2022 is the year when businesses we will take the next step in hybrid working. This becomes clear after a series of interviews with HR and L&D experts from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. What’s in store for us in 2022?
Let’s start with kicking open the door: hybrid work is here to stay, even after the COVID-19 pandemic leaves our lives. Companies have experienced the benefits it brings, and have reasons to continue it in 2022 as well. But there is a lot involved in making it work for everyone. According to the Belgian expert Isabel de Clercq, the term “hybrid” has lost much of its shine. As is often the case, it goes wrong with the interpretation of the word. Because if you suspect that hybrid work means “2 days at the office, 3 days at home”, you have a lot to catch up on.
After crisis management in 2020 and 2021, 2022 will be the year we develop our “hybrid” experience. Look at your consultation structure, at the competencies of your management, at the social aspects, at work processes… what have you learned in the previous 2 years? Where you used to have to budget for office space, desks and chairs, you now have to spend more on digital tools to make hybrid working a success. Do you have any best practices that made it easier?
When it comes down to it, good collaboration remains crucial to healthy business operations, whether you do it hybrid or not. Now that we often don’t sit together physically and – as home working expert Marianne Sturman puts it – the office is a nice-to-have, we have to pull out all the stops to stay connected in a sustainable manner. To that end, the experts certainly agree. Gonny Vink even thinks it’s crucial to pay attention to this. According to this workplace thought leader, by 2022 organizations will increasingly use hybrid work as a strategic asset to achieve better results.
Isabel De Clercq is passionate about the interaction between technology, individual growth, and change. She started her career at the University of Antwerp Belgium, and it is there, in that academic context, that her interest in self-leadership, productivity, knowledge sharing, and the power of technology was awakened. Isabel is a much sought-after speaker on topics such as knowledge sharing, asynchronous collaboration, and Hybrid Work. According to her, we need to redefine the latter concept in 2022.
Isabel: “Hybrid Work is a quest for sustainable collaboration. Words act as magic here, they represent the way we see the world. They conjure up a new reality. There is a sharp creative urge in the birth of a new word. I felt that way in the summer of 2020 when the word “hybrid work” first surfaced. There was optimism and hope in the birth of that word. The future would combine the best of two worlds: that of home and the office. The word gave shape to a promising future.
In 2021, the contours of that future became clearer. Working from home is here to stay. So is the use of digital tools. Is this a reason to cheer on? Perhaps not. There is something that saddens me. Hybrid working is increasingly being reduced to one-size-fits-all (Dutch blogpost, HK). It is spending one of the two days of remote work at home where employees are glued to their computers, and travel time is replaced by extra meetings.
Over the past year, the word hybrid working has lost some of its radiance. In 2022, let’s replace it with another word: sustainable collaboration. It’s not a new word, but it does manifest hope. Hope for a future with more focus time, customer value creation, and asynchronous collaboration. A future where M&Ms, meetings, and emails, take up less space. A future of dignified work – work that values us as knowledge workers. Let 2022 be the year in which we work together on work that works.”
Virginie Briand is a business leader with a demonstrated history in delivering positive change for companies over the last 20 years. Since 2007 she is an owner and managing partner of 19:13 – an independent transformation and innovation consultancy based in Munich, Germany. Since then, she has brought a vast array of her client’s “home” – helping them win hearts and minds and achieve success through brilliantly relevant solutions.
Virginie: “We need to rethink internal communications.” This is reflected in many realities of business in our daily work. During increasingly hybrid and flexible work models, there is a plentitude of digital communication formats. And this is good! Whether it is townhalls, virtual cafes, lunch or ask me anything sessions, social intranets, co-creation tools and much more. In addition to the existing channels and formats, however, many companies added new options during the pandemic to reach all employees in the home office in times of remote work. The underlying claim to transparency and openness is fundamentally correct and well-intentioned. However, overstimulation and information overload often lead to employees “switching off” instead of consuming information. This is shown by current studies and also insights from major digital players such as Microsoft.
