Flying cars and higher intelligence robots may paint a much too unrealistic picture of the future, but 2022 will likely present other fascinating trends in education and the world of work. Some of these shifts have already been accelerated by the pandemic and by society’s changing expectations about the way we study and work.

In the following paragraphs, we look at the main trends that will continue to impact everyday life and the decision-making processes of many cultures worldwide. What upcoming changes should we prepare for in the context of higher education? And how will 2022 look from a workplace perspective?

Doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion

When looking at business school, the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) features two important viewpoints. The first one has to do with improving the levels of DE&I in class and among faculty, staff, and decision makers. By now it is well-known that diverse cohorts spike innovation and learning by providing a multitude of insights and perspectives. This trend will continue in 2022.

The second aspect of DE&I in the classroom reflects how higher ed institutions prepare learners to address the topic. How can they best apply what they have learnt to improve workplace, leadership, and hiring practices? Will professionals be able to open new doors for underrepresented groups in different spheres and industries? In other words, inspiring future leaders to double their DE&I efforts will be just as important as creating a safe and welcoming environment for all.

Investing in more opportunities for underrepresented talent will be even more important at work. Harvard Business Review looked at available data from the Gartner HR practice on recent workplace trends and warned that “in a hybrid world, women and people of colour prefer to work from home compared to white men”. In this context, avoiding widening gender wage gaps and preventing the weakening diversity in leadership will be vital in 2022.

Enhancing data-rich, AI-driven environments

The global market for artificial intelligence (AI) in education will reach USD 25.7 billion in 2030, up from just USD 1.1 billion in 2019, forecasts the recent AI in Education Market Research Report. It is no wonder that academic and business experts put so much faith in this technology for the future, considering its applications so far.

AI and data analytics have already been deployed in both business and public settings, according to Lauren Lu, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Tuck School of Business (US). Predicting shifting consumer demand patterns, mitigating supply chain disruptions, and developing evidence-based public health policies are just a few of the examples she gives of this technology and its capabilities so far.

Specifically in higher education, AI can help automate some of the repetitive administrative processes, while simplifying the complex ones. The use of chatbots could also expand further to assist prospective students on their business school application journey from start to finish.

Interdisciplinary curricula will play an even bigger role in preparing leaders for our data-driven future. It is not only business or finance at the centre anymore – science, technology, and sustainability will be taking up just as much space in business education programmes.

Refining flexible modes of work and study

Most of us have become well-acquainted with hybrid learning and work-from-home by now – and they are not likely to disappear in 2022. At the start of the pandemic, higher education institutions had to quickly transfer their teaching to a virtual environment. In some cases, this meant a new and creative opportunity to connect online, but in others, the reality proved less agile than digital natives expected.

As Delphine Manceau, Dean of NEOMA Business School (France), told BusinessBecause, the experimentation phase is long gone for business schools now. After two disruptive and uncertain years, institutions will be able to rely on their newly-acquired experience in 2022.

At NEOMA Business School, we have decided to define a ‘NEOPedagogy model’ that combines face-to-face learning, synchronous distance learning, and asynchronous online learning,” Delphine Manceau adds. “To build it, we are exploring the situations, courses, and profile of students for whom each format is the best in terms of learning experience […].

Among employers, offering new hires a flexible work environment may reach new heights in 2022, according to the predictions of Harvard Business Review. Authors Brian Kropp and Emily Rose McRae suggest that companies which cannot afford to compete for talent through financial compensation will instead reduce the number of hours worked by employees. So 32-hour work weeks might become much more common in the coming months.

While forecasting future trends is complex and is never 100% sure science, these shifts in education and at the workplace are already underway. What we should try to do now is prepare and adapt along the way as best as we can.