Preparing for Workforce Challenges

team meeting

by Adam Coleman, CEO of Lahinch-based HR software solutions provider HRLocker

In many ways, 2022 was one of the toughest years for companies and employees to date.

Remote work sparked new tensions, with employers demanding a return to the office and workers passionately resisting. Mass layoffs in big tech saw thousands of workers displaced and disillusioned by the industry. And the great resignation led employees who felt undervalued and overlooked to quit their jobs in search of better.

But through these challenges, businesses developed a new level of resilience. And truth be told, businesses will need resilience for what lies ahead in 2023.

Our relationship with work has never been more complex – or fascinating. Instead of building lives around work, people are seeking work that integrates with their circumstances and choices. The pursuit of remote and flexible work signals a shift in power towards the employee. This changing relationship dynamic leaves many of us trying to find our place in the workforce again.

It’s an uncertain road ahead. But there are some workforce challenges that almost all employers will face in 2023.

Quiet quitting

If you haven’t been keeping up with this movement, here’s a quick explainer: quiet quitting is when employees continue to uphold their primary responsibilities but no longer go above and beyond their duties. They psychologically detach themselves from work, turning down extracurricular and optional activities – also known as ‘acting their wage’.

Quiet quitting first gained traction on TikTok, but evidence suggests it’s more than an internet phenomenon. According to Gallup, an estimated 50% of the US workforce comprises quiet quitters.

Now let’s be clear: employees aren’t technically doing anything wrong. It’s just that the expectation staff will go above and beyond at the drop of a hat is so normalised anything less creates problems for employers.

Often, bosses rely on being able to call on their personnel to stay an extra hour, help plan a social event, or pick up someone else’s responsibilities while they’re out sick. When staff reject these requests, businesses can struggle to plug the resourcing gap.

But employers aren’t the only ones who suffer—planning an office party or picking up a coworker’s duties for a day all help build trust and camaraderie between team members and fortify office relationships which feed into workers’ well-being.

When employees disconnect from the social and emotional aspects of the business, they build a wall between themselves, their team, and the wider workforce. This kind of siloed work has the potential to break down organisational culture.

Ultimately, quiet quitting signifies a breakdown in the relationship between bosses and employees. In 2023, employers should focus on repairing this relationship by managing expectations.

Revisit your team’s job descriptions, and ensure you’re not asking workers to take on more than they can handle. Work with your teams to distribute additional responsibilities fairly and collectively decide how to reward outcomes.

Cost of living stress

New research shows that 71% of employees say the cost of living is their main source of stress right now. Suggesting there’s a high chance many of your people are feeling the strain too.

With the cost of food, fuel, heating, and almost every other essential going up, paychecks aren’t stretching as far as they used to. Financial worry is invasive and all-encompassing, making it hard for people to focus on anything else.

One survey found that employers are already seeing the effects of this crisis on workers’ performance. Bosses report more absenteeism and lower engagement levels as rising costs dominate employee thoughts.

Businesses are also at the mercy of higher costs, whether that’s suppliers increasing prices or the office heating bill this winter. So, raising salaries to help workers cope with higher prices might not be an option.

The outlook might seem bleak, but businesses are already coming up with thoughtful ways to help their people through the cost of living crisis. If you can’t increase salaries right now, consider adjusting your benefits package or providing additional benefits to ease some financial burdens.

For example, subsidising childcare costs or heating bills will help your team manage day-to-day expenses. If you still have a physical workplace, you could introduce a communal fridge where people can pick up essential food items.

Flexible working options might not seem like a cost of living response, but having the choice between working from home or the office means your team can decide based on what’s going to cost them the least (think: commuting versus heating their own home).

Keeping up with tech

Since the dawn of time, technology has propelled a plethora of industries into the future. The plough revolutionised farming; the printing press helped news travel globally.

Today, technology evolves so rapidly that businesses struggle to keep up. It’s a problem likely to continue in 2023, where overstretched budgets coupled with a lack of digital skills make implementing new technologies even more difficult.

Keeping up with technological innovation matters because it helps businesses be more resilient in the face of adversity. Investing in cybersecurity and regulatory software helps organisations protect their data and stay on the right side of regulation. Automating certain aspects of project management allows teams to become more efficient and frees up time for them to spend on the more rewarding aspects of their job.

Customers are also seeking out companies that capitalise on technology. A report by Accenture found that businesses are struggling to remain relevant to their customers, who are demanding that companies respond to their product wants and needs faster. Businesses that use social listening technologies are better placed to respond to customer desires and can move ideas from the drawing board to the buyer more quickly.

If you’re not in a position to start investing in the technology your business needs, at least start investing in your strategy. Digital transformation is a long-term investment, not a tickbox exercise. You need to adjust your expectations if you’re expecting to see huge returns for single projects.

By building a long-term digital transformation strategy, you can invest a little at a time towards the projects that will benefit your company the most. And if money’s no object but skills are lacking, seek partnerships with institutions and learning programmes that help you find the right people. Think code camps, technical colleges, and government-funded skills programmes.

If you’re feeling apprehensive about what the next 12 months could hold, just remember: you made it through 2022 and the aftermath of a pandemic. Whatever 2023 throws your way, you and your team have the tools to handle it.