The year in review: HR’s biggest challenges of 2022

As the economic situation shifted, HR leaders were forced to change course.
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Don’t let the buzzwords fool you: HR pros faced some serious issues in 2022, even if the endless variations of “Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” made their eyes roll.

We asked HR leaders to share their greatest challenges of the year.

Employees expected flexibility—employers had other ideas. Flexible work arrangements were a top priority for job-seekers this year, according to an August survey by LinkedIn. As employers across the country called employees back to the office, HR leaders found striking a balance to be particularly challenging.

“A challenge in 2022, and something many are still navigating, is striking the right mix of flexibility in work schedules and individual needs while continuing to drive stellar business results.”—Jeri Hawthorne, VP of HR, Aflac

“Many employees joined in a fully remote capacity over the past two years. Striking a balance between facilitating a return to office and maintaining appropriate levels of flexibility that worked so well during the pandemic was a challenge we faced head on.”—Bill Clawson, CHRO, Progressive Insurance

The Great Resignation wasn’t just a catchy phrase. One in five workers reported being extremely or very likely to quit their jobs in 2022, according to a May report from PwC, so HR had to work strategically, and hand-in-hand with the C-suite, to retain in-demand talent.

“One of our biggest challenges was in scaling our leaders and systems to support the growth in our employee population. Like a lot of companies, we also grappled with finding the right balance around return to work, compensation planning, and adjusting to changing expectations and market conditions.”—Stephanie Reynolds, chief people officer, Unify Consulting

“No organization was immune to the Great Resignation. Continuing to find ways to drive employee retention and implement new ways of working was top of mind this year. At the same time, HR leaders have had to manage employee expectations and evolving needs during a time of historically high inflation.”—Wendy Edgar, HR director, EY Americas

The markets were a mess, and HR the cleanup crew. HR leaders grappled with economic volatility this year, which forced many to institute hiring freezes or even conduct layoffs.

“2022 was a year of adjustment and right-sizing as we went from a red-hot economy to what I’d describe as economic limbo. That meant reprioritization—where some plans were deprecated and others accelerated. Along with plans changing, the HR team has continued to play a key role in reimagining how we work as it relates to hybrid [or] remote work.” —Bernard Coleman, chief diversity and engagement officer, Gusto

Amid such uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: There will be plenty of new challenges to navigate in 2023.—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected]. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.