The disruptions of the past two years have turned out to be longer-lasting than anticipated. We haven't gone back to the "old normal" of commuting to work. Conferences are still remote. Supply-chain problems persist. The health care system in many places is under terrific strain. In 2021, new disruptions like the Great Resignation caused even more uncertainty.

In 2022, successful business leaders will need to address the continued disruption from the last couple of years and will do so through four human-centric strategies. All of them elevate the importance of individuals. All of them improve the employee-employer relationship. All of them test the degree to which leaders embrace innovative management styles. All of them will impact the company's ability to retain and recruit top talent. And all of them have an impact on a business's bottom line.

The old normal is gone for good; these trends will shape the new normal:

1. The Great Resignation is a wake-up call for culture.

Even if the "voluntary quits" trend back to average, the reasons people are quitting in unheard-of numbers won't change. Employees learned to improvise and innovate in the world of remote work-- which means they lost their fear of change.

One big driver of resignations has been people questioning their lifelong habit of putting work first. In the current hiring frenzy, new employees are just checking out company culture; they aren't yet loyal. And even long-term employees are hearing from recruiters on a regular basis (yet even recruiters aren't immune to the impact of the Great Resignation).

Building loyalty requires a positive culture. For example, managers will have to evolve their view of feedback from once-a-year performance reviews to regular conversations with employees and teams.

Psychologist John Gottman described a "magic ratio" that distinguishes the behavior of happy relationships: five positive interactions to every negative interaction. Traditional managers habitually focus on what's going wrong, alienating employees.

The solution? Train managers to act as continuous coaches. Measure their effectiveness by the practical and psychological effects of feedback: Does the person receiving feedback feel they learned something? Do they feel capable of improving their performance? Do they trust their manager and feel trusted? Are they engaged and hitting their goals?

Peer feedback builds community and a sense of belonging, which is why a human workplace includes a system for people to recognize each other and exchange ideas broadly, whether that's face-to-face or through feedback technologies.

2. The future of work is hybrid, agile, and interdependent.

The future of work arrived in March 2020. People who could work from home did-- because they had to, and now they are saying, "there's no going back."

A PwC survey found that 65 percent of workers looking for a job as of August 2021 cited more workplace flexibility as a top reason why. Employees are ready for this, and the workforce depends on it. My company's recent surveys show that people not only want flexibility, above all, they need it. Working parents are especially burned out, exhibited by the 10 million mothers who were not actively working in January 2021. Gen Z-- the generation primed to take over the workplace in the coming years-- even believes that flexibility and adaptability have been the most critical characteristics contributing to workplace success. Companies can help them be engaged and productive by changing routines to give them more flexibility.

This attitude shift is happening just as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is making work agile (fast-moving and constantly adapting) and interdependent (once-separated disciplines merging). Employees are most effective when they work in fast-moving, flexible teams, but that requires a different mindset from steady, siloed specialties of the typical organization.

We are all designers of our workday now, and the key to designing flexible work is separating what needs to be done together from individual work. Companies must dismantle their outdated routines and redesign them to prioritize flexibility, agility and collaboration.

For executives, there's a catch: many middle managers are uncomfortable with the out-of-sight reality of people working from home. They will have to let go of some control and again, focus on their coaching job and continue to incorporate empathy into their leadership style.

Progress can and will be measured: In 2022, technologies that capture and analyze the magic of collaboration, feedback, flexibility and process innovations will be widely adopted, as culture leaders move from gut feel to predictable outcomes.

3. Diversity and Inclusion will grow as differentiators for recruiting and retention.

Job seekers consider diversity a requirement when they consider employers. This is especially true for young, tech-savvy talent. Beyond fairness, diversity of thought and experience makes an organization more innovative and better at creative problem-solving. So at this moment, holding on to your progress in DEI recruiting and inclusion, and advancing your efforts, is the path to acquiring and holding talent. And window-dressing won't do; you must make measurable progress and communicate it.

The challenge of inclusion is, how do you create a unified culture and mission while enabling widely diverse points of view to thrive? A key concept for 2022 will be respect. An active culture of respect for everyone, not despite differences but because of them, is vital to engagement, loyalty, trust, innovation, and smoothly operating teams.

Right now, showing respect is counter-cultural to all the polarization and rancor we see in society and media. When leaders say, "I see you, I honor you for who you are and I value our differences," they invite employees to make work a caring, civil sanctuary. I've said before that "work is the new community" and after the trials of 2020-2021 this has never been more important.

4. The slow return of women to the workforce is going to be a big challenge in 2022.

Data show that women lost employment disproportionately in 2020; they are still burdened with more caregiving responsibilities than men, and they report higher levels of pandemic burnout. Over the past year, a lot of companies even dropped their family coverage. Furthermore, school and childcare closings are easing only slowly, keeping many women from rejoining the full-time workforce.

The long-term consequences of this are bad for women, families, and companies. Leaving the workforce tends to lower lifelong advancement. Lost family income is hard to recover. Loss of women employees means a loss of empathy in leadership, slower DE&I progress, and less resilience in the next crisis.

Employers will have to recruit women with a culture of flexibility in scheduling and career paths. They'll also have to provide tangible support for returning women e.g. not penalizing people in flexible arrangements when it comes to promotion and high-profile projects. Partnerships with childcare organizations (hugely understaffed during the pandemic) are a practical action; advocacy for working mothers--and fathers as well-- will grow engagement and trust in the organization's larger mission.

Finally, the best leaders will inspire employees by recognizing that there's no going back to the way things were. Invite your workforce to share their sadness and celebrate their resilience. Co-create a new culture of humanity, respect, growth and adventure, inventing a better workplace.