HR Trends to Watch For in 2022

Ankur Patel, Director of Product Marketing, Zenefits
Jan 26, 2022

Ankur Patel, Director of Product Marketing at Zenefits, shares the 4 HR trends you need to pay attention to in 2022.

Small-to-medium business owners know great people are key to success.

Ankur Patel, Director of Product Marketing at Zenefits, joins the show to share how to build up the people who keep your organization running.

We discuss 4 HR trends you need to pay attention to in 2022:

  • Greater flexibility and work-life balance
  • Wellbeing benefits
  • Increased diversity and inclusion
  • Greater digital adoption

Ankur leaves us with practical action steps to implement today so you can care for the people behind your business.

On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [02:30 – 07:30] What’s driving changes in HR
  • [07:30 – 13:30] Trend #1: Greater flexibility and work-life balance
  • [13:30 – 22:00] Trend #2: Wellbeing benefits
  • [22:00 – 26:30] Trend #3: Increased diversity and inclusion
  • [26:30 – 29:00] Trend #4: Greater digital adoption
  • [29:00 – 35:00] Action steps you can take today

After you listen: 

Ask a SMB Workplace Question and get featured on POPS! The People Ops podcast.

POPS Star Bio

Ankur serves as Director of the Product Marketing team with Zenefits. He loves solving problems and approaches them with an engineer’s mind. 

Ankur’s passion for small businesses started early: he grew up watching his dad successfully manage a small business. Fast forward to today and Ankur has made his career in building solutions for small businesses.


Didi: On this episode of PIVOT a pops show by Zenefits. 

Ankur: What are you offering? That allows me to lead the lifestyle that I want to, and still reciprocate the same value to the organization where I’m providing and feeling the seat that you have needed.

Didi: The people ops podcast. The only show dedicated to small businesses, sharing stories, pivotal people know I’m your host Didi D’Errico. As an HR practitioner or someone responsible for people operations without possibly having the title. What keeps you up at night for Ankur Patel, Director of Product mMarketing at Zenefits.

It’s finding ways to help small businesses sleep better and preempt emerging challenges. In this episode, we’re digging deep into this topic and unpacking the four major trends impacting people operations in small businesses. As we entered 2022 along the way, you’ll learn how to approach these trends.

So they don’t cause problems for your business. As we dive in, let’s get Ankur’s thoughts on the current macro circumstances that are driving the trends that are impacting your people. 

Ankur: The first thing is you’ve always got to keep in mind. The pandemic is still persisting and it’s always something we have to be cognizant of both as SMBs and just organizations.

As we grow, we have to think of our employees as sentiment there and all of the continuous legislative actions that are taking place. So always in the back of our minds and very much a forefront, many times. Uh, and I know I said, you know, we’re on year three, but it’s, we’re starting to normalize a little bit.

So that’s something to consider something else is. Just a labor shortage. So in 2021, Zenefits saw this, a lot of our customers saw this and just organizations across the board. And I’ve started seeing this, which was deemed a great resignation. So a lot of individuals, uh, employees are actually identifying, you know, th they see value elsewhere in the market, whether it be all these emerging gig economy opportunities, uh, going from full-time to part-time to 10 99.

 or just really wanting to step back reassess life itself, given everything everybody has faced in the last two, three years. so they’re stepping back reevaluating where they are, and really looking to potentially move on from organizations the way they see fit. So you’re seeing a lot of people depart from long tenures they’ve had at companies and new faces kind of rolling in and.

 those trying to find a bit of flexibility that, that works with how they work today, really teasing into that is the macro economics and just supply chain disruption. So you can imagine with labor becoming short the workforce becoming still down how that can really impact a supply chain, whether you’re asking.

Ankur: You know, developing products or even servicing organizations. So you’re, you’re facing a lot of, uh, grittiness and kind of organizations distill back to being bootstrapped or a lean and. Start to think of what that does to companies, the service they offer, the products they offer and just how the market sentiment around it.

I think the stat I saw last week was consumer inflation index is up to 78%. That’s crazy if you think of the last few decades, so all kind of falling into place, and it’s, it’s almost like a domino effect. The last piece I really want to call out, and this is a decade in the making, which is just the shifting workforce demographics.

