Employment has been completely redefined in the last couple of years. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen massive adjustments in the labor market, mostly driven by the decisions of employees. We have witnessed the (ongoing) Great Resignation, in which over 4 million Americans left their jobs in July 2021 alone. This phenomenon isn’t class-specific. We see white-collar office employees pursuing jobs they find more meaningful to them while service industry workers pursue work with better pay and benefits.

Given these immense changes in such a short timeframe, it begs the question: What kind of employment trends can we expect to see this year?

Flexibility. At the root of countless workers’ frustrations is the lack of workplace flexibility. Work flexibility can be defined as openness of alternative work arrangements between employers and employees. This most commonly manifests itself as untraditional times and locations for work. Flexible work arrangements are meant to encourage a better work/life balance for the employee. In return, employers get workers who perform more enthusiastically and effectively.

The idea of having to work a traditional 9 to 5 in the office, or a predetermined schedule in the retail and blue-collar sectors is on the road to obsolescence. Workers are willing to walk out on their job if flexible working conditions can be found elsewhere. The interesting part is that this is not exclusive to entry-level workers. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article found that resignation is the highest amongst mid-career employees. The reason is that “many of these workers may have simply reached a breaking point after months and months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and other pressures, causing them to rethink their work and life goals.” As time moves on, flexibility will reign supreme as a key factor in employees’ decision-making processes. It is no longer a bonus, but a condition.

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Growth opportunities. As Ubeya continues working with large staffing agencies, we’ve noticed that employees are more multifaceted than ever. The same employee serving customers at a concession stand at a Friday sporting event could work as a server at a wedding Saturday night. The same goes for the white-collar sector. Employees are generally expected to do more. Long gone are the days of having one specialty. Are you applying for a copywriter position? Be ready to learn about user journeys, building email campaigns, and understanding design elements.

The aforementioned pursuit of flexibility plays a role in this. As workers depart their workplaces for greener pastures, employers will continually find employees who have a variety of skills and expertise to offer.

So how do employers encourage employees to expand their horizons? One effective way to create employee learning opportunities is through training and workshops. Not only do workshops show employees that their development is valued, but it prepares them for greater responsibilities, improves skills and knowledge, and keeps them on the cutting edge of industry best practices.

Workshops are also a great way to show employees you are in it for the long haul. According to industry experts, employee “retention rates rise 30-50% for companies with strong learning cultures. This shows employees you care about their career progression and are interested in keeping them at the company long term.” The importance of growth opportunities can’t be underestimated.

Beyond 2022. Simply put, these trends are not a flash in the pan; they’re here to stay. The Great Resignation came about as a result of the pandemic where, in the case of white-collar workers, they were relegated to working from home. Meanwhile, many blue-collar and service industry workers were put out entirely. Then came a moment of reckoning for both groups, coming to a similar realization in their breaks from normality: something needs to change.

Nothing I’ve said here is brand new nor revolutionary, but it’s something that business owners need to adapt to sooner than later. Otherwise, they may find themselves wondering why they’re struggling to retain their best workers. Workplace flexibility isn’t just a nice bonus now. It’s a deal-breaker. Investing in employees and giving them reasons to stay (for example, with skill-building workshops) is something employees want. It’s up to leadership to make it happen.

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