READ TIME: 5 minutes.

Ready or not, 2022 is here! While much of what we learned in 2021 will inform our year, there are a number of standout trends that will uniquely shape the year ahead.

From COVID-19 and the economy to higher education and the labor market, here are four predictions about 2022 – and why this will be a skills-first kind of year!

Prediction #1: COVID-19 will become endemic. And hybrid work is here to stay.

Skills Impact: As companies make hybrid working the new norm, leadership, managers, and employees must advance the skills they need to succeed and for the company to thrive.

Though omicron rates are spiking right now, experts agree that the pandemic will eventually end. As soon as 2022, COVID-19 will become endemic. The pandemic will be over, but the virus will continue to circulate the globe for years under manageable conditions.

In 2022, companies will need to decide which of their pandemic-era policies become their new way of working. For most, the temporary remote and hybrid workplace options they put in place are becoming permanent. That means company policies, job roles, and performance metrics will all be built around the reality of a hybrid workplace.

Now is the time to codify your hybrid workplace policies – and the skills and competencies needed to thrive in a hybrid environment:

  • Update job descriptions to incorporate the technology, communication, productivity skills, and competencies that fit in a hybrid environment
  • Provide manager training to ensure your leaders are proficient at leading hybrid teams
  • Build out skills assessments to test how well employees and managers are performing their jobs in a hybrid environment

Prediction #2: Tight labor market will persist for the foreseeable future.

Skills Impact: Employers must expand reskilling and upskilling initiatives to build skills within their workforce.

When setting recruitment expectations for 2022, organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry counsels, “For the last few years, employers have grappled with a shrinking talent pool, but the global pandemic has accelerated this talent crunch by a significant degree and there’s no relief in sight.”

While remote working expanded the recruitment talent pool beyond local, state, or even national borders, business leaders soon realized that the same is true for other organizations, too. Remote working brings a larger talent pool – and a larger pool of employers competing to hire those individuals.

A widening talent gap means you cannot rely solely on hiring external candidates. Start with developing the workforce you have:

  • Review and refresh your competency model to reflect the skills and competencies employees need to be successful in today’s workplace and marketplace
  • Conduct skills assessments to gauge what skills your workforce has now – and where there are gaps or outdated skills
  • Initiate reskilling to ensure your leaders, managers, and employees remain competent in their evolving professional fields
  • Establish upskilling initiatives to repurpose individuals and roles that are becoming less relevant. By providing new skill sets to established employees, you breathe new life into their careers and your company’s long-term success.

Prediction #3: The value, role, and structure of higher education will continue to be debated.

Skills Impact: Skills-first recruitment must be used to identify talent and companies must adapt their development initiatives for those jobs that truly do not require a college degree. 

The tight labor market and movement within higher ed towards virtual learning during the pandemic are raising questions about the value of college degrees in the workplace. A majority (62%) of U.S. adults ages 25 and older don’t have a four-year college degree, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data. A closer look reveals that 62% of African Americans and 55% of Hispanics in the workforce do not have degrees.

Businesses and government agencies are rethinking their (over)reliance on higher education as a hiring criterion, leading companies such as Cisco, Apple, and Google to drop the requirement for college degrees for many jobs. The move opens doors to a broader and more diverse talent pool – and shifts the responsibility for skills development and training squarely onto the shoulders of the hiring companies.

If 2022 is your year to reconsider the educational requirements for your positions, be sure you define the skills and competencies that are required, so you can:

  • Recruit using job descriptions that specify the skills (not education) required for the job and champion workers who are STARs (skills through alternative routes)
  • Seek out job posting services that reach well beyond college and university career offices
  • Build robust training programs based on skills assessments, individual development plans, and performance management programs that encourage and support targeted skill development
  • Promote your development program to attract individuals who are eager to join a company that invests in its workforce

Prediction #4: The U.S. economy will start to recover and interest rates will rise.

Skills Impact: Employees will seek out businesses that have created a culture of safety and security for all employees. Business and HR leaders must become skilled at creating a company that cares and that others trust.

In writing about the anticipated higher interest rates starting in 2022, Josh Bersin wrote, “I believe we’re going to have a stock market correction, a series of interest rate rises, and a lot of angst about inflation. … So, we’re going to see a work and business environment where employees look for predictability. They’re looking for safety. They’re looking for security. They’re looking for a company they can trust.”

Entrepreneur adds to this perspective, with “In 2022, competition in all the major industries will be immense. If an employee is skilled and capable, they’ll have multiple employment options. If you fail to provide a decent work experience to your employees, they’ll leave, and you lose valuable talent.”

Becoming a “go to” employer that workers value starts with loudly and clearly valuing employees. As a business leader or HR leader, 2022 is your year to provide and promote an encouraging and stimulating work environment:

  • Transparent communications. Especially with a hybrid workforce, leaders will need to systematically communicate company goals, expectations, programs, milestones, and more to employees – in a way that all employees have equal access to the news and updates.
  • Recognize employee contributions. While this isn’t new, it’s more important than ever to build a culture that encourages development, provides opportunities to grow, and recognizes employee contributions. Managers need to routinely call out what’s going right – to individuals and teams. Leaders should routinely celebrate key successes and milestones.
  • Prioritize wellbeing. Wellness is now a mainstream expectation that requires managers and leaders to give employees more control over how and where they do their work, ensure reasonable workloads, support employees’ personal needs, and foster a sense of belonging at work.
  • Support environmental and social issues: Especially with the younger generation, employees and candidates will do their due diligence to see if your company is making a difference with your time, money, and your “stand” on sustainability – whether it be human, social, economic, and/or environmental. Be sure your leaders and communications teams are clearly articulating where the company stands and how it is moving the needle.

What’s clear from these four predictions is that events in the world around us can and do impact our work lives. Astute business and HR leaders are planning and adapting now, so their companies and workforces navigate the changes with strength and resilience. By keeping today’s employees and their skills at the center of focus, leaders can collaboratively identify, agree on, and measure progress of a skills-first approach to achieving shared goals and outcomes that matter.


Are you approaching 2022 with a skills-first approach to solving workforce issues? Download our Competency Management Toolkit for some tips to get you started. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s team and WebMentor Skills™ may be able to support your next steps.



6 Ways Competency Management Can Support Your Hybrid Work Environment
What is a Skills Assessment and Why is it Important?
Understanding Durable vs. Perishable Skills and How to Balance Them
Reskilling, Upskilling and New Skilling: What’s the Difference? Why Does It Matter?