Corporate leaders and executives therefore not only have the opportunity, but also the obligation to rethink internal communications and make them more user-friendly. For example, by using curated content to communicate much more precisely and efficiently with selected groups of recipients – through numerous formats, in which employees can access information and content according to their own preferences. After all, dialog and exchange should first and foremost be enjoyable – and offer added value for everyone. Every company has its own individual “New Normal”. Contemporary communication will have to be geared towards this in 2022.”
Stephan Schillerwein is an internationally renowned Intranet and Digital Workplace expert with a 20+ years track record. He has worked with more than eighty organizations of all industry sectors and sizes delivering around 150 projects that improved Ways of Working and the Digital Employee Experience based on the smart use of Intranets, Social Collaboration and Digital Workplaces. Stephan is a regular publisher and conference speaker, and also has substantial international experience through activities for organizations such as the Intranet Benchmarking Forum and the Worldwide Intranet Challenge.
Stephan: “2022 must be a better year for the further development of the work environment. The problem of the past year was not that nothing happened. But rather that the projects were carried out as if everything would be the same as in 2019. So expect the return of stability and security and a less complex and not so ambiguous world. That’s not going to happen – over, done with, basta! Because we were already deep in “VUCA” (volatility‚ uncertainty‚ complexity, ambiguity) before, we just didn’t directly feel it yet.
2022 must therefore become the year in which organizations also live the “digital-first” principle internally. And this does not primarily mean technology, but rather the mindset, skillset and cultural set of the digital world. Or to put it another way: the antidote to VUCA is VOPA (Vernetzung, Offenheit, Partizipation, Agilität meaning networking, openness, participation, and agility).
Instead of dealing with ultimately irrelevant questions such as “back to the office”, companies should ask themselves how good they are at hybrid working or whether they offer their employees a digital employee experience worthy of the name. 2022 is the year in which we can make great strides along this path without alternatives. If only we tackle it and take the right direction this time.”
Technological innovations are having a huge impact on the work of the HR professional. New, smart tools are transforming the recruitment process and VR and gamification are taking the place of traditional training. What impact does technology have on organizational culture and how does technology continue to serve people? Peter Runhaar, media entrepreneur, journalist, and author of the book HR Tech writes about these and other matters.
Peter: “Various developments make the importance of knowledge sharing “across departments and disciplines” increasingly important. Let me give you an example: to create a “post-corona” hybrid organization, it is inevitable that HR and FM and IT and the line managers actively talk to each other. To improve internal mobility, management and L&D and HR need to find each other.
In many organizations, this internal integration is far from developed enough. One of the things we have to do in 2022 is to break down the walls between the various disciplines. Earlier this year, I spoke to Richard Helmus, who has set up an integrated HR-Facility Management department at VGZ. He said, “If you think from the user’s point of view on the receiving end, you discover that there are so many dependencies in the chain that it is totally illogical not to focus on that integration.”
That integration won’t happen by itself – in 2022, we need to work actively. Look at how you can effectively facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration, organize internal work shadowing so that the IT colleague experiences what HR is doing and provide tasty coffee and an inviting coffee corner, where the line manager and the HR professional can catch up informally (because how important informal communication is in organizations is also one of the “lessons learned” from the pandemic).”
She begins with a great example of real collaboration. “While we should be looking for connectedness, unfortunately, I see a lot of polarization. Let’s interact in a good way, and inspire each other. That can be done in many ways. I personally like this one: don’t put people to work alone, make duos! With buddies. I know organizations (Menlo Innovations, HK.) where IT people work together at one computer screen, with one keyboard. That works great for onboarding new team members and it is the fastest way to share knowledge within your organization.”
Maartje Wolff is a Dutch author, speaker, trainer, teacher, and consultant in the field of work happiness and a positive work culture. She founded Happy Office with Fennande van der Meulen in 2015 to help organizations and teams create a positive work culture. In September 2020, the first book Maartje co-authored with Fennande van der Meulen was released: The Happy Office Manifesto (Dutch), the four pillars of a positive work culture.
Maartje: “The trend for 2022? Because of Covid, we have started to have different demands. That’s why we need to look even more for connection, especially now that we’re working from home en masse. That’s mainly in: where do I belong? We all have different backgrounds, come from different places. But at the same time, we often have a lot in common – from our upbringing, religion, to our environment. That creates a bond, a recognition. We have to find a new way in behavior to feel connected to the organization. That is why themes such as diversity and inclusion are so important.
Work happiness is central to getting your people to thrive. That means you have to organize a positive work culture. One way to do that is to make it very clear what you stand for as an organization. As far as I’m concerned, one of the challenges for 2022 is to make everything much more explicit! Tell very clearly what you stand for, not only as a company but also as a team. Start small, make sure you have the common denominator.
As an organization, start a good conversation in 2022! Who and what we are, what we contribute, whom we contribute for, what our purpose is, and the meaning of the department should be clear. Link good stories to that. And individually, what do you contribute to the group and the team? Work is not an individual activity! We help each other, form each other, pass on knowledge, copy behavior. Let go of egos, do it together!”
According to Maartje, the change needed to create a positive work culture is also linked to different leadership styles. She refers to Simon Wakeman, who propagates it as follows: How many organizations still work was designed for a stable, slow, and predictable world that no longer exists. Stop pampering, let people solve it themselves. There are better ways to create organizations that help people do more meaningful and sustainable work.
“I believe that in the future people will no longer go to the office and work individually.” Back in October 2020, I had the privilege of speaking with Gonny Vink. Gonny is the founder and chief happiness officer of work21. She advises organizations and teams in sustainable change at the intersection of people, organization, and technology. Gonny is co-author of the book Never waste a good crisis. We spoke this time about behavior change, about learning from each other. She says, “What you see is that many companies have focused that we must be able to communicate and hold meetings remotely. But now the next step is, how are we going to collaborate, share knowledge and develop remotely? Tools and technology are helping this, where behavioral change is crucial”.
It is January 2022. What does she think are the recent developments that we should be aware of?
Gonny: ““In 2022, employees are more central than ever. The jobs market is tight, we’ve had a rough time and are looking for connection and meaning in work. Work is becoming truly hybrid. Last year it was about working at home or in the office by necessity. In 2022, organizations will increasingly use hybrid work as a strategic asset to achieve results sustainably. The happiness of employees at work and the utilization of talent will take an important place. Learning and experimenting together are central to this. Organizations will have to become increasingly agile to respond to the changes and take the lead. Digitalization plays an important role in becoming more agile. It is no longer an IT issue, but an issue for the entire business. It is a prerequisite for being able to work in a hybrid manner. This requires new (digital) leadership. We will have to keep reinventing ourselves in a hybrid context.”
Although it’s somewhat difficult to prove, it is undeniable that Marianne Sturman was well ahead of her time in 2000. The term “The New World of Work” may well be hers, when she pioneered remote and home working at the beginning of this century. With her company Moneypenny, she is seen as the working-from-home expert in the Netherlands. What is certain is that she has a sharp view of developments in the workplace and is often invited by the media to share her vision.
Marianne: “Remote working, or working and collaborating remotely, is the job market’s trend for the future. Not only did the Covid crisis show that it is possible, but employees want it too. This is regularly demonstrated in research by my company Moneypenny in collaboration with Nyenrode Business University and the Open University.
My clients regularly ask me how it is possible that we can find such good people at Moneypenny. The answer is simple: we offer our people 100% control over where and when they do their work, of course taking into account good agreements on delivery times, availability, and accessibility. My advice is, to ensure in your organization that knowledge and office work can be done completely independent of the workplace and see the office as a “nice-to-have” option. Don’t impose any restrictions in terms of the number of days in the office, and you will see that you suddenly get all those difficult vacancies filled.
Hybrid workplaces – like all workplaces – must be value-oriented with mutual benefit, shared value exchange, and co-ownership. This is already visible in many modern digital collaboration tools – we are colleagues when we work together, share, and co-create together. This is based on mutual trust, with respect for privacy and security. It’s about all those aspects that we care about in ourselves and our organizations. All of this has to be deeply embedded in the hybrid employee experiences we create, for them to be well realized. As far as I’m concerned, in 2022, we’ll be especially careful to close the gap between office and home workers. It’s all about equal connection and the value it brings to everyone, right?
Either way, these are historic times with historic opportunities. If you want to do something about new leadership, budgets, processes, forms of collaboration, this is the time to make real changes and get yourself ready as an agile organization with a promising future.”