By Dan Gephart, January 11, 2022

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation.” It’s hard to argue against the Space Odyssey series author when you read what people once predicted the workplace of the 2000s would look like.

  • Fifteen-hour workweeks?
  • Seven weeks of vacation?
  • The disappearance of the letters c, x, and q?

It’s hard to pick the prediction that’s most ridiculous.

Yet, Clarke himself made some amazingly prescient prognostications (watch the YouTube video) back in 1964, when he suggested (again, he did this nearly 60 years ago) that remote work and instantaneous communication would be the norm.

Well, welcome to 2020s, Ghost of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Your predictions were right on the money. As we ease our way cautiously into 2022, we look at what today’s workplace experts are predicting for this year and the challenges this new workplace will create.

Hybrid workplaces

Every workplace expert agrees: Remote work is here to stay. In its workplace re-entry guidance last summer, OPM suggested that agencies “take this opportunity to adjust their telework policies to reflect a new understanding about how telework has worked at their agencies.”

That doesn’t mean you need to turn off the lights and lock the office doors behind you. The physical workspace won’t disappear any time soon. The word of 2022 will be … say it with me: hybrid.

Ultimately, however, the performance success of a hybrid work environment will come down to managers and supervisors. Based on anecdotal evidence over the past year, there are quite a few Federal supervisors out there who aren’t yet up to this challenge.

As the hybrid model becomes entrenched, supervisors need to avoid what workplace experts call the “two-tiered workforce.” That means ensuring equity between employees who report to the office and those who work remotely, sharing consistent messaging, and holding all employees equally accountable for performance and conduct, regardless of where they physically work.

FELTG can help you with that. We can bring courses directly to your team with guidance on improving your management and communication skills, providing employee feedback, setting expectations, and taking the appropriate action for performance and conduct deficiencies. Or you can join FELTG President Deborah Hopkins on February 9-10 for UnCivil Servant: Holding Employees Accountable for Performance and Conduct.

Office space

As employers across America move to a hybrid environment, you will soon start hearing (that is, if you haven’t already) about physical changes to the workplace. With less need for face-to-face time, some private sector companies are already re-designing their workspaces. This could mean fewer offices, as workplace experts predict more “we spaces” and fewer “me spaces.”

That won’t be an easy transition in the Federal government. labor battles have been literally fought over inches of office space.

It’s not a particularly easy time for unions and management, dealing with whiplash of extreme labor relations positioning. Rebuilding management-labor relationships will be key in the upcoming year. Get yourself prepared for this year by attending Navigating Federal Labor Relations in 2022 tomorrow (January 13) from 1-3 pm ET.

The ‘Great Resignation’

In, perhaps, the most surprising trend to come out of the pandemic, a record number (millions per month) of employees voluntarily left their jobs in the past year. Well, it was surprising to many people, but not Texas A&M Professor Anthony Klotz, who not only predicted it two years ago, but actually coined the term “Great Resignation.”

So far, the “Great Resignation” hasn’t hit the Federal government. But experts predict the trend will continue, and Feds are certainly not immune. Now is the time to look over your most recent FEVS results.

What are you doing right by employees? What kind of workplace culture have you created in your unit? Will you continue to make telework an option once the pandemic ends? Do your employees feel like they have a good work/life balance? Do your supervisors hold employees accountable for performance and conduct? Do you provide a workplace that strives for workplace  diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility?

These are all factors determining whether your best employees will soon be putting your agency’s name under Recent Employment on their CVs.

But let’s flip this around. Let’s think about this trend as the “Great Opportunity.” There is a lot of talent out there that is now available and there is still a lot that a Federal job can offer. But you need to know where to find the talent, and it’s not always is the same places.

“Go to where the candidates are,” FELTG Instructor Marcus Hill said last year. Consider social media, online forums, and visiting colleges and universities that aren’t usually on your list.

Emphasis of DEIA

The approach to hiring will also help with your DEIA efforts, as required by President Biden’s Executive Orders.

And just so you know, the Federal workplace is not alone in its attention to DEIA. A few weeks ago, Forbes told its readers that the “Great Resignation” has “awakened executives and HR leaders to the importance of diversity and inclusion” and that the “time is right for taking corrective action when it comes to building a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Remember when we were all told that we needed to make a “business case” for diversity? Well, it appears, that case is closed (at least for now) and we can focus on actually implementing policies.

Late last year, the Biden Administration released its DEIA strategic plan, the first such plan in more than a decade. The plan suggests agencies focus on five foundational principles when advancing DEIA:

  • Use data and evidence-based decision-making
  • Focus on continuous improvement
  • Adopt a collaborative whole-of-agency mandate with partnership engagement
  • Prioritize accountability and sustainability
  • Understand the perspectives of the workforce and the customers

Addressing the wide scope of what a DEIA strategy should encompass would take more than an article, or a series of articles. But, as always, we provide training that can help you on your journey. See that little icon (pictured above)? That will help you identify the FELTG training classes that meet the President’s mandate to provide training on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the Federal workplace. Three of our upcoming courses that meet the mandate:

Just because we know what the near future holds doesn’t make it any easier. Good luck this year with all your efforts in making your portion of the Federal workplace a model employer. [email protected]

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