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2022 – The Paradoxical Year

Where do we start? Just as most countries in the world have been easing out of the pandemic restrictions, we have all been faced by many further unprecedented challenges in 2022: Geopolitical tensions, global supply chain issues, cost of living crises, rising inflation, social unrest, climate change related disasters, and major talent shortages. With all this in mind, it is no surprise that business and HR leaders have had their work cut out managing a multitude of enterprise and workforce priorities. 

In this round-up of 2022 our Managing Directors Steve Brown in Hong Kong, Tim Spriggs in the UK and President and COO Stefanie Cross-Wilson who is US-based share their reflections on a turbulent, somewhat perplexing year.

Steve Brown, Managing Director APAC

Across APAC, there has been a lot of activity to combat the war for talent and critical skills in this highly diverse region. Singapore and India have been in the spotlight with many organisations pushing investments to these hubs, often increasing more regional and global career opportunities for HR professionals. In addition, we are pleased to see that the region continues to play a vital role in exporting top-HR leadership to global head office locations, often in Europe and North America. This continuing trend is due in part both to the significance that Asia contributes in terms of revenue, and evolution of the global Asian leader. 

HR leaders tell us that their lead time from planning to execution has been hyper-accelerated in 2022, with no time to over-think or trial certain initiatives and interventions that could have previously taken months or years to happen. Simultaneously, many organisations have continued to push ahead with HR tech-stack innovation. Employee on-boarding, experience, listening, and engagement; hybrid working; re-skilling; curated learning; and internal talent mobility have all been at the forefront of our conversations with HR leaders this year. Progressive employers have been doubling down on their talent retention and workforce transformation and planning strategies. 

2022 has been in many ways a paradoxical year indeed. Despite so many uncertainties in the world, the APAC region has seen growth and transformation which will continue to underpin its pivotal position in both the global business and talent market. HR is rapidly evolving here, often pioneering enterprise-wide change. 

Abby Walters, Senior Director

2022 has been another intense and rewarding year for HR leaders in equal measure, as the function continues to evolve and transform. There has been a real scrutiny on organisational health and effectiveness, examining both future fit capability and operating models. “If companies are not agile, they’ll be fragile” – it is almost a given now that HR leaders across all specialisms need to be able to wear an ‘OD’ hat, and drive change in highly complex situations.

In EMEA we have seen many organisations grapple with the ‘never normal’ and what the future of work means for them. Whilst debates around new hybrid working practices have been at the forefront of this ‘future’, we have also seen more emphasis on leadership, purpose, well-being, culture, and DE&I. In most organisations there is still a gap between leaders’ perspectives and how the workforce actually feel – engagement levels are highest when there is trust from bottom to top and alignment on values, mission, and the method to get there.

In general, leaders are looking to take their DE&I strategies to the next level, going beyond the optics and attempting to shift mindsets and cultures with inclusion at the heart. At this point, there is still more work to do and we anticipate this will continue to be a pivotal topic in 2023.  

From an EMEA HR market perspective, 2022 was one of the most dynamic years on record with significant ripples following the ‘great refresh’. We saw several HR professionals make successive moves between 2020 and 2022, a reflection of both the continued buoyancy of the market and the ongoing challenges facing both employers and employees to manage ‘organ rejection’ in a turbulent environment, both micro and macro.

Stefanie Cross-Wilson, President and COO

2022 has been a complex, turbulent and often polarising year. Despite a difficult external environment, there has been innovation and positive transformational change in global HR. My colleague Tim Spriggs in his piece above, references the ‘never normal’ which I feel is a good description of where we are now. It is as though we have now been conditioned to expect the abnormal! 

As the external environment remains volatile in many respects and given so many HR organisations will continue to transform in 2023, I wonder if we will see more of a ‘sea change’ where basic tenants and beliefs are often brought into question. Perhaps the HR profession can expect more ‘why do we do it?’ questions in 2023. Examples of fundamental questions on HR that come to my mind are:

  1. Why is HRIS so often included as a responsibility of the head of Total Rewards? The skills and knowledge needed for each are quite different. Is this pairing in the best interests of both these important specialisations?
  2. Why are so many organisations not looking at the internal and the external talent pipeline together, using the same teams and processes? Furthermore, should there be more of a seamless link to global mobility and succession planning?
  3. Why aren’t human resources and the internal communications functions more tightly aligned? Should internal communications sit under HR in more cases? Think about how often there are major change initiatives that land badly because they have not been well-positioned (upfront, during and afterwards) to employees.
  4. Do we too often assume that is it only the HR generalists/partners who have the business partnering skills? Some of the best business partners we have seen are specialists in total rewards and talent acquisition, for example. Should we be expecting more from CoEs? Should our mantra be ‘everyone in HR is a business partner’?
  5. Why are more companies not combining performance management with total rewards, and forging a closer link between the processes? This is critical as we know that people tend to behave how they are compensated!

As the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, some of the uncertainties, headwinds, and negative rhetoric previously mentioned will still exist as we transition into the new year. However, so too will the increased demand for critical skills and targeted hiring. We are optimistic that the HR function and the broadening impact the pandemic era has had for the profession, such as mental health, transformation, and data, will continue to progress faster than ever before. Growth with sustainable optimisation could well be the next evolution. 

We wish all our HR and business community friends and their families a happy and peaceful holiday season, with good health for 2023. We are excited to see what the new year has in store.

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