2022 will be the year of the employee — more specifically, the year of honoring the choices of the individual. Here are the top five workplace trends leaders should be aware of.

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If 2020 was the year of uncertainty and pivoting, 2021 was the year of predictable unpredictability and the great reshuffling of jobs, careers and priorities.

Last year, we, as a collective society, were in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for things to go back to normal, waiting to see what changes our companies and local governments would make, waiting to hear if our kids would go back to school.

In 2021, the wait (whether or not it was actually over) was over, and we began to operate in a new way out of necessity. Life as we know it may look different today, but life (in the universal sense) will always go on. Change is inevitable and leaders and business owners must not only know how to respond, but how to stay 10 steps ahead. 

I believe 2022 will be the year of the employee — more specifically, the year of honoring individual choices for those employees and team members.

We won’t go so far as to go back to the industrial age or even the pre-cell phone days of total separation between work-life and life-life, but neither do I think that we will always be connected and in this completely fluid world where our work infiltrates every hour of our day.

The pendulum swung too far in the direction of workaholism and burnout over the past decade. It swung back in the other direction during the early days of the pandemic where many people paused (whether by choice or not) and reevaluated their lives. We are now about to settle into a middle-way — the path of work-life presence. 

Employees and team members, particularly in the real estate industry, value freedom of choice with their time, freedom of movement and freedom to explore and engage in meaningful work. So, what exactly does that meant for employers and leaders? 

I think leaders must put their people first like never before. Even if you think you are a people-first company, think again. Now is the time to be wrong and to work to make your team and your company the best place it can be to foster long-term growth with long-term people.

A recent BBC article reported on The Great Resignation, which is actually turning into The Great Reshuffle. Reporter Alex Christian wrote:

“Workers – globally, in many instances – aren’t just leaving the workforce; millions of people are reconfiguring their careers. Some are leveraging the current hiring crisis to get into better positions. Others have decided to work for themselves — with the number of self-employed workers in the US rising by 500,000 since the pandemic.  

Many more, however, are simply shifting into new industries and careers that offer higher wages or align more with their values. Rather than merely being a ‘Great Resignation’ in which people simply quit and walk away, the current disruption is seeing a large swath of employees move around the job market. Workers have agency: they’re fine-tuning a better work-life balance and making deliberate choices as to where their careers are heading next.”

If you want to be the employer or company where these employees and independent contractors land, you need to know what employees need and what leaders will need to deliver on. Here are the top five trends to be aware of in 2022.

1. Value the individual

Team members want to be able to bring their whole selves to work and are looking for companies and leaders who will not just tolerate their differences, but celebrate them and find unique opportunities for those team members to show their individuality. 

Have an agent who loves dancing on TikTok? Awesome. Leverage that passion to help them find a new audience of clients and customers. Have an operations coordinator who is a master at calligraphy? Amazing! Perhaps they will create all of your client event invitations and personalized closing gifts. Does your CFO have a love for improv? Have them host a workshop for your team once a month.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless, as long as you have created an environment that values and fosters this individuality. If you don’t, you may never truly know your team members or what motivates them and makes them uniquely them.

This begins with the hiring process and is one of the main reasons we spend such a significant time with our candidates, including conducting behavior assessments. We are looking for all the signs that makes someone unique so that we can best match them with a role at our company or maybe even an opportunity elsewhere.

Remember: This is what employees want. They want to be able to be themselves at work. They usually just need to know that your company or team will offer them a place where this is valued and accepted.

Naval Ravikant said, “Today, you can be completely unique. You can go out on the internet and you can find your audience and you can build a business and create a product and build wealth and make people happy.” I agree.

And yet it is so much more fun to do it with other people. Find those individuals, invite them into your world, value their unique skills and contributions, and watch everything grow. 

2. Transparent communication

We live in a voyeuristic and share-happy culture right now. Information (though the accuracy is often debatable) is at our fingertips — literally. Team members and employees expect this type of transparency to extend to the workplace. And why shouldn’t they?

