Based on my research into how the next 12 months will pan out, here are my three unwritten rules for success in 2022:
Ha, ha, must be the silly season getting to me!
But seriously, … Here are ten things you could do as a leader to be more successful in 2022. Obviously, you won’t be able to do them all well, but pick two or three that you think will give you the most leverage.
1. Invest in Employee Wellbeing
Because of COVID-19, the last two years have been among the most stressful ever for many people, and the Omicron variant means we’re not out of the woods yet. Last year, 60% of Australian workers experienced a mental health condition. Some leaders are doing the right thing by putting a high priority on mental health, but not all. Do it! And do it properly, not just with superficial activities.
2. Learn to Lead Hybrid Teams
The great Working From Home Experiment of 2020 proved people could be productive and collaborative away from an office, even in the middle of the worst global crisis most of them have ever faced.
Some organisations are making it a permanent work style. For example, Siemens has already announced it will allow all employees to work from wherever they want away from the office for two to three days a week. Initially, ‘wherever you want’ usually means home, but it extends to co-working spaces and other places in the future.
The trouble is that many leaders and managers have never learned how to lead people they can’t see all day. According to one study in the Harvard Business Review, 40% of managers aren’t confident they can manage workers remotely. At least it’s good they acknowledge this weakness! But it remains to be seen whether they are willing to learn how to lead distributed and hybrid teams.
WATCH: Online Meetings That Sizzle, Not Suck
3. Embrace Diversity and Inclusion
Organisations everywhere are aware of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) – and rightly so, because it’s an important leadership initiative that reflects our changing world. Even if you only care about the bottom line, there’s solid evidence that increasing diversity (especially more women) in senior leadership increases profits and performance.
“I’ve got an Eton-themed Advent calendar, where all the doors are opened for me by my dad’s contacts.” – Ivo Graham
It should also be obvious that a more diverse team is more innovative, more adaptable, and better equipped to face the challenges of a global, digitally connected, and fast-changing world.
WATCH: Gender Diversity in Business – How Is Australia Doing?
4. Build Future-Ready Skills
The workplace of the future will be very different from the workplace of today, and we need new skills to navigate in times of massive change and ongoing disruption. McKinsey says by 2030, about 15% of the global workforce might need to switch occupation.
By and large, Australian workers understand the importance of active learning, and 70% of them expect their current employer to give them the skills needed for their future jobs.
Interviewer: Your salary starts at $30,000. But later it will increase to $40,000.
Candidate: Great! I’ll come back later.
WATCH: Future Mind
5. Learn To Lead In Uncertainty
Change is a part of life – especially after the chaos and uncertainty of 2020 and 2021. You and your leadership team need to understand the external pressures you will face in the future. When creating your future strategy, learn to broaden your perspective and make better-informed decisions.
Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Schrödinger: This is already my favourite book of all time!
WATCH: Think Like a Futurist
6. Fast-Track Digital Change
For each of the three years before COVID-19, KPMG’s survey of Australian CEOs reported that digital transformation was their #1 priority. Even the pandemic didn’t slow this trend: McKinsey reported 85% of companies accelerated digital transformation in 2020 due to COVID-19, and Macquarie University research found 74% of senior leaders said adopting new technology helped them through COVID-19.
We don’t need fancy-pants research to tell us this – we know it already. The pandemic made our world instantly more digital – with things like working from home, contactless payments, click and collect, QR codes, and other technology.
That makes it essential for organisations to become more digital. But many leaders get digital transformation wrong – which makes it slow, expensive, and a massive business risk, especially in an uncertain, fast-moving world.
WATCH: The Three Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make with Digital Transformation
7. Leverage AI and Automation
By 2023, 75 million jobs will be displaced by AI doing routine work. But 133 million new jobs will also be created.
Whether you’re working in an established business or a digital startup, if you’re not already engaging with AI in your organisation, you’re falling behind. Again, to quote McKinsey research, 67% of companies sped up their use of automation and artificial intelligence due to COVID-19.
READ: The Future Is Now – Competing in the Age of AI (CEO Magazine)
WATCH: Competing in the Age of AI
8. Lead For the Asian Century
I share this map in many of my presentations:
and point out – courtesy of Valerie Pieris – that more than half the world’s population lives inside that green circle.
This truly is the Asian century, and that has profound implications for our future. It’s not just about a global power shift, it’s also about a different mindset in the way we do business.
9. Re-Engage With Customers
COVID-19 has made everybody – including your customers – re-evaluate what matters most to them, and they now have different wants and needs. The most obvious change is the shift to digital (see above), but don’t assume that’s the only thing that has changed in their lives.
A major disruption like COVID-19 also creates opportunities for fast, nimble, agile competitors who are nipping at your heels. The pandemic has done most of the hard work in disrupting your customers, and if you’re not careful these upstarts will snatch your customers away from you.
WATCH: Customers On Your Side
10. Lead with Purpose
Whether you call it The Great Resignation or The Great Reshuffle, there’s no doubt the pandemic has prompted many people to question the value of their job, and many people want out. There’s some debate about the extent of this shift, but it’s definitely happening. For example, Hays reports nearly 40 per cent of Australians will quit their job in this financial year.
That means the war for talent has suddenly gone nuclear. And if you don’t provide the work and the workplace that people want, they will vote with their feet and choose somebody else who does.
It’s not all bad news. Employees who are satisfied with their work environments are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay, and 30% more attracted to their company over competitors.
What’s YOUR Plan for 2022?
Which of these ten things will you adopt to be more future-ready?
If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it’s that we must expect the unexpected. That doesn’t mean we can’t make plans – it means we must be flexible and agile as the world changes around us.
Stay safe and healthy, and I’ll see you in the future!