I’m a millennial myself, uh, in which you’re actually starting to see now is just this convergence of a workforce from millennials to boomers to traditionalist. So there’s so many different generations, all collectively working under the same organizations. And you can imagine that leads to very diverse in values, expectations, and even just like working culture itself, what it meant to work when you.

Someone in the boomer age or the traditional was age versus when you think of gen Z and millennials who you know, tend to come across like entitled once in awhile, uh, as a younger demographic, what their expectations are from their companies, their employers, as they move forward. So four key things to keep in the back of our minds.

As we start working through these trends. 

Didi: That last one is interesting to me, right? Because three years ago, thinking about where you came from was different since I’m of a different generation than you are. And yet The rug got pulled out from everybody’s feet. Right.

And so we’re all surfing a little bit in terms of. Footing and figure out what do we care about more? And I think that that’s changed tons.

So I’m super excited to, uh, to dig in to this a little bit with you, because that’s lots of stuff for any size company to deal with, but certainly for small businesses to deal with and figure out how do you get agile with all of that going on? So let’s jump in. 

 kicking off with trend number one, couple of things we mentioned really lean into the need for greater flexibility and just work life balance.

Ankur: I think given the last two years heading into third year, a lot of this requirement was accelerated and just really top of mind for the market, given a lot of employers, we’re now moving into a remote state for the first time ever, where. You know, individuals you’re really balancing. W what is the cutoff for work?

What is the start of your normal life? First? What timeframe should you be online? And then if you think of just everything individuals work with and have to manage in their own households, whether if they’re new parents or just parents in general, I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve been on calls.

Yeah, a little toddler comes running in the door, just screaming about something. And it’s, it’s pretty funny. It breaks up the conversation, but it makes it very apparent where as any parent, you’re both trying to understand what exactly you’re focusing on. And then also context switch at times of need when your child needs it or your partner, whoever else.

That’s something that’s been prevalent. It’s something that’s going to continue to kind of expand and evolve where you’re now going to start. Seeing people deploy more hybrid types of styles, of working, where as we start to normalize as an aid, as a nation, if we’re allowed to come back in office or the structure we’re coming back in office, where we’re likely not going to see a pure five day work week.

Right. You’re going to start to see maybe three days, two days come as you, please come. If you want to, if there’s critical meetings and just greater flexibility from that perspective, you’re also starting to see more of this asynchronous work-style. Uh, especially as people have become further distributed across time zones.

And there’s these new processes being developed, which are almost like a relay race where somebody’s working on the east coast can really essentially finish their tasks and then pass the Baton to somebody on the west coast in that three hour time difference to start to accelerate how. Productivity and accomplishments happen.

And if you scale that globally, like at Zenefits, for instance, we have a team overseas in India. It’s very easy to see how, you know, the day construct could shift where you’re becoming more efficient and just producing things a lot quicker. Once you hit that process kind of laid into place. 

There’s also something that’s becoming.

Pretty popular. Now it’s still kind of new age, but just this idea of like a four-day work week, there’s a financial company that’s been. Blasting this on social media everywhere and just hounding. Hey, we’re now offering a four day work week and get a three-day weekend every single week. And from the case study that they did, they’ve actually seen a lot more productivity out of their employees.

Uh, Based on that. So we’re going to continue to evolve this, start to blur the lines of what tradition used to entail and just really breakthrough this new culture, which will feed the needs of these younger generations coming into the workforce. 

Didi: You know, it’s so interesting that you end that with younger generations.

Um, one of the examples you were just giving a financial services company, that’s really touting the four day workweek. We actually had a conversation with a company that’s a manufacturing company. They actually pivoted during the pandemic to do and sanitizers and their average, the average age of their staff is about 50 50 plus.

And they pivoted to a four-day work week, um, specifically because they wanted, they were Latinos. They filled in staff with the high school football team showed up over the summer to help them when they had a backlog of work to do. But they’re recognizing that in order to keep the people that they have, regardless of the age, they needed to think differently about what kind of flexibility they hadn’t too.

So it’s not just, it’s not just wall street or it’s not just the tech industry. It’s really everybody looking at these kinds of things. 

Ankur: Yeah. I think that’s definitely a great point. You know, even in that demographic and age bracket, you’re also seeing a lot of individuals start to lead towards early retirement versus working later in years as they traditionally did.

