Published in Forbes

According to a WSJ report, around 200,000 establishments in the US closed permanently in the first year of the viral outbreak. 

The pandemic-inflicted leadership challenges in 2020-21 forced organizations to take extraordinary measures in real-time, with zero planning. Things changed drastically and dramatically, leaving no industry across the world unaffected. 

As we step into 2022, it is time for business leaders to switch from the survival mode strategy and utilize the experience to prepare for the future. Here are some challenges that deserve your attention in 2022 and beyond.

1. Changing Business Trends and Hyper Competition

The COVID-19 pandemic influenced every niche and significantly increased competition among businesses across all industries. As a result, business strategies were re-evaluated to find new revenue generation opportunities. The rapid transformation brought prosperity to agile companies while overthinking, and conservative leaders were left behind. 

For instance, paid podcast service launched by Spotify during the pandemic enabled it to generate additional revenue. The users warmly welcomed the podcasts revolving around mental health during isolation. Going forward, this agility to change as per the market condition and innovating quickly will be critical for survival. 

Adopting an agile approach and keeping an eye on the market leaders and competitors could help business leaders grow and succeed in the future. 

2. Keeping Up with Digital Technologies

According to a 2019 survey by Tech Pro Research, 70% of the businesses either had a digital transformation strategy in place or were working on one. But while most companies had extensive digitalization plans spread across several years, the outbreak compelled businesses to compress those processes into a few months. 

The lockdowns made the virtual world the go-to option for the consumers, be it for shopping, socializing, or entertainment. While you might have done what you had to during the pandemic, 2022 can be the time to work on a long-term digitalization plan to offer maximum value to customers online. 

Establishing a strong virtual presence, digital marketing, and custom software solutions are some tasks that deserve a spot on your to-do list for 2022 and beyond.  

3. The New Era of Employee Engagement

With the employees turning towards their leaders to connect, recognize, and support them through the pandemic, we are entering a new era of employee engagement. According to an Agility PR Solutions report, only about 32% of the US employees agreed to have leaders and managers they could trust during a crisis.  

Now more than ever, employees should feel connected to their companies’ overall purpose, mission, and values and clearly understand the impact of their contributions on the growth and recovery of their organization. As employee engagement directly impacts every aspect of business growth, this is one challenge that leaders should definitely watch out for. 

Leaders can focus on creating an employee engagement strategy that is innovative, human, and agile to keep up with the changing times. 

4. Developing and Retaining Talent

Initially proposed by Professor Anthony Klutz of Texas A&M University, The Great Resignation is turning into a reality. According to a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 4 million Americans left their jobs in July 2021 alone. The resignations are the highest in the technology and healthcare sector.  

Most of the reasons responsible for record-breaking resignations, like upgrading to a better pay package or reworking work-life priorities, in many ways, stem from an organization’s inability to develop and retain talent. Dissatisfaction with the workplace culture is another reason that could encourage an employee to consider switching to another organization. 

Understanding the root causes of why people are leaving your organization, improving workplace culture, and developing a tailored retention program could help a company reduce the number of resignations. 

Read this post where I talk in detail about the Great Resignation and what leaders need to do. 

5. Workplace Flexibility Expectations

Be it working from the office, remotely, or a hybrid model, there is no denying the fact that companies should now offer more flexibility to the employees. And the flexibility is not just about when or where the employees work. It is also about what kind of work they are required to do when they are in the office and at home. 

According to the OC Tanner Institute’s 2022 Global Culture Report, collaborative tasks or tasks that require a lot of communication and connection are better managed from the office, while tasks that involve creative thinking or focus can be easily done from home. 

Taking inputs from the employees but setting clear expectations could help an organization have a more satisfied, productive, and engaged workforce.   

The Future is Challenging But Exciting

The pandemic was an eye-opener for many business leaders. While globalization, digitalization, and technological disruptions were expected to make the future challenging, the accelerated transformation brought about by the viral outbreak was unanticipated even by hardcore pessimists. 

While the challenges abound, it has also brought forward some great opportunities. By modernizing and revitalizing business processes at every level, leaders can navigate through the uncertain whirlwind of the pandemic and step into a new era of growth and success in 2022 and beyond.