The five trends Non-Executive Directors need to know about in 2022

Next year promises to be another intensive one for Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), as Boards look for advice on issues ranging from embracing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to navigating the remnants of the pandemic.

The coronavirus caused one of the sharpest recessions in history. It left NEDs scrambling to help companies access government support, manage cash and deal with the impact on employees.

Thankfully, UK economic activity has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but the long-term impact on working patterns and consumer behaviour is still being understood. It’s critical NEDs are at the forefront of responding to these trends over the coming months. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the five key trends we’ve identified for 2022. 

The top five trends NEDs need to be thinking about in 2022

1. ESG is becoming critical to every conversation

Google Trends data shows interest in ESG reached a new high at the end of 2021, after two years of increasing popularity.

For NEDs, this year is about understanding how your clients incorporate ESG into everyday decision making. That means cutting through the noise and understanding the basics of the ESG agenda, what’s behind it and how you can best meet those challenges for yourself and the companies you serve.

Transpire’s ESG Faculty will be running a series of “ESG101” events during the first half of 2022 to help our members do just this.

If you’re interested in learning more about how organisations are adapting to the ESG agenda, it’s worth listening to this podcast with the FCA’s new ESG Director Sacha Sadan.

Sacha made the very valid point when addressing Transpire members at our post-COP26 event that well-run companies already do many of the things that would be viewed as good ESG behaviour.

Watch this space for Transpire Global’s guide to ESG, which will help you develop your insight on the issue.

2. People, culture and wellbeing

The coronavirus forced us to shut workplaces across the country. It showed us new ways to work and accelerated existing flexible working trends. As the pandemic (hopefully) draws to a close, NEDs are going to have to wrestle with the long-term impacts of these trends:

  • Employees are increasingly asking for the ability to work from home, potentially reducing office overheads and increasing the talent pool
  • The hybrid model has some drawbacks, with companies withdrawing from it in the past because it undermines trust, cohesion, and a shared culture
  • Employers’ interest in wellbeing, which was already on the increase, has been supercharged by a pandemic that put immense strain on the workforce

That’s a lot for companies to wrestle with. NEDs have a pivotal role in helping Boards understand the implications of these trends and move on both the overall strategy for the businesses they’re involved with and the culture aspects.

McKinsey’s report on Reimagining the postpandemic workforce is a great place to start if you want to do some background reading. The CIPD has also created a guide to Flexible working during the pandemic and beyond that goes into more technical detail. 

Join Transpire’s People Culture & Wellbeing Faculty to contribute to the debate in this critical area. You can find out more about joining the community if you’re not already a member.

Don’t forget that as an NED you’re a leader too and leading by example is particularly critical and relevant when it comes to these topics.

3. Dealing with talent shortages and employee expectations

Access to talent will be a big factor in 2022. It’s becoming harder to find staff than ever, with 15 of the 18 industry sectors showing record highs in job vacancies in the ONS’ latest data.

In the US, long-term wage suppression has pushed workers into precarious situations. Covid created the outlet, with the number of resignations at abnormally high levels throughout 2021 – leading commentators to coin the term “The great resignation”.

Brexit has exacerbated the talent issue in the UK. Many industries, particularly those that rely on low-wage workers, are finding it difficult to find staff. 

All this means companies will be tackling their talent strategies at Board level; they have to get their culture and recruitment and retention processes right.

4. Learning in the new world 

Temporarily stopping in-person events led people to develop existing ways of learning online. This has bolstered online communities and increased accessibility. 

Learning’s changing for NEDs and the Boards they help too. There are more resources available than ever, but everyone faces information overload. We set up Transpire Faculties, to help you cut through the noise and find expert advice on topics ranging from cybersecurity and risk to diversity.

The benefits of doing it well –  giving before you get – are more important in these invigorated online communities than ever as we move into 2022.

5. The increase in startups that need support

We recently wrote about The challenges for non-executive directors joining high-growth start-ups. Working with these kinds of businesses is something to keep in mind for 2022 as the amount of capital flowing to them increases. 

The role of an NED is very different in an early-stage startup. It often means taking stock in lieu of working at below your normal rates but they provide the opportunity to shape a strategy from the beginning, which is an exciting prospect. 

Transpire members can log in to join Transpire’s Venture Board Faculty and learn more about how to be an effective Board Member for start-up and scale-up businesses (find out more about membership here). 

What Transpire is doing to support NEDs in 2022

It’s been an incredibly busy year for the Transpire team. We’ve relaunched the website and have started building an online community to allow NEDs to network and learn wherever they are. 

We’ve also been working on new tools to help people in their journey becoming an NED and to be able to continue to learn as their new career progresses, including the High Performing NED’s Toolkit and Stepping Stones Programme.

In 2022, NEDs can benefit from our programme of events, including the Building Bridges event on 25th January, which will act as a lead into the launch of the Pro Bono Faculty. We also have a number of upgrades planned for members: 

  • Trusted Partners
  • Subscribed Membership option
  • Transpire Trust Tokens

What would you like to see from the Transpire community in 2022? What trends are you focusing on for next year? Community members can join the discussion on our platform (find out more about joining the community here) or you can weigh in on this LinkedIn post.

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