So there’s a lot of interesting change. And I think, you know, personally given the last three years, I think a lot of individuals are now focusing on. What is, what is life? What does life actually mean to them? Are they happy with what they’re doing? Is it balanced for the life they want to lead? And you’re starting to see employers really answer those questions for them and kind of lean into what their expectations.

Didi: And when you talk about the, you know, going back to the office or going back to whatever, I don’t think anybody is under the impression anymore that we’re going to go back to what the work life or work style was in 2019. It’s got to adapt if you want to keep people with you, regardless of demographics.

So, um, let’s move to trend number two more focus on total wellbeing. Let’s talk a little bit about that. 

Ankur: Benefits has always been something that, that have been critical to any organization and just really retaining and attracting top talent.

And now it’s just become dominant more critical. And when you think of total wellbeing, it goes beyond just the, the, the benefits for the individual and starting to really think of the holistic needs of each employee. We’ve seen a ton of. Interesting insurance products now come to fruition. Whether you think of pet insurance in the last five to 10 years, given people see their pets as true for babies.

You know that that’s like the term that’s going now. And to think how much anxiety people have faced over the last three years, they really become companions. So as an individual, if you have a pet and you’re now looking to take care of that, Okay. In the fullest extent, possible pet insurance offers that ability.

So you’re starting to see a lot of traction with new items, insurance like that. Think of even expanding that bracket beyond just medical, dental, and vision, even fertility treatments, starting to get covered. As people start to realize, Hey, I want to expand my family. What does that look like? what’s it mean for me and my partner.

So a lot of different tools out there to start communicating total wellbeing. For your employee population. I was actually talking to a friend the other day who had a job, offer And he said the amount of benefits.

This employer offered. It actually blew his mind because literally everything he went to work for. So the, to paint a phone bill to get your groceries and all these things, this employer was actually offering stipends for literally everything across the board. So what your focus was for going to get a job to lead the lifestyle you wanted and pay the bills you have now.

Going to get a job they’re helping in a different way to pay all those obligations. And you’re now able to take that whatever your salary is and apply it to more of what you want to do in life. So it as a brainer and he ended up taking the role because he was so blown away. And that’s just a great example of what true total wellbeing kind of rounds out to and what people are looking for trickling off this great resignation and just that constant.

And you 

Didi: have a stat to go with this trend to Encore. Can you talk a 

Ankur: little bit about that? So in general, 62% of employees identified wellbeing benefits as a key factor in deciding whether to apply for a new job over time. In the last decade in general, we’ve started to understand. Total compensation is really what employees look forward.

It’s not just a salary out of the gate and not just pure dollars in the account. It’s how are you matching a 401k or are you, what other additional benefits are you offering? Uh, and then leaning in on just the flexibility. We talked about trend one. What are you offering that allows me to lead the lifestyle that I want to, and still reciprocate the same value to the organization where I’m providing and filling the seat that you have needed.

So it’s definitely something that we’re going to see consistently grow. And I would actually just bet that. We’ll see that accelerate even more as the future evolves, given everything, all the pressures we faced in the last three years, we’re just going to start to see this exponential uptake of the need for true total compensation, total Lopi in practice from employers as a pure standard.

let’s unpack these four key trends. Let’s start with the first one that you’ve identified as greater flexibility. And work-life balance. Talk a little bit about the, uh, the data behind the trend. And then maybe we can talk about how to think about.

Ankur: Here’s a great stat. We came across when we were pulling this together and it’s 83% of workers say a hybrid model would the optimal. And that really speaks to where we are today in 2022. And, and where we’ve come from 2019 accelerated through this pandemic, it really helps kind of set the tone for expectations.

When you think of the fluidity. That employees are actually looking for whether with their current employer or the next move they may make 

Didi: and hybrid, not that anybody’s probably missed it at this point, but a hybrid model of where you work and how you 

Ankur: work. Is that right? Exactly. So whether it’s in office at home, As a huge chunk of the population is today are somewhere in between.

So creating that flexibility to allow a lot of these employees to just connect with the organization on their terms, but also feeding into the process and culture that’s been. So 

Didi: let’s now talk about the third trend. You talk about the increasing importance for diversity and inclusion. It’s not just look speak anymore.

