers to determine staffing and team coverage issues as we experience more employees concurrently out on leave than we’ve ever experienced before.
2. Management actions under the microscope
In 2021, employees everywhere heard about how a CEO conducted a 900 person layoff; how executives disregarded teenager mental health at Facebook; how a CEO tolerated harassment and discrimination at Blizzard Activision; how a Kentucky employer threatened termination if employees left work even has a tornado was headed straight for them, and countless others. There is no hiding or cloaking management actions. We have countless digital ways to record management actions and countless social media platforms to publish them for the world to see. This has been coming for a long time and 2021 was a watershed year. Many employees across different companies spilled the beans and let the world see what was going on internally and that practice is now standard. Expect to see it all the time. So, when taking any management action, please listen to your Chief HR/People Officer and ensure it passes the smell test. The management action should be conducted in a way that any outside party, hearing about the action, thinks it makes sense and is fair. And… don’t be like Lucy in I Love Lucy where Ricky says, “you have a lot of splaining to do.” If your management action needs a lot of explanation for third parties, then go back to the drawing board. Ideally, management actions should be obvious on their face and appear logical and fair to any third party.
3. Pressure for more annual workforce disclosures
In 2021, California started requiring all public companies with principal offices in California to have at least one woman and one person of color on their board of directors, certified by an annual disclosure to the Secretary of State. In August 2021, the SEC and Nasdaq required public companies to have at least two diverse board members or to explain their failure in meeting the requirement. The Board Diversity Rule also requires public companies to publish annual statistics on their board diversity to increase transparency and give investors more information. In 2021, the SEC also required public companies to provide annual workforce disclosures that are “material,” including demographic data at different employee levels, employee turnover data, staff compensation, recruitment, etc. Also, starting in 2021, any private California employer with 100 employees or more is now required to report pay and other data to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
I think we’ve reached a tipping point. When California and the Federal government start insisting on workforce disclosures to provide more transparency and accountability, more states will follow and require more disclosures. There’s already momentum in several state legislatures to push for annual disclosures of harassment and discrimination claims data. In addition, employees, investors, and other stakeholders are organizing and pushing for it. Bottom line: Expect more workforce disclosure requirements in 2022 and for the market to increasingly expect these disclosures.
4. Increasing Employee Activism and Higher Expectations of Employer
We started seeing employee mobilization and activism in 2017 with #MeToo. We saw it again in 2020 with BLM. In 2021, we saw the Great Resignation as employees, burnt out from the pandemic and disappointed by their employers, resigned in the millions. It’s increasingly common for employees to publicly voice their opinions about the mission and social values of the business and management actions. Employees are increasingly mobilizing and protesting when the management actions are not reflecting the stated values. We’ve experienced enough employee walk-outs and protests in the past two years…expect it to become a regular dynamic in the market. Businesses should increasingly expect employee activism (in one form or another) and to have employees publicly object when management actions do not reflect the stated values of the business.
5. Pro-Social Behaviors May Be the #1 Workforce Skill in 2022
2022 is all about how we treat people. Whether it’s engaging in a reasonable accommodation discussion, having our management actions viewed under a microscope, making annual workforce disclosures and/or responding to activist employees who have high expectations, how people treat each other is a top skill. Businesses have tried to address behavior through policies where employees memorize rules or laws. It hasn’t been effective. Positive behavior requires practice and skill development. Our ability to show empathy, to see another perspective, to value our differences, to show allyship, to engage in systematic decision-making is what Emtrain calls pro-social behaviors and they are vital workplace skills. Our society in 2022 is in flux and our ability to navigate the turbulence is vital. That’s why pro-social workplace skills may be the most important workplace skills to have in 2022.
Our society is in flux as our social and economic forces are changing. The changes are creating a watershed moment of increased employee power. Employees are bringing transparency to management actions, mobilizing for changes to management practices, all set against a backdrop of increased regulation requiring annual workforce disclosures of material people metrics. My prediction is that 2022 will be the year of the employee and pro-social skill will be the #1 workforce skill in 2022.
Don’t miss my Linkedin Live with Steve Cadigan, Founder of Cadigan Talent Ventures, as we’ll dive deeper into these 2022 predictions! Tune on Linkedin here: https://www.linkedin.com/video/event/urn:li:ugcPost:6881742861705064448/