The Boardroom Club | Thriving in the Coming Year
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Thriving in the Coming Year

After another tumultuous year, the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that next year could be an unpredictable ride. But not totally unpredictable. Many of the trends and themes that have emerged this year will shape the What will success look like in 2022? After another tumultuous year, the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that next year cway businesses operate in the months to come.


With the end of 2021 now in sight, it’s a good time to look ahead to 2022. Some of the themes that will shape the coming year are already apparent. Certainly, economic recovery after Covid will be a priority for businesses in all sectors. But that recovery will take place in a very different landscape. Employees are reassessing their working lives, customer behaviour and expectations have changed, and consumers are increasingly value driven. Meanwhile, the journey to net-zero continues.

So, what does all this mean for the way that businesses will operate? That was the focus of the Boardroom Club’s November meeting when our guests discussed how present trends are likely to play out in 2022 and – perhaps more importantly – how businesses can position themselves to thrive.

Some of the big themes were outlined by James Kerr, author of Legacy, a book highlighting the role of leadership in the success of the All Blacks rugby team. As a keynote speaker, James was keen to stress the importance of culture in enabling businesses to navigate what is likely to be a year of opportunity and challenge.


Culture to Take Centre Stage

As Kerr pointed out, corporate culture will come under the spotlight in 2022.

And one important factor is the impact of the pandemic on employees. Put simply, after 18 months of lockdowns and home working, a great many people are reassessing their lives and their role in the workplace. There’s growing evidence that some workers are deciding not to return to employment. Others, particularly in the generation Z and Millennial cohorts, are seeking more meaning and purpose.

This is a challenge but also an opportunity. Businesses that can create the right culture will not only be better able to attract talent but also drive improved performance from motivated teams. The key ingredients are diversity, inclusion and a focus on wellbeing, Kerr said.


Sustainability Will be Key

But there is a bigger picture. COP26 has been dominating the newspaper headlines since earlier in the year. Climate and sustainability are now center stage and this is something few businesses can ignore. For one thing, the regulatory landscape is set to change rapidly as we move to a net-zero economy. Against this backdrop, employees will be looking to employers for leadership. What they will want to see is a real commitment to the environment. As James Kerr stressed, “greenwash” is not an option. More widely, sustainability, in all its forms, will become a key practice within organisations rather than an exercise in box-ticking. This in turn will begin to reframe how businesses operate.


Ethical and Value-Based Consumption Will Increase

And it’s not just employees who will be watching corporate policy. As our guests discussed, the proportion of consumers who make a point of buying from brands with values that align with their own is set to rise from 47 to 62 per cent [Forrester, 2020].


Collaboration and Employee Autonomy Will Sit Side by Side

In terms of people management, Kerr predicted a greater emphasis on productive collaboration. There could, however, be a tension between hybrid working and creative interaction. One way for businesses to unlock the potential of their employees is to give them a much greater degree of autonomy and agency. And certainly, what we’ve seen during the pandemic is that hybrid or home working has proved popular and successful, not least because staff often have more control over their working schedules. Crucially, this has not had a negative impact on productivity.

But it may have affected the creativity that comes from people working together and firing off ideas. Ongoing, employers will seek to balance this new – and sometimes very motivating – freedom with the collaborative practices and tools that allow individuals to work together creatively.


But The Hybrid Experiment Will Continue

How this plays out is not yet certain. Certainly, companies are continuing to experiment with hybrid working and our guests noted the tensions at Apple between staff and the CEO over what the home/workplace model should look like in practice. Should it be three days a week at home or just two? The argument is complicated by the fact that individual workers have different views on the merits of home and hybrid working.


Employee Churn Rates Could Rise

Getting the working pattern right could be vital. A report from Forrester estimates that resignation rates will rise to 2.5% in companies that enforce full-time office working. Many employees are assessing their options. Recruitment firm, Ranstad says 69 per cent of British employees are considering whether to move on.

Growth a Priority

But one thing seems certain. Businesses are not inclined to look back. As our guests discussed, growth is very much back on the agenda, despite some of the economic challenges ahead. While some sectors will grow faster than others, business leaders are now focusing on expansion and higher revenues rather than survival – a trend highlighted by Deloitte’s latest CFO Survey for the second quarter of 2021.

Culture, sustainability, and working practices will all be part of the conversation in 2022, but what businesses are really looking for is improved performance.