In the technology industry, I think 2022 is going to be the year of the person. Alongside company attention pivoting from acquisitions to customers, I foresee company attention shifting from consideration of how to support employees’ hybrid work to how to keep them safe—both in a tech sense and in a personal sense—while they engage in that work, all the while being mindful of the need to foster a connected culture while work unfolds in all-new ways.
I’ve noticed a number of companies pivoting their strategies to focus more on their customers and less on acquisitions. This shift will likely be felt both externally and internally as a lot of revenue- and commercial-side employees move into customer-side roles. For those who are customer-focused already, this is your time to shine. Some consider the chief customer officer role as a stepping stone to the CEO seat, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a number of CCOs making the leap to the chief executive seat this year.
Accompanying an increased focus on the customer, I predict that artificial intelligence will take center stage in the creation of preemptive customer strategies. Preemptive strategies entail understanding the future needs of customers and seamlessly delivering a solution for those future needs. Smart companies will leverage their AI analytics to play a major role in predicting those future customer needs.
AI also will likely play a big role in the return to the workplace. While some companies foresee a return to in-office work in 2022, others have foregone the idea of a physical workplace—and most will probably adapt to some form of hybrid work. To support hybrid work, implementing automation that helps employees be more productive will be of paramount importance. Companies often consider how automation will help them serve customers via self-service and more, and it will be important to remember that automation can help internal processes and employees, too. A survey we conducted last year showed how fostering a connected culture via effective technology can boost employee productivity and well-being—and other research has shown that happier employees yield happier customers. Minding the ethical challenges of AI will be important on both front- and back-ends. More and more ethical leaders are sharing what is required to mind the ethics of the future.
Managing a hybrid workforce comes with new risks, too. As companies gravitate toward new types of tech to run their new hybrid workplaces, they must prioritize security for their tech as well to protect both themselves and their customers. A respected expert in the field of cybersecurity, our chief information security officer, Heather Hinton, recently published an important piece titled “Key Zero Trust Practices for a Cyber-Secure Hybrid Workforce” that I think all companies would be wise to read and heed in the coming year.
Because of the new “work from anywhere” culture, and because of the Great Resignation, talent pools are saturated. When hiring, I think companies would be wise to consider how to create and maintain a culture of excellence staffed by people who wake up ready to be their best selves every day. Now is the time to create a culture so magnificent that no one wants to leave it, even for more money, because people are so grounded in the purpose of their work. I’ve found that one of the best ways to keep people from leaving is to assure them of their path forward by hiring robust individual contributors and developing them internally to become your top talent. Companies have to be mindful of fighting unconscious bias in hiring, too—especially for women, and especially now, given how many women have left the workforce during the pandemic.
Last but not least, in this world that is more “always-on” than ever, with work entering many of our homes and inspiring all-new questions about work-life balance, I believe we all have to increase our attention to self-care. As a parent, I instituted some “mommy break” times this year as a way to balance my mental shifts between work and home.
RingCentral Ventures announced TaskHuman as one of its first partners, and my employees and I are users and fans of this health and wellness app that connects employees to professional coaches anytime on any device. I think companies need to encourage their employees to take care of their minds and bodies in new, hybrid ways mirroring their work. There is no one-size-fits-all for self-care strategies; making time and attention to self-care fun, like via an interesting and inspiring app, is a way to remind our staff that we do care about them outside of their work roles. I think 2022 is definitely going to be the year in which we all are going to need and want to see that kind of support for our new hybrid lives that are unfolding.
I predict that 2022 will be the year of the person—the customer. Businesses that leverage advanced technologies to serve their people, whether it be their employees or customers, will thrive. Technology is here to enhance experiences without being intrusive and impersonal—and it’s how businesses apply technology that makes a difference.
Faiza Hughell is RingCentral‘s Chief Customer Officer focused on customer success across all markets and geographies.