5 Challenges Facing Business in 2022

By Eric Allgood

The Great Resignation

Starting late 2021, this is a challenge facing all organisations, yes all – even SBAAS (Small Business Assistance and Advisory Service) are taking preventative actions. Recent research has indicated that over 40% of Australians are actively looking for a new role. Furthermore, about a third of those who have resigned, did so without a replacement position to go to.

So why are people resigning? Many state that there is ‘no one size fits all’ to this answer, but we tend to disagree. There is an extraordinarily strong trend across almost all the responses … Culture.

People want to:

  1. Work for a company with a compelling purpose, where their values align to those of the company,
  2. Work for a company where the Environmental and Social strategies reflect their own values and whose Governance protocols reflect an organisation that means what they say (your ESG Policies),
  3. Be in an organisation that they trust and respect, that they feel cares about them and knows them as a person,
  4. Be appreciated, feel a sense of belonging, and they have a voice that is listened to,
  5. Have the opportunity to learn, develop, and grow in their career and personally,
  6. Spend their days working towards something that means something to them, and
  7. Know what success is and how it is being measured, and in some instance by whom.

Looks like seven different things, but it all comes down to leadership and culture. The adage that ‘people don’t leave a job, they leave a boss’ still rings true in these responses. Think about it, as an example, a large multinational organisation spends millions telling you they care in their advertising, but the person you dealt with was disinterested and discourteous, so you left. No different to having leaders who don’t show support, don’t listen, don’t provide opportunity, or don’t seem to align with the written values of the organisation.

Our experience with any organisation comes right down to the personal relationships formed, or not, within that organisation. We have seen organisations where there was just one person who did not sit with the culture and values extolled.

Initially, everyone thought, ‘they do a reasonable job and it’s only one person.’ However, this person caused up to a dozen people to leave because of most of the things outlined above.

Cybersecurity

SME’s have become increasingly more likely to be targeted by scammers and hackers. The reasoning is simple; businesses collect and store a wide range of consumer data, especially important personal data.

If COVID19 has taught us nothing else, it has certainly shown the depths of human immorality in the number of new scams surfacing throughout the pandemic.

So, what are the main concerns?

  • Hacking via remote working has become one of our biggest vulnerabilities. Workers don’t consider cybersecurity as business owners and managers do. Considerations such as firewalls, access management, malware protection, etc. just aren’t at the same front of mind positioning.
  • The internet of all things also creates an endless realm of possibilities for our not so friendly hackers. Hackers can troll through the websites our workers are on and use these to track back into our systems. To be clear, it isn’t just a case of banning sites such as shopping sites or social media (who’ve had a few hacking issues of late). Workers doing research into the future of your industry are just as at risk as those surfing Gumtree for a brilliant deal!

Banning social media also has unwanted consequences. How many of our businesses rely on social networks for brand awareness, or even sales? We even use these networks for recruiting nowadays, so removing them from circulation is the equivalent of telling a boilermaker they’re not allowed to use a flame.

  • Ransomware and phishing are also on the rise. IBM reported that ransomware constituted over 25% of total cyber-attacks. In fact, hackers have over doubled ransomware cases throughout the pandemic. Let that just sink in for a minute!

The Government Cyber Security Assessment Tool can be found at: https://business.gov.au/online/cyber-security/protect-your-business-from-cyber-threats

Skills Shortages and Low Unemployment Rates

With international borders being closed for so long we are facing a skills shortage, but it also means our unemployment rates have dropped significantly.

What does this mean? Simply put, that 30+% of people quitting before they have a new job, know they will get one. The confidence of skilled workers in finding new jobs is high and the confidence of employers in finding people is low.

The panic driven recruitment processes are counter intuitive to ongoing success. Remember all the issues in point 1? You should, because if you panic hire, you may just be changing the dynamic keeping the rest of your team. In other words, it’s like putting diesel into a petrol motor.

Australia still has an overqualification issue, meaning people are employed in positions well below the level of their qualifications. A Barista with a PhD for example. This means there are some pretty professionally qualified, but seriously inexperienced (relevance-wise) potential employees out there.

You can make skilful use of these potential employees by concentrating on getting the things in item 1 right. Creating a complete induction process whereby the new employee gets mentoring on all facets of your business, coupled with the openminded listening to your employee culture mentioned. Lack of experience will create some naïve and innocent ideas, but there is nothing wrong with that, many an innovation has been born from such roots.

Listening to your new employee also gives you an idea on how they think and where their perspective comes from. Being prepared to mentor and starting with those you have is the best preventative measure to losing staff and the best tool to attract great staff. For example, setting up (or using an external) Learning Management System (LMS) and creating a training program for your staff has great returns (regardless of the size of your organisation).

Maintaining the Current Hybrid Model of Work or Returning People to the Office

This isn’t as tricky as it sounds, although for some organisations, it requires a huge culture shift.

  1. Maintaining the hybrid model offers many benefits for both the worker and the employer, cost savings being the most obvious. Employers don’t have the same electricity and other costs (such as amenities) and employees don’t have the costs associated with travel to and from work.

