7 Big Lessons from 2021

What a year 2021 has been with so many highs and lows.

Reflecting back on the last day of the year, I thought I would share 7 key people themes and learnings that some of you may be able to relate to or find useful in planning for 2022.

1. Exit is not a dirty word

We have to stop thinking that our team will be with us forever. As much as we may want that, at some stage we need to plan that either the Employer may need different skill sets or the team member may not enjoy things in the same way they did before.

Rather than a relationship souring (which we have seen plenty of this year), it is important for both parties to be mindful of this so employees don’t blame employers for not enjoying their job anymore and on the flip side, employers spend all their time picking up things that team members have not done properly in the past.

Team members, if you are no longer enjoying your time in an organisation, then it could be time to open up a conversation with your Employer. Who knows, by you raising that you are thinking of moving on – they could possibly be able to fix the issue or you could have a proactive conversation around planning forward your exit to provide you time to find something and the organisation time to find a replacement.

Ultimately, ‘train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to’ a favourite Richard Branson quote of mine however sometimes, it is just time to move on and part ways and that is ok.

2. Hire character, train skill – Peter Schutz

Recruitment has definitely been the number 1 killer for most organisations this year and it will get more challenging. It is certainly a candidate market so thinking outside the box in relation to your recruitment will be critical in filling your vacancies.

Recruitment and your organisation’s EVP (employer value proposition – put simply, why your organisation?) will be one of the biggest strategic issues for employers to focus on. Your ability to be attract and retain team members will determine your organisation’s ultimate success.

3. Die with memories, not dreams

2021 has taught us all how to be busy again. How everyone else’s priorities fast become your priorities. We have come out of two years of crisis mode waiting for the next challenge to be dumped in our laps.

What we have learned about COVID is there is always just one more challenge around the corner so waiting for ‘things to slow down’ or get better is not likely. This level of ‘craziness’ is the new normal and we have to all adjust our habits and routines to that pace.

Notwithstanding, prioritising yourself and your goals also needs to be factored in. Don’t wait for something to happen to develop a bucket list. Now is the time to identify what you want (ie what would be truly awesome to do for you or for you to achieve) and proactively think about the memories you want to create and get on and create them – don’t wait.

4. When you focus on the good, the good gets better

It has been pretty easy to focus on the bad and look at all problems.

When you are in this space, ever noticed how more crap and problems are attracted to you?

As hard as it is, the more you focus on the bad, the worse seems to find you. In the hardest of times, finding the smallest things to be grateful for is even more important. The old, half glass empty/half glass full can help you change your perspective in tough times which ultimately impacts how you feel, which impacts your attitude which impacts your actions. Choose wisely as our attitude towards life can determine life’s attitude towards us.

If you have had a year of crap and high emotion, take the time to reflect on what your triggers are that set you off. What can you do to avoid them (if anything) and most importantly, what do you need to do when they happen to quickly get yourself out of the negative headspace.

5. It is no longer  ‘leave your problems at the front door’

You can’t expect with everything going on that team members will leave their home lives at home.

We are definitely in the era where employees are bringing everything to work  – their relationship issues, problems with the kids, mid-life crises, health issues and much more to work. Employers are fast feeling like social workers and psychologists trying to manage workloads and priorities around employee’s home lives and moods of the week and can be jumping in to do the work themselves often as they are too scared to ask their team.

Most commonly, our clients biggest frustration has been team members pushing the boundaries on flexibility with team members just expecting post COVID to run their own diaries, schedules around their home priorities and are often doing less hours than they are contracted for. Over COVID

The real challenge here is finding a balance. Team members need to realise that it is not an employer’s job to provide them with work life balance (or work life integration). It is still up to the employee to own this and work with the employer around what this means and perhaps review other social obligations or commitments to try and accommodate both.

Ultimately, the employer does still need their contracted hours or output completed however transparently discussing your organisation’s position around flexibility is important so neither party feels taken advantage of.

Team members – if you know you are not fulfilling your requirements on some week because life is hard, acknowledge this as something you are doing or need help with so employers know that it is temporary and not the norm. Rather than what we are seeing a lot of which is the team member instead looks to blame the Employer.

Employers – shift or be shifted. Flexibility is fast becoming the number one desired condition that team members are looking for so look for creative ways that you can incorporate this into your business – look at days of the week, start and finish times, school holidays and any other areas you can be flexible.

6. Open up feedback in your organisation

Building the organisation’s and team members ability to give and receive feedback will allow you to quickly get onto issues and build a continual improvement mindset.

If you say ‘can I give you some feedback’ and the team members automate assumption is they are about to be told off, then you need to work on your feedback culture. PS Most businesses will be in this boat.

Instead…. team members you need to get onto more proactively asking for feedback so you can own it and feel in control of it (and truly listen without being defensive). Employers, you need to get better at using this phrase and following it with positive feedback so team members are not scared of the word and automatically think they have done something wrong.

We need to replace the image in our head that feedback means something negative to not giving someone feedback about something that they could do to improve as allowing that person to walk with toilet paper on their shoe. Essentially, you are not helping them if you don’t point out something they are doing incorrectly or really well.

If you can open up conversations more calmly around performance, build your feedback muscle within the organisation and create an environment where people feel safe having conversations early you are on a definite winner! But everyone has a role to play here for it to truly work.

7. Beware of the narcissist

This can go hand in hand with point 1 (ie this team member is normally staying past their point of enjoyment or when they know they are no longer a good fit for the organisation) but we have certainly seen a few narcissistic, entitled and sorry to say, generally female bullies again this year.

You know the ones. They are generally quite good at what they do but make everyone else’s life hard intentionally. Every team member tip toes around them until they have determined the mood they are in.

The employer is responsible for every bad thing in their life. They will tell you how loyal they are but on every occasion they can, they continually bad mouth the management team and organisation. It happens so naturally and so often, they don’t even realise they are doing it.

When you pick them up on something or provide feedback, every discussion is an argument where you feel you need to defend yourself.

They are the first to tell you about every issue wrong with everyone else and the company but cannot see one possible thing they are doing wrong.

When you finally brave up to have the discussion (admittedly after several times of walking past it because you are too scared), they break down in tears, go off work on sick and then bring a list of complaints of everything you are doing wrong.

You know you have one when they are off work and everyone’s life seems a little easier.

Sound familiar? These are the hardest and most difficult team members to address but when you do finally address them (and they are not easy), you and your team’s life will change (and the narcissist will also generally be happier).

The best way to summarise is as we head in 2022 whether you are an employer or employer, think about how you can be kind to others, help people around you, be aware of the impact you have on others and know when to call it when you are no longer enjoying what you do!


Anyway, on that note, thank you again for an awesome year. We have loved being here to support you and look forward to working with you in 2022!

We have some exciting new products for the new year that I look forward to sharing with you around EVP (employer value propositions and setting up your own recruitment machine), LMS (setting your own learning management and onboarding system) and Culture Check ins (pulse checks and surveys). We also have some more digital products in the second half of the year so stay tuned.


Best Wishes