It’s not worth it to keep telling business leaders that 2020 was a tough year. While it’s clear 2021 might not provide any immediate relief to the struggle, the past year has taught some valuable lessons. These could help Human Resources (HR) professionals to prepare for what might be around the corner. What are those priorities HR should keep an eye on in 2021?
Gartner recently interviewed over 800 HR leaders across the world. The results highlight important shifts in what HR professionals are thinking in terms of goals for the new year. But there were also a lot of continued top priorities, mainly building on critical skills and competencies. In their previous studies, the element has topped the polls for three consecutive years. It’s no need to radically alter your HR approach if you’ve been focusing on these issues already. However, if you haven’t then here is what your HR should focus on in 2021.
1. Focusing on employee wellbeing
2020 was a rough year for everyone. It was especially rough for many employees who had to often transition to working from home or to a unique work environment. Even when offices or other spaces didn’t close for business, the workplace had a lot of new restrictions and rules from social distancing to cleanliness requirements. All the while, everyone has had to juggle with staying healthy or dealing with loved ones who might have caught the virus.
In 2021, HR has to put employee experience and wellbeing at the top of all priorities. Focus on wellness programs has been a buzzword in the industry for a long time but it now has to become an actionable function of the HR department. There has to be a clear focus on making sure employees can take time off, have adequate healthcare insurance in place and have tools like attendance management systems to look after their mental and physical wellbeing. The truth is that a happy and healthy employee is always more valuable than a sick and sad one.
Wellbeing should be especially important for those who continue promoting remote work environments. It’s important to make sure HR and upper management doesn’t check up on employees only when they need to know work-related things. Having a weekly check-up to see how employees are doing can be an important way of letting them know you care. You should keep employee records updated with these aspects as well to give HR professional a better view of the employee journey.
2. Prioritizing skills and flexibility
As the Gartner survey showed, many HR professionals are focused on prioritizing skills for 2021. That’s a good idea, especially in light of what happened in 2020. A business cannot grow properly if it isn’t able to identify the skills it needs. You can’t have the HR department simply running after talent without understanding what kind of talent your organization actually needs.
Traditional ways of hiring are long gone. You also can’t stare at a narrow set of skills anymore. Employees need to have flexibility in their skills. That is something the pandemic has made clear – many jobs required a set of new skills when national lockdowns happened. Employees who might not usually require many IT capabilities were suddenly navigating Zoom meetings and Slack lists. Therefore, you need to make flexible skills a top priority. Employees need to be good at what they do but also be capable of changing their skillsets if the job requires.
This isn’t just about hiring new candidates. You probably have many amazing employees in your current roster who you want to hold on to. It is important to include them to skill development. You don’t want to run an organization where employees have static skills. Instead, you need to develop a forward-looking training system identifying the skills of the future. Once you identify those skills, make sure your employees get them.
3. Building organizational resilience
If there is one takeaway your HR department needs to take from 2020 into 2021, it’s organizational resilience. Companies saw situations change within months if not weeks. Organizational structures were overturn and shaken to the core. The companies that are still thriving under these circumstances are those that could answer to these changes fast.
A big part of organizational resilience comes from responsiveness. This starts right from the bottom – if employees are spending a lot of their time going through hurdles to get anything done, they are already causing the company to grind to a halt. That is why HRIS that engages employees and automates mundane aspects of the HR process can be such an important tool in building resilience. Simple solutions, such as your payroll management, moves from having to jump across seven signoff processes to being a simple click and accept system. Shift schedulers that allow employee input are a big part of a well functioning organization.
You can’t just stare at the efficiency of your organizational structure but you must also focus on its resilience. Your HR department might work well for now. But what if the rules around holiday pay change tomorrow? What if travel restrictions stop your employees from testing products? As 2020 showed, anything can happen and if your organization cannot answer to changes fast, then you’re going to suffer.
Organizational resilience should be a priority because it not only improves company longevity but also cuts costs. It’s much better to invest in a flexible and scalable technology now than to be running catch up every time the world changes.
Leading the way
HR goals for 2021 are not about this year but more about preparing your business for the future. The whirlwind year of 2020 actually highlighted how important it is to build organizations with a long-term focus. Naturally, immediate and day-to-day activities are important. But if your organization is not able to respond to new, unexpected challenges and its employees don’t have the skillset you need in the next five years, then you are going to lose out. Big, transformative things happen in the modern world all the time. Organizations that can’t respond to those and adapt to the changing world are ultimately going to go away in a whimper.
So in 2021, your HR goals should look beyond the immediacy of this year. Instead, you want to make sure to:
Put your employee wellbeing to the front and ensure your organization is full of happy and healthy employees.
Focus on nurturing skill development and hiring with not just today’s but also tomorrow’s skills in mind.
Build more organizational resilience by adopting the right technologies to make sure everyone in the organization can take action and respond to challenges.
If you make these three areas your top HR priorities, you can ensure your business can navigate 2021 and beyond in style.