The greatest challenge is the trend of employees feeling they are being treated poorly, as illustrated in the increase in harassment and unfair dismissal claims through Fair Work. Recent studies have indicated a strong bias against remote workers does actually exist, with 60% of HR leaders indicating trends of office employees being promoted or receiving pay rises more often. The bias is simple, you see them therefore they must be harder workers. This author calls bullsh!t on that one.

Employees feel this bias and report feelings of bias from office-based workers too. The issue here is the lack of connection that is achieved through face-to-face working. This can be prevented through regular meetings, but not effectively if it is only regular meetings, we will cover this shortly.

So how can we improve the success of our hybrid models?

  • Arrange regular, scheduled meetings in the office. For example, the second and last Tuesday of every month.
    • Ensure the meetings have an appropriate Agenda, ensuring everyone is aware of the expectations and how to prepare.
    • Cater for these meetings – get a Subway catering plate, or better yet – find a local small business to cater.
    • Make sure there is enough time given for everybody to be heard and acknowledged.
  • Arrange virtual social events, such as trivia competitions to help keep those interpersonal relationships alive. We would also suggest creating a ‘buddy system’ where an office worker ‘adopts’ a remote employee and they have to regularly check on their wellbeing. The same for the remote worker, but a different office worker to the one assigned to them. This will create a community network.
  • Stop worrying about hours and start thinking about results – slow down, let’s not creep into unfair expectation areas here. You should know how long it takes (approximately) for certain things to be done, so create KPI’s for the week/fortnight/month with regular milestone checks. During these checks ask if the employee has everything they need and if not, get it for them. If there are roadblocks, solve them.
    • Using systems such as Microsoft Teams is exceptional for this, as employees can assign and track tasks within project teams and collaborate live through the platform, removing most obstacles, and tracking where roadblocks may be without micromanaging.
    • Author’s note: Setting KPI’s and telling your staff member that you don’t care (if suitable) what times they work, gets amazing results. Productivity skyrockets if you tell someone (and they agree to the timeframe) that you need XYZ by Friday and if they achieve a final draft by Thursday, they get a long weekend without affecting their leave. Stop, think about it; what are you losing if you get something you expected on Friday on Thursday instead? Nothing, and for those of you thinking you’re losing a day’s work, nope – they’d just have made the KPI of Friday work for them. Is this a home-based worker thing? No, same can happen for office-based (depending upon the circumstances).
  • The lesson learned here is the carrot of extra time off if a satisfactory result is achieved early means the employee is now focussed on creating a higher quality product/service in a shorter time. This means they are creating efficiencies within your process. In the future you can harness these efficiencies and shorten the KPI timeframes, so the same job after they have achieved two long weekends means they have until Thursday to achieve the same result, Thursday they start a new project and if they finish the first one on Wednesday, they still get that long weekend, only they choose Friday or Monday as it will affect their next project.

    Over time you will have an organisation achieving more than it ever has before, both in quality and volume and have a workforce working 4 days per week for the same pay they were working 5 days for.

    This won’t work for every business, but for those who can have employees work from home that aren’t relying on them to answer phones, there is bound to be a way.

    • Returning workers to the workplace creates a distinct set of considerations. Remember, people will have to relearn how long it takes to get to work again, traffic would have changed, because of the new ‘normal’ so misjudging and being early or late will happen to start. Be forgiving and understanding, even have conversations around the new ‘normal’ and ask how they’re dealing with it.

    You will need to ensure the protocols around COVID are adhered to again, and it is suggested that as all restrictions drop away, you keep a certain number of preventative measures, call it your infectious diseases protocol and it now protects from COVID19, the Flu, Gastro, and whatever else the 20’s wants to shove down our throats. Having healthy, clean protocols has been a keystone to McDonald’s success fyi.

    You will also need to ‘rekindle the love affair’ (see section 1 above) with your workers, reignite the connections and reaffirm the relationship. What can be done to do this?

    • Have a catered welcome back session, this works best if it is not all work-based, add some fun to it. This could be the old-fashioned pub-quiz style activity where all the questions are ‘remember when’ fun stuff from pre-COVID days.
    • Adding some work related, but lighter stuff as the above can make for a great segway into the business side which you finish on, not start with. You want the first memory of returning to be relaxed and friendly and the last thing from the meeting being game face on, let’s do this, not the other way around.
    • Prior to everyone returning make sure you have the resources ready, such as stationery, paper, coffee, even toilet paper, etc. as you may not have been catering for the numbers for a while.

    Aside: the is the counter issue arising of people returning to work and remembering how much they disliked some of the people they work with … the great resignation – see item 1.

Other Challenges

  • Planning for sustainable growth – processes and strategies.
  • What are your Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies for 2022 and beyond (see Item 1). For example, do you have a Charity you support – we can recommend you check out ipsf.org.au and/or email partnerships@ipsf.org.au and request a sponsorship pack (they start from a very affordable $500 and make a dramatic difference to Aussie communities). Full disclosure: SBAAS may be biased as we support this charity as our preferred charity.
  • Legislative changes.
  • Leadership building.
  • Marketing strategy in a new thinking world.
  • Cash flow management – but you should ALWAYS be thinking of this one.
  • Much more – it’s business!