I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about unbuckled the seatbelt of this rollercoaster of a year. And, what a year it’s been. I’ve hardly had the time to sit, reflect, and consolidate the events of 2021.

With 2022 less than a few weeks away, I’m sure you’ll agree how this year has flown by in the blink of an eye! Change has become the norm, and most of us are emerging from pandemic fatigue to attempt to make sense of the past year, and work out what our own futures may hold, personally and professionally.

On a professional note, I’m taking time out to explore the trends that are likely to continue into 2022, and beyond. Within the sustainability and environmental sector, agendas have been shaken up as we deal with the urgency and seriousness of climate change and the ensuing acceleration in climate innovation.

On a personal note, I’ve come to realise that our ability to utilise talent to bring about changes for our future depends upon the short, not long term. The frenzy of recruitment activity we’re experiencing provides implications, for my role, for clients, for candidates, and ultimately, for our planet. And, we all have a part to play.

Overview of 2021 Challenges
As the pandemic changes course again, with different variants and the uncertainty these bring, the huge burden upon the NHS is still evident. While we are vaccinating our people, there are worries concerning the continuity of the virus and the health and wellbeing of families, friends and colleagues. We don’t know if, or when, we’ll enter the grip of another severe lockdown and we’re learning to live with that.

In the workplace, environments are increasingly defined by their high unpredictability and rapid change. What’s needed is the capacity to innovate and collaborate at pace whilst navigating these challenges. Of course, some employees have thrived within a home working environment. This has supported personal  higher productivity and innovation levels. Others have found the experience detrimental to mindset health with reported feelings of anxiety, loneliness and powerlessness. As with Covid, the experience is highly personalised and coping strategies vary.

As a result, people have been taking stock of what’s important to them, personally and professionally. Organisations are essentially adapting too. Here are some key takeaways:

Supply & Demand
We’ve seen a paradigm shift in the importance of climate mitigation and climate adaption strategies, pushing our industry into the mainstream, and those working within it are wielding far greater respect and influence than before. However, with workloads through the roof and an industry-wide deficit of experienced people to meet the demand, many firms are at full capacity and under resourced, leading to exhaustion and employee burn out.

Employee Experience
Most of us have adapted to the new norms of working, and as the economy improves, the retention of the talent required for organisations to recover and thrive will depend, at least in part, on how well employees were managed through the crisis. Management is more enlightened as to the reality of flexible working and are creating strategies to improve engagement. Employees are more likely to want to stay in an organisation that cares for them, and for potential candidates it shows that the company understands the real lives of employees, inside and outside of work.

Redesign for the Future
Organisations have commenced the rebuilding process after 2020 – rehiring, redesigning and strategising to meet the needs of an ever-changing, but optimistic future. Connected technologies and an increase in associated investments are helping companies realise new operational efficiencies; and forward-thinking organisations are taking these new opportunities in stride, hiring new talent to lead the way through the disruption.

The Positives
Employees seek more diversity and engagement in their work as they broaden their careers at the sharp end of having a positive impact on the world. The pandemic has enabled a lot of people to reflect on their careers and take stock; many changing direction as a result.

Additionally, there are increased opportunities to move laterally or have a wider, more varied role due to the shortage of experienced talent. We see staff transitioning more easily from one specialist area to another.

In terms of salaries during 2021, I’ve noted unprecedented salary hikes, both for those employees staying put and for those moving companies.  This increased demand also means increased competition, and employers will need to embrace new approaches to talent attraction and retention in order to stand out and attract the talent they need to thrive. Individualisation of benefits may prevent attrition, so total reward packages may need to be introduced or revised to stand out from the competition.

My Experience
Finally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with so many fantastic clients, with agendas that will make change happen for the greater good. The high calibre candidates I’ve come across give me faith that we have talent to lead our sector into the future, and for them, fulfilment with career enhancing positions.

I’ve faced personal challenges too, in terms of adapting and evolving the way I work to help my clients to achieve outstanding results in this current war for talent.

In summary, 2021 has been an eventful year, a springboard year, with huge shift in attitudes and opportunities in a rapidly-changing industry. I envision 2022 starting to level out as we consolidate, but we must still focus on delivering quality to achieve our mutual goals.

May I wish you Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous 2022.