It has been said that one of the biggest (and sudden) career trends to come out of Covid-19 was the dramatic speed of digitization in the workplace; as Satya Nadell, CEO of Microsoft said: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” And after sixteen months of this, most people are getting pretty used to do more work on their computer, smartphone, and from home. This upheaval from the traditional way of working to a more digital workplace is probably one of the most dramatic career trends we have seen in decades, but it’s far from being the only one. What sort of career trends are the experts predicting as we go into 2022?
Career Trends #1
Of course, we can’t leave the technology skill need at that! Probably the most important thing that employees will need to have moving forward is rock solid technology skills, the more specialized, the better. If nothing else, the ability to use a word processor, email, virtual meeting software, and whatever monitoring program the employer is using, will be absolutely pivotal for many industries. And no, it’s not just IT anymore – finance, utility workers, construction, forestry, teaching, and marketing, to name just a few, all use more and more digital technology today. My husband uses a tablet in the middle of the forest when surveying for archaeological sites. It’s everywhere.
You don’t have to learn coding (though that would help) or network security systems (though again…) but keep in mind that more and more companies are jumping on the ‘hire skills over experience’ bandwagon, with the combination of more and more people retiring from the field and experience becoming obsolete faster. It’s not enough to have ten years in a field anymore: you have to also be willing to learn new tools and technology.
Top Tech Skills:
- Cloud Computing
- Analytic reasoning
- People management
- UX Design
Career Trends #2: High Unemployment
Covid-19 certainly brought high unemployment, but that made sense: everything was shut down. Now that everything is opening up, how come the unemployment rate is still so high when there are millions of job openings in the US and a few hundred thousand in Canada? What gives?
There are a couple of factors at work:
1. There are still many industries that haven’t fully opened up yet, especially in entertainment and to a smaller extent, hospitality. There are still capacity limits in many places which strangle the amount of workers that a business needs and the number of customers they can serve.
2. People are still nervous about going back to work because they haven’t been vaccinated yet
3. People who were laid off have moved on to go back to school and are still finishing that, or they are now entrepreneurs or full time at home parents.
4. People are demanding more from their employers now: higher pay rates, more safety standards (especially in cleaning and working with customers), more flexibility for working around children and family members, and other reasons. It’s definitely more of a worker market now than an employment one since employers are starved for competent workers and workers are being more selective about where they apply for work.
All of these factors work in tandem to drive Canada’s unemployment rate to just under 8%. There also still continues to a problem with getting applications through whatever software a company uses to screen them and getting people into interviews.
Likely this will all even out, and it’s a lot more dramatic in the states with millions of jobs going unfilled, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Career Trends #3: The Importance of Soft Skills
We have talked about this before… and again, and before… It’s almost like it’s important or something.
But Covid-19 really blew the need for soft skills straight up with more and more demands being placed on leadership skills, strong work ethics, creativity, problem solving and teamwork. Weak or ineffective leaders lost skilled workers in droves, creative problem solving had to leap forward to deal with the sudden changes in how business was done, and people had to find ways to work together even while apart. The continued rise in automation makes this even more stark: automation and AI can handle rote and routine tasks, but it takes a human to come up with the next great business strategy, service, product, or way to help others.
There is also a lot of mismatch between the skills people learn in schools and the skills employers want, which has become a serious problem in many industries and led to a complete devaluing of degrees. It’s important to make sure that you are choosing a post-secondary school that will actually give you the skills and education you need to work in the industry you want to work in because many programs don’t do a very good job of preparing people to actually work in a given field. This makes it harder for employers to find qualified workers. It’s also important to take advantage of things like practicums or co-op work experiences (assuming they contribute to your degree) so that you can see what working in a field is like and get more hands-on skills and experiences.
Career Trends #4: Remote Working For (Nearly) Anyone
Remote working used to just be for a subset of white collar, knowledge based workers and many employers were very nervous about it or outright ignored it. The level of productivity people could muster was constantly called into question, managers wanted to have all their staff with a ‘butts in chair’ attitude, and fears about the dissolution of corporate culture and leaving new hires adrift abounded.
Then Covid-19 came along and proved that many businesses can – and should – go remote, at least part of the time. Over a year along, there are plenty of people who now insist on at least being able to work remotely for part of the week and only come into the office one to two days a week. Indeed, many people are now flocking smaller cities because of the cheaper prices, greater amount of space, and the fact that they think they should be able to do their work from anywhere now. It’s caused a certain level of tension because many employers still want their employees back to work…. and the employees are often saying ‘no’.
In fact, according to a survey done by PWC, only one in five Canadians want to go back to the office full time, while 82% of employers think they should be going back full time. Talk about a messy mismatch of priorities! In the States, 39% of employees said they would quit if they were not given the option to come back to work as a remote worker. That’s quite a bite out of the skilled labor force.
In all honesty, the career trends of 2019 and 2020 continue into 2021 and 2022; however, Covid-19 sped a lot of them up, especially in the realm of technology. It’s now understood that pretty well all industries will have some level of digitization, with some having more than others. Add to this the trend towards more businesses going to a hybrid work from home/work at the office model (or entirely remote work) and you can see how many places are now demanding that employees know how to use their technology.
Other things though remain the same: the need for soft skills (particularly creativity), the need for proper training and hands-on experience and skills, and the general mismatch between what employees perceive employers want (and vice versa), what everyone actually wants, and how best to get there.
Covid-19 laid bare a lot of the weaknesses in the system we work under: ignoring front line workers like grocery store clerks, ignoring advances in technology, and demanding degrees. Now that we know these things are problematic, there is a growing push to fix them and take advantage of what computers, cloud computing, and the humble retail clerk and hospitality worker have to offer to keep the world moving forward in a post-pandemic world.
Anything surprise you about the career trends of 2021 and 2022? Let us know in the comments what you think the most important trends in employment will be in the next year.