It really is. Uh, it is really something that is being embraced and empowering organizations and their people. Let’s talk a little bit about, uh, the story behind the. 

Ankur: One of the considerations for just a year in 2022 is thinking of the workplace demographics. You have this, this emergence of all these different generations coming together with different expectations, different work styles, skillsets 10 years, et cetera, et cetera.

And with each of those comes a different expectation from the work culture itself. Uh, what, what the company is providing and then what they’re able to provide the company. And you’re starting to see in a lot of critical areas where essentially the worker may feel a certain way about the necessity of something like pay equity, for instance, the importance of it versus the employer itself.

So for instance, on pay equity, When employers were surveyed, they landed about a, I think it was about 70 two-ish percent. Uh it’s it’s something that considers important and our focal point heading into 2022. Uh, whereas the workers, the employees actually held in around 82 to 85%. So that gap is something we consider the employee expectation gap and across the board, uh, whether it’s pay equity.

Workplace discrimination, racial justice, uh, and it just kinda, it goes on and on all these very critical elements of, you know, the working experience holistically, uh, there’s greater importance being felt. By the employees. And there’s a, there’s an area there for the employers to start to instill practices, to show that, Hey, we are listening with all these expectations that you’re setting.

All these needs, that you’re setting. We’re listening. Here are the programs we’re starting to develop to help align with the. Uh, all those different gaps we mentioned before, and you’re starting to see this. If you think about pay equity there’s tools and practices, and are starting to be put in place and even roles being built out to essentially analyze compensation across the board to reduce any sort of.

Bias or, you know, subconscious prejudice that may have been introduced in the hiring process to ensure that everybody is getting paid equally. And we know that these are all things that have been top of mind over the last several years, but they’re really coming to a head given all of the changes happening in the workforce.

There’s just a lot more pressure to ensure that these expectations are being met with w what the workforce is, uh, kind of touting and putting. 

Didi: When you’re looking at the multiple millions of people who have quit their jobs and looking for something that’s more meaningful and more fair and more compelling, it is important.

And as a great opportunity, not only to, um, to do the right thing, but to do it for the right reasons, not keep keeping your. And being a, being a good employer. So it’s going to make you more competitive and it’s also going to make you a better, more receptive, more open, um, organization 

Ankur: to learn and grow.

Yeah. And there’s, you know, it’s sad to say, but adopting these practices. Does make you new age. holistically, it makes you a very attractive organization. There’s a pretty viral company. That was a payments processor company that looked at compensation across the board, raised everyone’s salary to a minimum.

Well, I think it was like 70 to 75. Carrie does address the change. They went viral. They grew as far as their footprint goes for, um, you know, top place to work. So it was on a lot of different charts. They’re kind of making the top 10 top 100 and it’s something that, like I said, it’s, it’s a new agent concept, but it’s a standard practice.

We should just be adopting to become great employees. 

Didi: Okay, let’s move to trend number four, greater digital adoption. 

Ankur: I always think of it as like a through-line to the ones we discussed before. And you know, one of the cool stats is 74% of leaders see the need for HR tech increasing and HR tech is just saying it’s a very broad sweeping term.

There’s a lot of solutions out there for a lot of niche problems. And in general, it’s something that. Tether and collectively. Bring forward solutions that address each of these emerging trends, uh, it can help you build a leader’s streamlined processes, uh, fully automate some of the traditional human resources functions where, you know, we can align some employees to this whole thought of bots and automation where some of those minimal tasks that are more tedious.

Get resolved and allow your team to think more strategically, more holistically. As you know, HR counterpart is to help lead the organization and just the employee structure in a better way, building the right programs, the right culture, what we talked about, compensation pay equity earlier. There’s tools out there that really distill industry information down.

So you can ensure that you’re paying everyone fairly across the board. Zenefits obviously is a, is a big solution in this arena where it, which helps just the HR payroll and benefits footprint holistically as a fully native platform helps streamline all those processes and just peppered in or, uh, additional tools and features that help you build a better culture.

Gauge employee sentiment, create a better communications strategy as well to ensure. Your employees are actually hearing what they need to feeling, what they need to and recognize that you’re listening to them to build the right programs to scale what you want to as a culture anime. 

