2021 was the year Covid-19’s impact became part of our everyday lives and its effects on the world of work and workforce programs around the globe started to embed themselves.

As we embark into 2022, SIA’s CWS Council team considered the plethora of likely events that will occur this year and came up with the top 15 that we believe program owners around the world should be especially aware of and prepared for.

This article contains a projection from the team member who forecast the event, as well as my own view as to the action you should be taking to prepare for these potential eventualities. My colleagues and I may well expand on these topics in subsequent CWS 3.0 articles.

  • Stephen Clancy, senior director, contingent workforce strategies, knowledge and research
  • Frank Enriquez, senior manager, contingent workforce strategies and research
  • Dawn McCartney, VP, Contingent Workforce Strategies Council
  • Chris Paden, director of contingent workforce strategies and research (Americas)
  • Peter Reagan, senior director, contingent workforce strategies and research

You will be the judge as to whether you believe these events will happen to a greater or lesser degree. We will have to wait until the end of the year to see if we can sustain, or even exceed, the 86.7% success rate we achieved with our 2021 predictions!

This week, I share eight of those predictions. The remaining seven — plus six honorable mentions — will appear in next week’s issue of CWS 3.0.

1. Vaccine Mandates

The projection: “We will see far broader government legislation in an effort to facilitate a comprehensive return to the workplace, including vaccine passports and greater restrictions on those who are not vaccinated out of choice.” —Reagan

Action: Model how you would deal with a situation where a government-imposed legislation (in your major countries), mandating either vaccination or daily testing to attend the workplace. Begin these what-if conversations at the senior level and develop an action and business continuity plan. Mandates around vaccination passports and testing are already coming into place in the social environment and there is a significant likelihood that governments could impose further requirements in the workplace to maintain society and avoid further shutdowns of the economy.

2. C-Level Interest in the Contingent Workforce

The projection: “There are not many positives that came from the pandemic; however, it definitely put the contingent workforce on the radar of the C-suite, especially [in terms of] dependency, cost and need for visibility.” — McCartney

Action: Personality types in the workplace are often categorized as either doers, thinkers, creators, helpers, organizers or persuaders. Given the pressures that the global pandemic has put on organizations’ finances due to economic pressures and skill shortages, this is your individual and program’s opportunity to engage with the C-suite as a strategic thinker, a creator of new ways of doing things and organizing your program in a persuasive manner to drive the profitability, shareholder value and market competitiveness of the wider enterprise.

3. Agile Workforce

The projection: “Organizations are starting to recognize that there needs to be more flexibility in how they use resources and skill sets. This doesn’t happen overnight and requires a change of culture and mindset to be successful. Expect growing pains through this transformation.” — Paden

Action: I have said for several years that job descriptions will tend to disappear, to be replaced by more task-driven assignments. After all, what is the point of us having a job description that was relevant (or maybe it wasn’t!), when we started with the organization, but has no bearing on what we do today? This will be a driver toward a more task-driven and agile workforce and I would recommend organizations this year start to think of job descriptions as being more flexible and task driven, ever more aligned with the changing needs of the business — or at least start to think about how you might do this in the future.

4. Candidate-Led Market

The projection: “The dramatic impact on world of work, spurred by the onset and longevity of the Covid-19 pandemic, will continue for at least the first three quarters of 2022, leading to ongoing skills shortages around the world.” — Reagan

Action: Stop wishing that contingent worker rates were not exceeding rate-cards and that the people you require to do your work are out there just waiting for you to ask them to start on Monday morning! The current pressures are likely to continue for at least another three quarters into 2022, so programs need to model various scenarios based on increased pricing, lack of availability of suitable talent or redefining where, how and even if work needs to be done during these challenging times.

5. Mental Health in the Workplace

The projection: “The workforce that left our buildings in March 2020 may physically be the same returning but mentally … not! We must be prepared to support them and ensure our staffing providers do also.” —McCartney

Action: Back in the day, I used to tell people that you cannot expect to be emotionally engaged in a face-to-face meeting if you were digitally connected to others outside of that meeting. Do you remember the days when people were asked to turn mobiles and laptops off in meetings? Well, all that has changed. In 2022, adopt an “always remote” attitude in all your activities. Even if much of the team and business is in the office, have a mindset this year that you are working remotely (because you are, it just so happens you might be in your office — consider everywhere as remote), and ensure that you are digitally engaging those who are not with you in person, to maintain their engagement and be especially mindful of their welfare.

6. Remote and Cross-Border Working

The projection: “Organizations, governments (and in particular the tax authorities), have had little time to adjust to the seismic shift in remote and cross-border working. Organizations looking to benefit from the possibilities afforded by this shift must prepare for a far higher degree of compliance and scrutiny.” — Reagan

Action: Everybody wants a little bit of the tax revenue pie and the rise in remote working has made the decisions around who gets what a lot more complicated. When contingent workers who are domiciled for tax purposes in one country, start working in large numbers in another country for an organization that is headquartered in yet another country, you can understand why governments might start to get a lot more interested. During 2022, take time to consider how you might prepare for further compliance scrutiny.

7. Rise of the Independent Contractor Workforce

The projection: “It’s hard to overlook nearly half the available workforce (self-employed) when you have a shortage of talent. We need to conquer our co-employment concerns and start thinking strategically about this population.” — Paden

Action: Given the remote and cross-border challenges highlighted in the previous point, I believe organizations should reconsider the value of independent contractors. While these will be defined differently for compliance purposes from one country to another, as long as the working arrangement is compliant, then payment and auditing mechanisms are significantly more straightforward than engaging traditional staff augmentation workers. During 2022, organizations should not consider ICs as outliers but should look to embrace their engagement and adapt business models accordingly.

8. Advances in Total Talent Technology Solutions

The projection: “The term ‘total talent management’ has been around for more than a decade. A handful of buyer organizations are effectively creating total talent strategies that align with both FTE and non-FTE resources. Over the next 12 months, we will see a 20% increase, with buyers creating full talent strategies that will be supported and executed using robust technologies and support from the C-suite.” — Enriquez

Action: Workforce technologies will further develop in 2022 and integrate to enable holistic visibility of an organization’s entire supply chain through a single portal. Tracking of relevant data while work is getting done will be available at the touch of a button in the simplest forms. Organizations will demand simplicity in technology but with more functionality, requiring increasing levels of behind-the-scenes computing and artificial intelligence. Decisions on future workforce engagements will not only be easier, but they will also be largely automated.

Total talent management is still in its early days and conversations are still somewhat theoretical. However, the single most limiting factor in its evolution is visibility and decision-making enabled by technology and artificial intelligence. And what history tells us is that technologic innovation repeatedly delivers tomorrow that which was considered impossible to deliver yesterday. It’s only a matter of time!