Opinion: The past two years have been fascinating to witness from a research industry standpoint. Many companies accelerated their operations to keep up with the ever-changing consumer and moved to wholly digital environments. All of us embraced technology more than ever and saw rapid global growth of our workforces.
In an industry that’s all about data, insights and understanding consumers and trends, here are our predictions for the issues and opportunities facing the research sector in 2022.
1. Managing hybrid workplaces
Working from home is here to stay, but it’s going to be more of a mix of workstyles than 100% remote lockdown work. Staff will have different needs and preferences, and we can expect to see people coming into the office part-time as well as working different shifts.
All organisations, including the marketing and media industry, need to take heed and adapt if they want to retain valuable people. Pureprofile has accommodated for these massive work life shifts by moving to a smaller office with fewer permanent desks and having no internal meetings on Wednesdays and every other day between 11am and 1pm, to allow for work-life flexibility.
These are solutions that we crafted after speaking to and checking in with our staff about what they wanted. Our approach might not be appropriate for all organisations and it’s important to look beyond a “one size fits all” mindset.
2. Managing the Great Resignation
While the past two years have seen a concentration on the customer, 2022 is set to be the year of the employee.
As it became evident that people were reassessing their work situations towards the latter half of 2021, we carried out global research to find out what people’s intentions really are when it comes to their jobs. Nearly one in five workers (18%) in Australia are actively looking for a new job, and even more (23%) are thinking about doing so. One in ten has already quit to look for something “less stressful”.
Salary was the top factor considered, followed by flexibility with start and finish times (53%), work from home (37%) and a COVID-safe work environment (37%). Women in particular want flexibility and the ability to work remotely.
No industry is immune from this shift. All organisations need to rethink their approach to how they manage and support staff, and what they can do to retain skilled people. Perks such as gym benefits and free meals don’t rank highly (5% and 7%).
3. Supporting employee wellbeing
Taking care of employees’ well-being is also vital. Many people are stressed and burnt out from the events and uncertainties of the past two years. The Black Dog Institute describes workplace mental health as an “emerging public health crisis” that has been accelerated by the pandemic. The Institute estimates that mentally unhealthy workplaces cost Australia up to $39 billion each year due to lost participation and productivity.
Organisations need to offer more resources to prevent employees suffering burnout. An important first step is simply having an open conversation about it. At Pureprofile we hold Pure Wellness online workshops once a month to help with mental health. We’ve also started a “Pure Movers” program to get people out of the house and away from their computer for an hour a week, with a dedicated Slack channel to share our activities.
We also offer all of our global employees free counselling services and encourage a culture of openness and speaking up if they are not feeling good. Supporting initiatives like R U OK? day is another way for companies to show they care about the people behind the jobs.
4. Increasing diversity and inclusion
Having a diverse, inclusive workforce is increasingly linked to improved business performance. A range of studies show that diverse teams are more likely to re-examine facts and remain objective, as well as collaborate better – critical qualities for any researchers. Both gender diverse and culturally diverse teams have also been shown to be more innovative.
Diversity isn’t just about your staff. It’s also about other businesses you deal with – vendors, suppliers and contractors – as well as your customers and clients. New marketing and engagement approaches may be needed to successfully attract and work with a more diverse range of people and organisations.
5. Industries of growth
Healthcare and education have long been tipped as high growth industries, but the pandemic has boosted other sectors where there’s likely to be continued growth. These include:
- Sustainability – with the recent global dialogue on climate change there’s growing consumer awareness and demand for more ethical and environmentally friendly products and services.
- Recruitment and HR will see a boom, partly to deal with the Great Resignation but also as organisations evolve their approach to employee wellbeing.
- Tourism and hospitality are set for a massive comeback as state and international borders reopen. Australia’s domestic tourism market is already anticipating an uptick with the early opening of Queensland’s borders to NSW.
- Assistive technology is a huge and frequently untapped market, ranging from physical devices to AI-powered solutions to help with communication and vision needs.
All of this change presents huge and exciting opportunities for the research sector. There are still so many unknowns and it’s going to be a fascinating journey. But making sure that people and teams are supported and employing a people-first culture is something every organisation should prioritise.
Main photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash