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IPR looks back at 2022, and compiles the top PR insights of the year

by | May 2, 2023 | Public Relations

Transformation in the workplace presented challenges for leaders in 2022, as many industries saw increases in employee burnout and shifting employee priorities. The industry was still going through an adjustment period in 2022 following the aftermath of the pandemic.

As we deal with a new way of life, professionals in the communication industry are expected to adapt quickly to these challenges and keep up. Here are a few of the issues PR professionals faced in 2022 and the research-backed solutions they used to meet these challenges, which can continue to help communicators navigate change today.

Employee demands and shifting workplaces

Changes to the workplace and pace of work led to increases in employee burnout. There was an 8 percent increase in burnout globally from May to October 2022, according to Future Forum. Workplace satisfaction also took a hit as people dealt with significant changes. Employees increasingly demanded location and schedule flexibility, which has research-backed benefits for the organization overall. Workers who had full schedule flexibility reported 29 percent higher productivity and 53 percent “greater ability to focus,” according to the same study.

A global survey by Microsoft also found that 53 percent of employees were more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing over work after the COVID-19 pandemic than before. This change in employee priorities reflects the big picture changes that are still occurring in the workforce. Beyond higher pay, employees were looking for mental health benefits, flexible work hours, and more than two weeks of paid time off (PTO).

Employees also placed value in organizational culture, with positive work culture and a sense of purpose being rated as things to look for in a company. With these new workplace demands, a study from Future Forum found that executives could resolve workplace issues by allowing for flexible location and schedule. In the same study, 53 percent of workers with greater flexibility reported a greater ability to focus.

Research from 2022 also showed that managers in particular faced many challenges.  With opposition of employees and leadership becoming more prominent, managers felt caught in the middle. Microsoft found that 54 percent of managers thought leadership was out of touch with employee wants and needs.

Another key finding from this collection of research was that employees wanted their values to align with their organizations. According to Integral, 28 percent of employees who felt their organization did not reflect their values thought of quitting. For better retention, organizations could consider implementing initiatives for employees such as social activities—85 percent of employees who enjoyed social activities provided by their organization said they were loyal to their company.

The tech transformation

Developments in technology also presented new terrain for communicators to traverse. A study by BCG evaluated how organizations could use AI as a tool to gain a competitive advantage and benefit business overall. In this global survey, 64 percent of workers said they derived at least “moderate value” from AI through increased competence, increased autonomy, and stronger relationships.

Research also revealed that technology could cause some issues for organizations. PwC conducted a study that asked CEOs about their expectations for the future of organizations. CEOs cited technology disruptions as a reason for a poor economic trajectory. CEOs also said that cyber risks were the top threat to their organizational growth. 

In another study conducted by Korn Ferry, CEOs said that the biggest lesson they learned from the COVID-19 pandemic was to be on the cutting edge of technology. CEOs who were behind digitally said their organization struggled at the beginning of the pandemic to operate effectively for stakeholders. Technology continues to be an area that professionals in the communication industry and beyond should monitor to improve business outcomes.

A focus on diversity, equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in leadership and beyond

In 2022, more female leaders left their companies for better opportunities than male leaders. This gap indicated that there was work to be done in the workplace regarding job satisfaction for women in leadership positions. There is also work to be done on the disability inclusion front, but there are actions being taken for improvement. A study by Disability:In examined how companies are performing on disability inclusion and reported that 60 percent of companies had company-wide hiring goals for people with disabilities.

A different study by PwC found that 54 percent of business leaders and 39 percent of employees said diversity is a stated value or priority area for their organization, indicating a gap between leadership and employees. There is still work to be done for companies when it comes to DEI, but research shows that it is on the radar of communication professionals and business leaders across industries.

Moving forward

Public relations professionals and leaders learned a great deal as they attempted to nimbly navigate change throughout 2022. The profession can continue to benefit from these learnings in 2023 by:

  • Truly listening to employees and addressing their wants and needs
  •  Keeping a pulse on new technology and finding creative ways to incorporate them into the workflow
  •  Making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority by updating hiring goals and implementing other accessibility and inclusion initiatives

To learn more about these findings and other industry trends that will continue to impact communicators, check out The Top 19 Public Relations Insights of 2022.

Olivia Kresic
Olivia Kresic, M.A., is Senior Research and Outreach Manager at the Institute for Public Relations (IPR). She oversees the organization’s Commissions and Centers of Excellence, IPR Research Letter, and several research projects and partnerships.

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