HR Insights
March 22, 2022

Top priorities for U.S. HR and payroll leaders in 2022

At a time of massive disruption, U.S. HR and payroll leaders must know where to focus their efforts to make the biggest impact on their organization.

Table of Contents

The past two years have been filled with massive disruptions. A global pandemic, political and economic uncertainty, and a heightened focus on social justice are just a few of the many external issues that business leaders across the United States have had to address. Of course, there are also the internal challenges of managing a long-term hybrid workforce — not to mention addressing this workforce’s record rates of turnover and meeting their ever-changing needs.

While issues like these present major challenges for all executives, human resources leaders tasked with addressing them at the organizational level are most impacted. Below, we look at the top priorities where HR executives and payroll leaders across the United States should focus their attention in 2022.

When the pandemic first broke out, most people assumed they’d be back in the office within a matter of a few weeks. More than two years later, many still haven’t returned, and those who have are only doing so on a part-time basis. What’s more, according to a recent Accenture survey, 83% of employees now prefer hybrid working arrangements.

The reality is that offering employees flexibility in terms of when, where, and how they work is no longer optional. These days it’s an expectation. Plus, a growing number of workers have no reservations about pursuing other opportunities if their employer is unable to meet that expectation. In fact, recent research from Gallup found that three out of 10 employees are extremely likely to quit their job if their employer doesn’t offer some type of remote work option.

Practically speaking, that has a number of implications for HR teams that must do everything from defining what successful hybrid work looks like to equipping teams with the right tools to facilitate virtual collaboration and maximize their effectiveness. Another important consideration is setting expectations around how managers will oversee team members whom they may never see face to face, while ensuring that greater flexibility doesn’t negatively impact productivity or goal achievement. Here, proactive and transparent communication is critical to ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Drive efficiency with operational improvements

In recent years, HR has evolved from what was once a highly administrative function to one that increasingly delivers strategic business value. One of the keys to facilitating that transition continues to be finding ways to drive operational efficiencies so that team members can focus on higher value work. In fact, 66% of HR leaders say that improving operational excellence is the top business objective they need to support this year.

To do so, adopting the right technology is critical. HR/payroll solutions are a good example. The right payroll management software can transform payroll from a highly manual and error-prone process to one that’s automated, on demand, and data driven. That leads to fewer errors and delays, faster payroll processing, and lower costs. Meanwhile, it frees payroll professionals up from much of their administrative overhead so that they can work on more strategic initiatives, such as uncovering data-driven insights to help leaders make more informed business decisions.

By working to improve their operations with various HR/payroll solutions, teams can optimize their work, increase efficiency and employee satisfaction, and ultimately deliver greater value.

Pay greater attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion

Now more than ever, employees want to work for companies that share their values. Not only do they want to be treated fairly, they also want to be a part of an organization that they believe will have a positive impact on their life and the broader community. And executives are clearly taking note. In its analysis of S&P 500 earnings calls, Harvard Business Review found that since 2018, the frequency with which CEOs talk about equity, fairness, and inclusion has increased by 658%.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) touches on numerous issues, from race and climate change to compensation and benefits. Ultimately, it’s up to HR and payroll leaders to help organizations navigate these issues and meet the varied needs of today’s diverse workforce. That increasingly includes overall employee well-being.

As remote and hybrid work blur the lines between work life and personal life, employers have the ability to differentiate themselves by supporting workers both in and out of the office. The best programs will consider employee well-being from a financial, physical, mental, social, and career perspective, striving to help employees thrive in aspects of life that were previously left untouched.

Manage increasing employee turnover

Even when employers have the best of intentions and are working to meet workers’ needs, the risk of turnover remains high. Just consider that in 2021 alone, 47.4 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs as part of the Great Resignation. Meanwhile, in our own 2022 Pulse of Talent survey, we found that 60% of US employees are a flight risk, with 36% open to leaving for the right opportunity and 24% actively looking.

Unfortunately, the move to remote and hybrid work hasn’t helped. Not only has this made it possible for people to apply for jobs virtually anywhere, it’s also undermined the personal relationships employees typically build at work that often play a big role in retention. HR leaders will have their work cut out for them as they try to win over new talent and stave off the inevitable attrition.

Give teams the skills they need

One potential option for helping retain employees, while also benefitting the business in other ways, is by giving them opportunities to develop new skills and competencies. Creating opportunities for employees to broaden and enhance their skillsets can be an effective way of keeping them engaged. Meanwhile, 93% of CEOs who introduce upskilling programs cite benefits ranging from higher productivity and retention to easier talent acquisition.

HR leaders can play a pivotal role in not only developing their own team, but also helping to drive workforce transformation by creating programs to upskill workers so that they feel engaged while accomplishing more and delivering value in new ways.

Stay focused on the right areas to move the needle in 2022 and beyond

As an HR or payroll leader in the United States, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Handling all of your usual responsibilities while navigating the challenges of remote work and changing employee needs is no small task. Keeping your eyes on the levers you can pull to make the biggest impact is critical. So too is using the right technology, like payroll management software, to free up resources and focus on higher-value tasks.

Ultimately, what your top priorities are this year will vary based on many factors. Nevertheless, the areas outlined above are the ones that we believe will make the biggest impact going forward. Those who execute well against them will be best positioned for success in 2022 and beyond.

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