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Retaining workers—by listening to their needs, accommodating their different work style, and addressing inequities—tops the work/life agenda for members of the Fast Company Impact Council—an invitation-only collective of leaders from a range of industries. Leaders predicted 2022 will be a key year for companies to live up to their promises to employees, or risk losing them. Edited excerpts follow:
Pete Schlampp, chief strategy officer, Workday
"The number one thing that the C-suite is going to continue to be thinking about in 2022 is talent. We will be going from The Great Resignation into a world of the rising voice of the employee. They're making decisions about where they want [to work]. They want more flexibility in their job. They want to work for companies that have a mission and a purpose that they believe in. They want to be heard. And if talent is the top thing on [executives'] minds, it's going be incumbent on them to listen and put in place the processes in order to listen to their employees."
Angie Klein, CEO, Visible
"We're going to see a pretty big shift from talking about The Great Resignation to 'The Great Retention,' with [companies] focused on doing what it takes to keep talent. Employees aren't really leaving because they're unsatisfied—some are—but because they want to see what's out there at a time when it seems far less risky to do so. Putting in proactive-retention measures while ensuring that we manage to drive meaning and purpose—there will be a heavy focus in retention like we have never seen before in corporate America."
Kevin Dexter, president, Fisher & Paykel North America
"It's about making people comfortable. As we reengage in [in-person work], we realize just how challenging it is as people try to adapt. And at the management level, it's challenging to figure out how to set standards or broad guidelines [amid] moving parts that aren't going away anytime soon. We're excited about that, but the challenge is, how do we reskill, upskill, and make people comfortable to be productive in the new hybrid world."
Lisa Mann, managing director and chief marketing officer, Raines International
"I think we're going to go from a time of 'diversity as a stat' to a culture of accountability. Diversity has been a snapshot, like a picture, and we moved to inclusivity, which was more like a movie, creating a culture for success. The next step I believe is equitable decision-making; that's how we will enable accountability of diversity. And the only way to have equitable decision-making is to take bias out of [the whole] decision-making equation. How do you do that? First, it's how you collect data or information, making sure that you're collecting from sources that are truly unbiased. [Second] is how you evaluate information [so that] everyone is knowledgeable. Third is how you decide the path forward. You need to make all voices equal."
Larraine Segil, chairman and CEO, Exceptional Women Awardees Foundation
"I believe that 2022 is going to be the 'year of the woman.' [Participation of] women on boards [improved] in the last year, certainly because of legislation in California [a 2018 law requires publicly held companies based in the state to have at least one women director by the end of 2021], evolving value systems, and CEO and board awareness. In 2021, over 1,400 men were recruited to join boards, while 1,800 men departed. In contrast, 1,200 women directors were recruited to join boards, and only 460 have departed.Diverse women have lagged in this area, but definitely there is a huge movement to [the] diversifying of boards; and in 2022, that is going to accelerate, and that's going be good for women."
Katica Roy, founder and CEO, Pipeline Equity
"[Women's] labor force participation rate in the U.S. has been set back 33 years, and gender pay [equity] has been set back 23 years. And as important as the Build Back Better agenda is, there's very little gender equity in there. Childcare is important. Paid leave is important. [But] they are not silver bullets. They will not magically bring women back into the labor force. Companies have to commit to equity and ensure that they're living their commitments. It's not only about the right thing to do, but it's actually a massive economic opportunity, both for companies as well as our broader economy."
Jean Accius, senior vice president of global thought leadership, AARP
"A big area of focus going into 2022 is age diversity. Whether it's The Great Resignation, whether it's the great retirement, whether it's the great reset, we know that the populations are getting much older across the world. In the U.S., you have about 10,000 people who are turning 65 each and every day. Currently, companies are managing around five generations at any given point in time. Companies that leverage the age diversity of their workforce will be more competitive in the marketplace moving forward, not only because of the fact that they're retaining or leveraging talent, but also they are have better understanding of their customer base, which is also getting older as we speak."
Leila McKenzie-Delis, founder and CEO, DIAL Global
"The role of the chief diversity officer will start to grow and be more fully understood than it is right now. We're seeing an uptick in CDOs who report to the CEO instead of the chief human resources officer. There really is now a growing understanding of this role and the strategic impact that it is having on the C-Suite."
Carolyn Cawley, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
"We've become so polarized in the places we go for recreation, to pray, or the social media you consume. The workplace, whether it's in person or remote or hybrid, may be one of the last places that people from so many walks of life and different views come together. We've done studies at the Chamber Foundation to correlate civic knowledge and civic skills, and the ability to argue in a civil and productive way [are part of] the kinds of skills that we'll need to have great workforces and great workplaces."