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Looking ahead in 2022: What’s on the horizon for corporate comms?

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Posted: Jan 2022

And just like that – another new year begins. Where did the time go? Much like almost every industry, PR and corporate comms has been in flux since 2020, and 2022 may be yet another year of upheaval and change. 

So, what’s on the horizon for corporate comms? We share our predictions for how the landscape might look for professionals in 2022 and how they can navigate what is likely to be another rollercoaster year.

Being nimble will be more important than ever

In many ways, 2021 felt like a huge step forward for comms professionals but it still offered plenty of challenges and struggles. We watched many smart strategic communications agencies step up and manage to reinvent themselves with offerings built for new realities; learning to ride not fight the waves to keep their clients, win new ones, and hold on to their staff. Agility and the ability to pivot will continue to be key attributes that will enable the industry to thrive.

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that moving forward at a snail’s pace is undoubtedly the quickest way to get left behind. Pre-pandemic, the comms industry was already making significant strides in technology but the pace of digital adoption and the advent of a ‘digital-first’ approach have been accelerated.

Expect a (continuing) war on talent

The need to value and develop your people has never been more crucial. The corporate comms industry, in particular, is going to need to take a step back and really re-evaluate its priorities to make up for the loss in the workforce. We’ve said it before, but it’s well worth repeating – companies need to look beyond the salary and bonus they are offering to also consider the benefits being offered. Carefully crafted benefits considering gender and generation, for example, may appeal. People are going to be more intentional about where, and how, they work.

One of the reasons behind The Great Resignation was employees being forced to return to the office when they were perfectly capable of doing their roles from home. These employees who prefer that flexibility will be the ones who will leave your teams. Not providing flexibility or allowing employees to enjoy more work-life balance is history. Putting your people first will win in the war of talent. Treating employees with the respect they deserve and empowering them to thrive in the environment that suits them best will be pivotal to securing and retaining the best talent.

Hybrid working models will continue to evolve

We’re entering year three of a global pandemic and hybrid work is a reality. Since the start of the pandemic, employers have begun to understand they do have the tools and skills available for employees to work remotely, but it also showcased some of the challenges. 

Ultimately, employees want the flexibility to choose where and how they work. That doesn’t always mean they want to work remotely all the time, which can lead to isolation and disengagement. It’s also challenging for training and learning. However, employees do want to be able to spend less time on things like commutes and spend more time with their loved ones or doing things they enjoy. 

Hybrid working takes planning to make sure it really works for the individuals involved and the company overall. Our advice is: be intentional about how you set up your hybrid environment so you’re not only benefitting from the productivity of your team but you’re also continuing to develop a flexible culture that will help to retain your talent in the coming years. This includes taking action to ensure that all employees feel included, regardless of where they choose to work. Training will be less ‘on the job’ and will require additional input.

More talk about tackling Diversity and Inclusion

The voice for change is getting stronger, which could suggest people now have more confidence to speak up because they believe more people are listening. In short, now more than ever, companies are recognising the importance of diversity and inclusion, and genuine social consciousness will only become more pronounced across the industry in 2022.

Much focus remains on what you should and should not say. Terminology that is acceptable to use today might not be tomorrow because of subjective meaning. People get confused about which words can and cannot be used and this distracts from tackling the underlying problems. It is not what words are said, but the intended meaning. We must positively influence how people think or feel, and to do this, we will often need to change deep-seated views that have been cemented at an early age and nurtured ever since. It’s a big challenge for companies to encourage their people to change their viewpoints, and certainly not one that training alone will address. Businesses will need sophisticated tools and resources that go far beyond policy and training – tools that will support them to develop the appropriate values and culture, and in doing so, promote a clear vision of an inclusive workplace that values and embraces diversity. Far from easy. But we expect to see lots of innovation coming through in this area and we encourage leaders to get on board. It’s another important way to stay one step ahead and remain/become an employer of choice.

Championing sustainability

One key trend for 2022 is going to be sustainability. As we all start to overcome the challenges posed by Brexit and Covid, it’s time for the corporate comms industry to start turning its attention to the big issues we face as a society and how it can make an impact on that. Expectations for larger companies to publish their net-zero plans are just the beginning of the legislative ‘squeeze’ we can expect and embrace. Businesses across the industry are bound to face increasing scrutiny on the actions they take to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, so offering training is an easy win to that effect – we believe that forward-thinking leaders can seize upon this as a competitive differentiator.

Much has changed in just two years; the industry is constantly learning, and we have seen many companies move nimbly and successfully to make circumstances work to their benefit and to the benefit of their teams and their clients. We believe that in 2022, it will be crucial to continue to embrace all that has been learned from such a challenging two years. Corporate comms professionals are resourceful and creative, and they will thrive if they are allowed to continue to adapt and be flexible.

To read our full Salary Guide, click here.

The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email sarah@the-works.co.uk

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