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SHRM Presents State of the Workplace Study

A Year in Review and Anticipated Workplace Trends in 2022




Alexandria, Va. — The U.S. workforce continues to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation and an everchanging world of work. The new State of the Workplace Study from SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) released today evaluates how organizations handled key workplace challenges of the last year and also takes a forward look at the anticipated workplace trends of 2022.

The study surveyed HR professionals, as well as other workers in the U.S., asking questions on two key areas: How did U.S. organizations perform on key workplace issues during the past year, and what are the key priorities and challenges in the workplace for 2022?

"Our research findings provide a deeper understanding of the issues affecting workplaces, HR departments and employees collectively," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM president and chief executive officer. "The HR profession is at the forefront of real change, both societally and culturally. There is an opportunity for employers and employees to recognize the inherent power of HR and to reimagine the world of work in 2022."  

Looking back: Key findings from SHRM's research
Both HR professionals and U.S. workers told SHRM that their organizations were most effective in navigating the impact of COVID-19 on their workforce and related safety practices (highest effectiveness ratings out of 24 total actions).

  • Only 26 percent of U.S. workers felt that their organization developed more effective people managers, which was the lowest rated out of 24 areas.
  • Just 25 percent of HR professionals rated their organization as effective in finding and recruiting talent, which had the lowest ratings from their perspective.
  • 64 percent of HR professionals and 47 percent of U.S. workers rated their organizations as effective in providing affordable and comprehensive healthcare benefits, which was the second-highest rated area for both groups.

In response to another set of survey questions, HR professionals told SHRM about the changing reputation and roles of HR in their organizations.

  • 83 percent of HR professionals reported that their senior leaders relied on HR to help navigate new situations or practices, and 73 percent of HR professionals reported that their senior leaders recognized HR functions as crucial to the business function.
  • 72 percent of HR professionals reported their HR staffs were working beyond their typical capacity (too hard and too long).

On key talent issues, HR professionals from remote organizations reported higher effectiveness than those from in-person organizations.

  • Just 18 percent from in-person organizations reported that they were effective in finding and recruiting talent with necessary skills versus 46% of remote organizations.
  • Only 32 percent of in-person organizations were rated as effective in retaining top talent, but 47 percent of remote organizations were effective.

"These differences show that the twin talent challenges of recruiting and retaining talent are much bigger issues for traditional in-office organizations," said Mark Smith, Ph.D., SHRM's director of HR Thought Leadership.

Looking ahead to 2022: Key findings from SHRM's research
When considering the future of their workplace for the rest of this year, HR professionals reported that organizations are prioritizing efforts to focus on improving the talent challenges from the past year. This includes addressing employee morale, as well as retaining and recruiting talent.

  • 80 percent reported that maintaining employee morale and engagement is a top priority.
  • 78 percent said that retaining talent is an organizational priority.
  • 68 percent agreed that finding and recruiting talent with the necessary skills is a priority.
  • 62 percent said navigating COVID-19's continued impact our workforce and safety practices is a priority.
  • 61 percent reported developing more effective leaders/people managers is a priority.

To address these priorities, HR professionals reported on their organizations' plans for this year.

  • 81 percent intend to train people managers on their roles in supporting their organization's talent management strategy.
  • 78 percent plan to increase their employee headcount.
  • 77 percent intend to improve the soft skills (e.g., empathy, compassion, communication) of their people managers.

The most common barriers to achieving success in the workplace were: limited time or dedicated personnel (42 percent), employee resistance to change (40 percent), organizational cultural norms (39 percent), limited budget (38 percent) and senior leadership support/buy-in (37 percent).

Research methodology
SHRM State of the Workplace Study includes two surveys and samples, including:

  • 1,737 HR professionals in the U.S. from the SHRM membership database (a longer version of the survey that addressed looking back at organizational issues from the last year, as well as looking forward to 2022).
  • 642 workers in the U.S. from a third-party nationally representative panel (a short version of the survey that only addressed looking back at the last year).

Survey data for the HR sample and the U.S. workers sample was collected between December 8 and 21, 2021.

About SHRM 
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at https://shrm.org/ and on Twitter @SHRM.

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