March 23, 2022

April Trends to Watch

4 min read
By Nicole Wright

We live in an age where trend cycles are faster, shorter, and punchier than ever before. While the term “microtrends” normally refers to physical goods like clothes, the rapid turnover of trends can also be seen in the metaphysical. We’re seeing this reflected in the rapid acceleration of not only what kind of work we do, but also how we work and what skills we need, too.

Trends such as these often mirror the feelings of the general populace (think of all the poetry and literature created during and after the First World War), and there is an innate link between trends and global crises. This month, we’ve forecast three trends to reflect on as 2022 continues to be an increasingly unpredictable year, and three solutions for people leaders looking to better support their people.


1) Psychological Safety

Creativity leads to innovation; but what helps foster creativity? We are seeing increased thinking around spaces that foster psychological safety, and why they are a key component to having engaging and creative conversations at work. Being able to be vulnerable and openly discuss opposing views around hard-hitting topics is crucial for constructive dialogue amongst your teams, and allows them to bring their authentic selves to work.

 This trend is being driven by…
  • Empathetic workspaces: Recognising the importance of vulnerability in learning and growth, we have seen a rise in demand amongst our clients for the development of empathetic workspaces. Thomas and Sara DeLong, pioneers in this area, recommend that in order to grow we must “adopt counterintuitive practices that give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone”.
  • Comfort zone or apathy?: The concept of Psychological Safety has been discussed in the workplace for decades, but now we’re seeing views around it shift so that it is not merely viewed as being “nice” (in the same way that Emotional Intelligence is often viewed), but rather as a powerful tool for driving teams forward and into a zone of learning.
One thing you can do to be ready for this?

Develop an empathetic and psychologically safe style of leadership within your teams. You can do this by carving out regular time for intellectual play (or regular play) to encourage vulnerability in your team and to foster a sense of cohesiveness. Educate your leaders on psychological safety, specifically on reacting to productive disagreement, as some people may find this confrontational.


2) Authenticity in the Digital Age

As the lines between work and home life continue to blur after the remote working revolution, there is an increasing demand for authenticity from brands and employers. The internet age and fact checking have led to more curiosity around the legitimacy and behind-the-scenes parts of industries. Individuals want to know the values, scandals, and stances of companies before investing time in them.

 This trend is being driven by…
  • Transparency of connections: Recent discussion online has centered around industry plants, nepotism babies and job role jargon exhaustion. These conversations all stem from the value placed on transparency and authenticity – which we are seeing more frequently included in business marketing conversations. Transparency from corporations has become a crucial factor of the recruitment decision-making process, and is only set to grow with Gen Alpha.
  • Corporate activism: Gen Z want companies that share their values and allow them to bring their whole selves to work. Social justice and demonstration are at the forefront of this generation, and organisations are responding by cutting ties with entities that do not align with their values, as a way of showing where they stand. This is not just performative activism or global strategy, these changes are coming from the voices of their own employees.
One thing you can do to be ready for this?

Be clear on your company values and advertise these to new joiners. Find what makes your brand or company unique and make that USP something to be proud of. Lose the jargon and be ready to answer some difficult questions by being transparent – the next generation will want to know the answers.


3) Women leading the way

While not strictly a trend, the celebration of International Women’s day this month has not only prompted a rise in articles demonstrating how far equality in the workplace has come, but also shed light on how far it still has to go.

We’re seeing this highlighted in…
  • Women as compassionate leaders: Through societal pressures, the importance of social skills and emotional intelligence are often imprinted on women from a young age. As these skills are more in demand for leadership positions, when women leaders leave, the company loses more than just an employee.
  • Bias in the system: Though in some STEM industries such as tech we have seen shifts in employment bias, this bias can be unknowingly built into systems, even in the most well-intentioned of organisations. Even in majority female workspaces, women are still experiencing bias in the workplace.
  • Inclusive conversations: Women’s mental wellbeing suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. In conjunction to this, a survey has found that women and people of colour prefer to work from home. Without support and inclusion, these skilled voices could be left out the conversation.
One thing you can do to be ready for this?

Empower your fellow colleagues to have conversations around gender equality. Update your company policy on D&I for 2022. Make commitments to supporting the women in your workforce and make good on them. While you’re co-creating your commitments to women, ensure you’re also accounting for LGBTQ+, POC, and other marginalised groups.


Further Reading:

  • HBR: Trends in 2022
  • Quartz at Work: Slightly more than half of women (52%) also said they looked for a diverse workforce when evaluating a job; women were likely to value wellbeing almost as much as pay, with 65% of women checking the box next to work-life balance (Gallup survey)
  • Quartz at Work: A useful resource covering a range of topics, from understanding how trauma affects us at work, to avoiding empathy burnout as you make mental health a priority in your workplace.

More insights

L&D Strategies for a More Inclusive Workplace

L&D teams are uniquely positioned to increase awareness, platform marginalised voices, and cultivate inclusive learning content. Read three simple strategies to get started.

Read more
L&D Functions Are Feeling the Squeeze: What This Means for Organisations

As budgets tighten, how are L&D functions expected to address issues like stagnant productivity and early careers skills gaps, when few have the budget to properly upskill their people?

Read more
Need-To-Know Graduate Development Statistics, Trends & Data: 2024

What do today's graduates want? How is “wave 2” of Gen Z different? In the build up to 2024’s graduate season, we’ve curated 20+ need-to-know emerging trends and statistics that will define the state of graduate development going into September 2024 and beyond.

Read more
The Smarts X•Change

The Smarts X•Change (TSX) is an Early Careers Development Programme in a box. We’ve done all of the design so you don’t have to: it's ready to deploy, scalable and affordable.

Read more
Back to insights

We’d love to
hear from you!

The Smarty Train
24A Marshalsea Road

Contact us +44 (0)20 7089 5630

Let's Chat...