There were many challenges in 2021 – the obvious two being Covid-19 uncertainty and Brexit. Even though these have, and continue to be challenging, at Sherpa we were able to re-evaluate the kind of business we want to be. It was important to take note of the many exciting new initiatives coming into play that are becoming core aspects of small businesses growth plans – all of which we are also seeing in the Channel (the practice of working with a third party to take your products or services to market).
Workplace culture in 2022 looks vastly different than that of even half a decade ago, with CEO’s finding new emphasis on the community and wider ecosystem surrounding their company and their employees. It’s important to be in a position to be able to plan and think strategically about how to find ways to become a better business. In future years, I wonder what we will think about the myriad of decisions made in such testing and strange times and whether important ideas as mentioned in this article still ring true and resonate with workplaces?
Businesses are taking steps to ready themselves for 2022 and it’s likely we’ll see serious growth in three main areas.
1. Power of people
The issue of recruitment has been by far the most challenging area for our business in 2021 and we predict this will continue into 2022. With a small team, it’s particularly important to commit to having the best possible plan for all employees in place. Small companies shouldn’t shy away from investing in the appointment of Heads of People for example. As regardless of company size, roles like this can encapsulate the broad range of priorities within a company. From moulding a recruitment plan around company values and mission statements, to creating bespoke training programmes that actually upskill employees in areas they feel passionate about. Areas that help with employee progression and professional development all need specific dedication.
If anything, 2021 has proved that the bar is now higher and employees expect more.
Initiatives to improve working conditions and more mindful approaches to workplace culture and policy have moved up the priority list in ‘People Plans’ for small businesses. It is no shock that the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs Report’ features resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility as the key skill groups required by employees for the jobs of tomorrow.
At Sherpa, we recognise that being resilient is a vital trait, something that forms a strong bond alongside communication and leadership. When faced with disruption and difficulty, successful senior leaders need to effectively communicate with their employees, who are resilient in their roles, to help make the right decisions.
The past two years have proven that nothing is permanent and that change and acceptance of new methods is part and parcel of growth. However, even if you, as a senior leader or CEO, have a vision and strategy for your business, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll resonate or ring true with your employees. That being said, a strong recruitment and onboarding process is something that will improve employee satisfaction and retention and overall ‘culture cohesiveness’ within the organisation.
2. Work-life balance
Remote working and flexible working hours have all been accepted as required benefits for employees since the start of the pandemic. Before the rules changed again, we instigated a hybrid working policy so that people could have the flexibility to work around their own schedules and home commitments. This helped many employees with the school pick up, saving petrol and uncovered the joys of wearing slippers to work. This gave employees the freedom and flexibility to work remotely if they want, whilst still finding the balance to safely reunite, collaborate and work with colleagues in a limited capacity to minimise the risks associated with Covid-19.
How we as individuals and groups respond to stress, successes and barriers in our personal and professional lives can be greatly influenced by our work. Are we happy at work? Do we feel valued and encouraged to uncover and meet our own career goals? These questions are on the minds of employers and employees alike this year.
3. Taking responsibility with Corporate Social Responsibility
This year, and for the second year running, we renewed our subscription to the Global Equality Collective (GEC), an excellent initiative to allow businesses to self-assess their diversity and inclusion policies and mission. But taking steps such as these, businesses are able to look at what areas employees feel are being handled well and where more time and focus is needed. This information is then formed into actionable and realistic tasks to improve as a business and individuals.
Alongside this, and like many other businesses, we have ambitious goals to build our community engagement. If a company has strong CSR policies, it not only looks good but is also substantially beneficial for the employees and creates a more sustainable business. Better looked after staff = happier staff = staff more inclined to train and learn more about their job = staff progress in their role = more successful company.
There is a silver lining to the pandemic. It has allowed some businesses the privileged opportunity to have the time and resources to think about what they want to stand for, represent and how they should improve every day as both a business and individuals.
All businesses in the UK are being asked to become better workplaces, contribute more to society and find a place in the world that considers the environment and sustainable practises. There are so many new initiatives that growing businesses are expected to tap into, for example, CSR, ESG and new staff recruitment, meaning companies have little choice but to plan very carefully when and how to implement these initiatives.
The point is, small businesses are being asked to do way more in their communities, wider environment and planning that takes skill, time, effort and investment. The key in 2022 will be making these investments and new initiatives work, whilst also continuing to grow a business with global aspirations.
About the author: Tom Perry is the CEO of Sherpa.