2022 has been a year of people finally stepping out of their homes in full force. While many returned to the physical office, some continued working remotely. The year started with companies going on a hiring spree. By the middle of the year, new terms for not-so-new behaviours came to the fore, like “quiet quitting” that referred to workers doing just enough work so that the given task was finished and not putting extra effort or enthusiasm. Moonlighting gained attention as well, when some Indian IT companies expressed unhappiness over employees working simultaneously for competitors, sparking debate on the merits and risks of secondary jobs.
The hybrid working model continued to be a preference for several companies. Towards the end of the year, some technology companies, which had earlier invested more resources and time to cater to the pandemic’s extended period of online living and working, announced mass layoffs to deal with a return to a less-digital reality and a looming recession.
Which of these trends and challenges will continue in the new year and how will they evolve? We spoke with experts to find out the answer. Here’s what they had to say.
Hybrid is still a vibe
Hybrid work models are likely to continue in the Indian workplace. “The hybrid workplace is the future of work, taking advantage of evolving HR technologies to become more flexible, agile and productive,” says Gurugram-based Abhijeet Dhar, director sales (South Asia), CNN International Commercial. He adds that businesses have been, or are considering, decreasing their office space or relocating to smaller towns.
“The shift to remote work in 2020 was driven by necessity. But now companies have a chance to be more intentional in how they work. Talent configuration will also shift in favour of those who have the mentality of completing tasks digitally, and can easily transition to remote work.”
Many employees are choosing job opportunities based on whether a company is hybrid. “Companies have to now offer more than just good salaries and positions. I’ve noticed almost everyone we interview ask about our version of hybrid and the flexibility offered within this hybrid structure,” says Neha, Pizza Hut India’s chief marketing officer, who uses only one name.
She recognizes the advantage this flexibility offers to people when it comes to balancing their personal and professional lives. “It has brought relief and joy, especially when it was linked, for instance, to someone with ageing parents, recovering from an ailment, or required surgery. Scenarios like this would have caused operational stress in the past.”
This even reflected in Cisco’s Global Hybrid Work Study 2022, where 72% respondents said hybrid and remote work helped improve their well-being and empowered them to take care of their roles at work and beyond.
Neha believes this flexibility will motivate more women to return to the workforce in the new year, especially mothers with no support at home who earlier found rigid work timings difficult to manage.
The space between work and life
There has been an increased discussion around quiet quitting, or employees’ silent resistance to overwork and under-appreciation by doing only what is required in their role. Will 2023 bring any change?
“As quiet quitters are less likely to stay late, show up early, or attend non-mandatory meetings, the burden will increase on coworkers to take the work forward,” says Amit K. Nandkeolyar, associate professor (organizational behaviour), Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
“One way to resolve this would be for managers to return to employee-engagement basics, and have a genuine conversation with them to redefine job responsibilities and determine what should qualify as extra,” explains Nandkeolyar. Managers need to balance employee needs with additional work challenges, else they would resort to quiet quitting or even moonlighting, he adds.
Let’s talk inclusion
Efforts to make organizations more diverse, equitable and inclusive will continue in the new year, believe experts.
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management stated the need for improvement, with 71% of respondents agreeing that their respective company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts were not enough, and that 60% of organizations lack a chief diversity officer. Recognizing the need to prepare future leaders who work towards building a better, more diverse work environment, the Wharton School of Business is offering a DE&I concentration within their MBA program from 2023.
“A great company culture depends on the emerging aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion,” says CNN International Commercial’s Dhar. “These businesses take responsibility for providing equal chances to everyone while recognizing distinctions and uniqueness.”
Nandkeolyar also insists that having diverse employees helps ensure diversity of thought and creates a better work environment. “Managers need to listen more to their employees and let them raise their concerns,” he says.
With increasing demand for flexible work, HR technology will continue to evolve to manage remote and hybrid work better.
“Technology will continue to disrupt traditional HR work practices,” believes Nandkeolyar. “Analytical tools can help provide a peek into employees’ daily experiences. Increased use of artificial intelligence/machine learning will be seen in almost all aspects, including recruitment, assessment, learning and development and retention,” he predicts.
Aarti Srivastava, the chief human resources officer (India) for Capgemini, says that data and artificial intelligence will be fundamental components in designing HR strategies to support people insights and analytics. “People insights will aid data-driven decision-making and help companies achieve larger goals like enhanced employee experience and business performance,” she says. “Key analytics like intelligent workforce planning, inclusive hiring practices, predicting employee turnover, employee sentiment analysis, skill-enhancement and organizational network analysis will largely be at play.”
Calling the shots
With hybrid work continuing, Pizza Hut India’s Neha believes employees will be in the driving seat. “Employers need to have flexible policies on remote working to retain or attract talent,” she says. “Perhaps companies need to have some roles completely out of the home location to adjust to the remote employees’ needs.”
Empathetic leaders will, of course, continue to remain important. “Leadership development will be a key imperative as the new office demands more authentic and empathetic leaders,” Srivastava. “Businesses must commit to leadership development, while navigating the changing work landscape, to gain a competitive advantage in attracting, developing and retaining talent.”
Nandkeolyar believes external situations like rapid cycles of economic growth and slowdowns will push more organizations to revisit people strategies. “Managing and dealing with talent crunch and oversupply during these economic cycles will be a key challenge in the new year,” he explains.
Neha agrees that business will be tough in 2023. “Looming inflation, layoffs and talks of recession mean that organisations will find it harder to deliver results. Treatment of the workforce will, therefore, need to be balanced. How do you drive performance while continuing to provide flexibility and the right culture? That will be an interesting challenge in 2023.”