Level Up Leadership Skills to Face Workplace Challenges

by James McDonough

Leadership,  Organizational Development,  Performance Management

The rapid emergence of 2022 workplace challenges is pushing leaders to develop new skills and forge new strategies.

Of all the obstacles facing employers, talent is the number one concern in a survey of CEO challenges for 2022.1 Leaders are concerned over metrics related to talent, such as unprecedented employee turnover, a shrinking labor force that impacts talent recruiting and talent retention, employee expectations, and the needs of remote workplace teams. The stakes are clear: Without the right people on board, business plans will fail, innovation will lag, and competitive advantage will erode.

Swift changes in the labor market suggest a watershed moment in the workplace that leaders may not be prepared to navigate effectively. This article offers leaders options to level up their skills and develop strategies to face these workplace challenges.

Challenge: Talent Gaps

Talent recruitment and retention efforts are failing many employers who cannot fill vacancies across the organization at every level. Traditional complex and bureaucratic talent acquisition processes are failing in a highly competitive labor market.

Strategy Solution

Treat current circumstances as a business emergency that requires additional resources. Consider activating dedicated response teams as a nimbler strategy to address the quickly emerging challenges of the talent marketplace. Enlist external expertise and resources to supplement existing HR staff, who are likely struggling to maintain essential daily HR functions. 

Dive deep into talent practices and criteria; question processes on “auto-pilot” from prior years. For example, do you rely on college degrees to indicate skills? That reliance can limit the pool of otherwise qualified applicants. Instead, consider the value of life experience and informal learning and identify valid ways to assess and measure these skills.

Challenge: Remote Work

Many leaders do not favor remote work as a permanent workforce condition, even as talent demands mobile options. Resistance puts the organization at risk of not being attractive to the people it needs to thrive. Even for those leaders who accept remote work, a dispersed workforce presents new dilemmas that require new solutions.

Strategy Solution

Intentional leadership and strategies are needed to meet the workplace challenges—and opportunities—created by a remote/hybrid/in-office workforce. Some employers are creating a Head of Remote Work position and charging that person with leading change throughout the organization. Leaders and managers at all levels need help managing this new model effectively: Surveys indicate they are struggling, resistant to this new reality, and desire a return to pre-pandemic conditions. 

A lack of trust is at the heart of this resistance. Many managers do not trust their staff is working unless they can physically observe and interact with them. Managers fear being held accountable for outcomes without adequate control. To remedy this, offer training to enhance managers’ skills as coaches and leaders who can inspire employees to do their best work, even when no one is watching. Provide resources to managers who face complex challenges related to employee mental health and personal life obligations. Adjust policies to reflect the diversity of employee needs. For example, allow for varied work schedules when possible. Revise benefits and budgets to provide managers with new tools that can empower them to support employees and still meet business objectives.  

Challenge: Employee Expectations

A confluence of forces (economic, global health, societal, technologic) has disrupted the power balance between employers and employees. Employees have more leverage in 2022, especially those with in-demand skill sets, and they are flexing that leverage to their advantage. Employees expect workplaces that offer flexibility and transparency with a respectful, inclusive, and purpose-driven culture. Unmet expectations can result in the loss of valuable talent.

Strategy Solution

Leaders who are comfortable with the conventional trappings of organizational authority and rewards may be disoriented and threatened by these new employee requirements. A corner office and primo parking space means little in an age of remote work over Zoom. Leaders need to shed past practices and develop new approaches to address employee expectations. 

Leaders would be well-served to adopt an open mindset: Be curious, ask questions, listen, observe, and seek help (from both internal and external sources). Model vulnerability as a path to learning. Public acknowledgment of not having all the answers is an act of transparency and trust and can empower others to step up and contribute. Leaders who demonstrate a personal commitment to continuous learning (such as Leadership Coaching), encourage dialog, and invite diverse perspectives are more likely to build a workplace culture that is prepared to meet the myriad of workplace challenges in 2022—and the future.

Employers Council membership is an opportunity to build a better organization through various strategic interventions, including Leadership development. Ready to level up your leadership skills? Contact us today.  



  1. Talent required: Investing in workforce is CHRO’s top priority in 2022,pwc.com. 2022. Accessed 11 April 2022. 
About the author
James McDonough

James McDonough, HR Research Consultant, consults with Employers Council members to provide guidance and support on their organizational practices. He writes articles, conducts presentations and trainings on HR compliance, organizational effectiveness and business management topics. A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, James has worked in the public and private sectors in HR and business management.