Emerging Trends & HR Priorities in 2021

Emerging Trends & HR Priorities in 2021
Fostering a culture of trust and inclusion will be a strategic priority for HR in the new normal.

Emerging Trends & HR Priorities in 2021

As global economies are slowly overcoming the challenges of 2020, the role of Human Resource professionals, across the industry has taken on new dimensions for the workforce and organizational success.

Today, HR managers are undoubtedly required to think on their heads, while quickly finding solutions to a new work environment. As HR leaders rethink their approach to prepare for the future, some defining trends do stand out as key priorities to build on for 2021 and beyond.

With the spread of the pandemic—physical, mental, and emotional health has emerged as an overriding concern of people around the globe. In this environment, a crucial area of significance for HR will be ensuring the physical and emotional well-being of employees. Holistic solutions that safeguard the health and safety of staff, as they slowly return to office spaces, will have to be devised on priority. It will be incumbent upon HR to allay any overbearing concerns of employees about their health and well-being to keep them motivated and focused to deliver their best for business operations. Many organizations will be compelled to embrace Employee Wellbeing Manager roles as part of the HR operating structure.

The need for a strong, decisive leadership gains particular significance during times of crisis. At the same time, it is crucial that leaders maintain an effective connection with their employees. They need to keep communications transparent and open. Engagement and connection between leadership and employees will be a key trend going forward and will help define progressive organizational culture. Collective and inclusive decision making will also be a step in that direction. Ensuring genuine diversity across ranks also stands out as a vital leadership priority for HR leaders. Equity and inclusion had started emerging as major issues for a truly representative leadership even before the pandemic hit. Over time, the consciousness of a diverse leadership has grown and should remain a priority in 2021.   

“The pandemic has certainly pushed the boundaries of traditional in-person working models. A May 2020 IBM survey showed that 54% of adults wanted to continue working from home after the pandemic.”

Global numbers have also shown similar inclinations for remote or part-remote work. This has opened up conversations about the possibility of new hybrid working models involving both remote and in-person working options. Feasibility studies (based on the nature of work, task, and accessibility) of fully remote or part-remote work will help HR professionals determine its scope and sustainability across sectors and industries.

A hybrid model could also prove to offer a smooth and safe transition back into fully in-person models as people’s reservations get addressed with the onset of a vaccine and new assurances set up by HR within organizations.  New models of working will also require new skills and competencies across the spectrum for employees.

Fostering a culture of trust and inclusion will be a strategic priority for HR in the new normal. New collaborative and collective processes will need to be evolved to keep the organizational culture vibrant and pulsating. Employee experiences will need to be redefined in some ways while conserving the basic values integral to the ethos of an organization. Leveraging and building the emotional intelligence of employees will be a game-changer in 2021, as physical engagements will reduce in favour of virtual. A collaborative and empowered culture will also help avoid top-down, multi-layered decision-making delays.

Analytics, AI, and automation have developed into valuable resources for HR to leverage across the employee life cycle. Over time, HR has evolved more sophisticated ways to manage and organise employee data and make better decisions. Going forward, this trend will likely see an advanced focus on employee predictive data analysis allowing for improved governance.

As organisations build hybrid working models, HR leaders will have to evolve ways to help staff in the day-to-day functioning especially with repetitive, monotonous tasks. A crucial 2021 priority for HR will be to employ analytical tools towards building skills and harnessing the emotional intelligence of employees to stay ahead of the talent curve.   

Like in all other sectors, digital technology has come to play a crucial role in revolutionizing the entire human resources experience. Harnessing digital technology further to improve efficiencies will also demarcate an important area for HR in 2021. The effective use of digital efficiencies and automation processes is increasingly seen in employee inductions, maintaining employee databases, digitalizing payroll and benefits, maintaining appraisals and evaluations and even offering L&D services to help employees build new skills. This is an area that will continue to grow exponentially as nearly every industry develops a digital counterpart in the post-pandemic world. The focus on digitalization will help most in evolving cultural efficiencies in businesses.      

All in all, in this whole pandemic-impacted scenario, it is important to recognize that HR priorities will need to evolve as the overall scenario is still unpredictable. For truly disruptive innovation, HR managers should work towards developing a collective conscience and try to remove any invisible fences around departments. Collaboration across teams, building true empathetic leadership skills, and focusing on the right balance between human and digital interfaces will help navigate these waters. For while 2021 offers new hope, the one thing HR certainly needs to be in the driving seat and equipped for ensuring organizational preparedness for the future of work.


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