Didi: So let’s wrap this up.

The maybe if you could distill a couple of things that people who are listening today could do when you finish this podcast and you want to think about how you can be a better place to work for your employees that you have today and the employees that you want to bring on, um, over the course of this?

Ankur: Yeah, I think we could kick that off with just generally creating more flexibility, you know, adopting new practices and help employees find the right work-life balance. Uh, I’ve a buddy of mine who works at a tech company based out of DC. This individual wanted to actually switch to a 10 99 role versus just a full-time based on a lot of.

Personal and familial events that he was going through, uh, when he actually brought up that idea, he was initially met with resistance. Uh, because he, you know, he’s seen as a very critical employee for that organization and the HR team just thought that that wouldn’t be something that’s possible for him to actually execute against and be as productive as he’s been, but it’s what he needed for his life.

And. Really the things you was going through from a personal standpoint, but ended up happening was an employer. Finally, you know, they, they talked everything out and they kind of settled on a part-time role based on projects, which made a lot more sense. It was a win-win on both sides and it just, it kind of raises a point to ensure that we’re, we’re keeping an open mind as leaders.

Oh, there’s a lot of changes that are going to continue to take place. And if you have someone who is top talent, you don’t want to see them leave. You gotta be a lot more flexible, a lot more accommodating and really kind of balanced that benefits both the organization and that employee to ensure they’re still getting value out of what you’re offering.

And that’s also reciprocate. 

Didi: That whole move to part-time to, or to contract work. I saw some, a recent survey across generations and at the least case the boomers are looking at moving in. All of the generations are looking at moving to contract kind of roles for more flexibility. So 20% of boomers are interested in moving to contract roles.

53% of gen Z are. So it’s, it’s a trend that’s coming across all of your people. So if you can, if you can get the front of it and think about being more flexible, it’s definitely going to be in your benefit because 

Ankur: it’s coming. Yeah. That’s a great point. Exactly. It’s not exclusive to a certain demographic.

It’s kind of broad, sweet thing. another takeaway would just be revisiting your total wellbeing strategy. Really thinking of your employees holistically understanding your population, uh, from, from gen Z all the way to traditional lists, what their needs are. At their point in time and thinking of what their journey looks like as an employee, as they kind of graduate the stages of their career path and instilling new processes or policies and programs that aligned to those, you know, we mentioned earlier, The financial company that is adopting a four day work week.

It made a lot of sense for their employees. They tested it out over time and then, uh, identified that it’s something they do want to broadly adopt and they saw productivity, upticks, uh, honestly, to think of 2019 to now. A lot of organizations were kind of forced into testing some of these new practices, like remote work or distributed work and know a lot of it fared well.

So, you know, take all those learnings that you had from two years ago and start to just, again, keep that open mind, apply them forward, uh, and create, uh, a cool workplace culture. That’s going to start to attract and retain the talent. 

You know, there was another, I mentioned it earlier. There’s a payment processing company that just overhauled compensation. To a pretty high threshold and it just, it benefited them. Extensively productivity went up, uh, retention, their worker attrition basically went down to zero. Uh, Granted, not every employer is able and capable of doing those things based on their fiscal responsibilities as well.

But there are other programs you can instill that help show that you’re, you are thinking of all the pain points and needs of your employee organization. If you think of even instantly something like a focused. Allows you to, there’s no financial responsibility that comes with that, but it allows a forum that’s very candid open for individuals to provide.

That honest feedback, which then you can take the still down and then turn it into a program to apply forward. And the last thing would be just leaning into technology, There’s a lot of tools out there that accomplish a lot of things and just.

Administrative burden a lot easier to then allow employees and just leaders to focus more on strategic initiatives, streamlining things, and really growing your organization’s footprint and kind of achieving goals in a leaner. Intelligent type of manner, leveraging those bots levels of automation to put forth.

Didi: Ideally, and this was pivot a pop show by Zenefits. If you want to learn more unconventional thinking like encores on how to build up the people behind your small business checkout, backslash pups dash podcast, where you’ll find the bonus resources pro. And even a link to order our book, people operations.

For more context. Also, if you have questions you want us to answer on our show, check out the link in our show notes below and 

Ankur: we’ll get a covered.


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