Whether it’s casting the vision, setting priorities, outlining the company’s growth plan, preparing your team for layoffs, helping them navigate during times of uncertainty, letting them know about tough decisions you’ve had to make, or letting them know that that year’s sales numbers weren’t hit and that there will be no bonuses — transparent and vulnerable communication, coupled with strength, is what makes a great leader.

People generally want answers, and they want them fast. That goes for your employees, too. Even if you don’t have the answers, admitting that and sharing that you are actively working to find a solution can be the critical tipping point between fostering trust with your team or starting to erode the relationship.

Transparent communication goes both ways. As a leader, if you work on modeling transparent communication and show the way by letting go of the outcome, you are creating an environment where your employees are also able to be transparent, real, honest, vulnerable and direct in their communication.

3. Personal growth focused on strengths

As we mentioned before, employees want to be able to bring their whole, unique selves to work — their strengths and weaknesses. I have always believed that business is nothing a conduit for your personal growth.

There is no better ecosystem than the work environment to deal with energy management, office politics, success, failures, a plethora of personalities, striving to achieve, learning to let go, and every other emotion and experience possible.

So, while at work, why not focus on the growth of yourself and the growth of your team members? There is no better place to grow. Leaders must work with their team members to help them home in on their strengths and by doing so unlock their full potential.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to help them grow. If you can help your team members do that continuously, constantly challenging them and helping them become the best version of themselves, why would they ever want to leave?

People today crave this growth. It goes hand in hand with the desire for agency in the workplace, job crafting and freedom.

4. Celebrate meaningful work

In our fast-paced world, it is very easy to gloss over successes and move quickly on to the next target. It’s important to take a beat, and celebrate and acknowledge your team members’ accomplishments and wins.

Now, I’m not talking about days-long celebrations. Instead, I’m talking about acknowledging your team members’ contributions and work and wins in a way that is meaningful to them.

This all goes back to valuing individuality. Leaders must make sure that they understand their individual team members’ goals, what motivates them and how they like to be celebrated.

Don’t get caught creating a big team celebration for your executive assistant who would have preferred a handwritten note left on their desk. Or don’t miss the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the important work your director of sales is doing if getting recognition in font of their peers is important to them.

Bottom line is: Employees want to know that the work they are doing is meaningful to others, while also being meaningful to them.

Everyone wants to know that what they are doing makes a difference to someone else — their clients, their boss, their team, the public, their family. Make the time to seek out the meaningful work that your employees do and then celebrate the heck out of them!

5. Encourage work-life presence

As I mentioned before, I think in this new era of work, we need a new way to look at how we spend our time. It’s not about work-life separation, nor is it about work-life balance or even work-life integration. I’m focused on encouraging work-life presence for myself and my team.

Work-life presence is about making sure that no matter what activity or area of your life you are engaged in, that you are fully there and fully engaged. When you are playing PJ Masks with your daughter, your phone is in another room, and you are fully present. When you are hiking with your partner, your AirPods are in your pocket, and you are fully present.

When you’re consulting with a real estate client, your Zoom camera is on, your email is shut down, and you are fully present. All you have in this life is the moment that you are currently in — experience it fully and encourage your employees to do the same.

Work-life presence will look a little differently for each team member, so remember to honor their individuality and what works for them. As long as the work is getting done, results are being met, and growth of the company and your people continues, what have you got to lose by being an advocate for work-life presence?

Leaders in 2022 will be called upon to focus on their people, but not just as the collect team, rather with a specific focus on the individual — their needs, wants, motivations, values, individuality, strengths, etc. Leaders will be able to build strong, cohesive, and long-lasting teams if they focus on valuing individuality, transparent communication, personal growth, acknowledge the meaningful work that they do, and encouraging work-life presence.

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s holistic approach to business here

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