HR Agenda 2021: Think Differently Before You Can Do Differently

HR 2021: Think Differently Before You Can Do Differently
Much of the HR focus shifted to business continuity plans, right-sizing the organizations, enabling and connecting with employees in a near virtual world.

HR Agenda 2021: Think Differently Before You Can Do Differently

2020 was a watershed year. The world was surely brought to its knees by a pandemic that was as black swan an event as one could have imagined. Much of the HR focus shifted to business continuity plans, right-sizing the organizations, enabling and connecting with employees in a near virtual world. And as the world started coming to terms with the new reality, business models with its tweaks and variants have started looking again for hands and minds, some sectoral variances notwithstanding. 

So how does one see the HR agenda in 2021? I don’t believe that the strategic agenda for HR would not be any different. 

Stay Strategic, Build Collective Ownership

In fact, my hope will remain that HR moves its energy and time from the unending chores and tasks that it gets pushed into. And often enjoys wallowing into.

“My first push for HR is to make the HR agenda a co-owned one with the line leaders, and not just one of the HR functions.”

Howsoever obvious it may seem, not every company can cross its heart and admit their HR agenda is strategic and equally owned by everyone. A lot of what HR does is the line manager’s job. HR must coach and develop them to deliver their ask, not do it for them. I hope more CHROs can get their teams to shift from doing to enabling it to be done. 

Focus Better on People Enterprise Risks

As 2020 illustrated, enterprises are not as risk-adjusted as they would like to believe. When it comes to seeing firms and their risks from a people perspective it gets even worse. Get that agenda beyond the last one on the meeting. And start it from the Board. I think 2021 should ensure that the effort is sincere on these and not ritualistic. Culture, structure, leadership, and talent are all live strategic worries, before Covid or after. HR must get the focus on these as potential risks beyond mere legal compliances. It must be an agenda shaper not merely an order-taker.

Move Away from Focussing on Leaders to Leadership

The biggest challenge remains leadership. Whether it is to drive fresh disruptive thinking or to lead in disrupted times cultures of leadership need to be sharpened. Unfortunately little has been done. The focus must move from episodic interventions on individuals to designing cultures and practices of collective leadership. The effort at improving leadership must be a pincer, top-down, and bottom-up. It must be seamless and not about celebrating individuals alone. It must be build to leadership beyond individuals. Only then is the organizational capacity going to be adequately plural and derisked.  

Technology Must Pervade, Human Connect Must Remain

Contradictory as it may seem, in 2021 man and machine must coexist. Saw some excellent progress thus far in Augmented Intelligence and AR/VR. The world of data Analytics has moved but these moves have not touched many HR teams yet. There must be more impetus to these next year. And while the quality of decision making improves, the organizational capacity strengthened a lot of drudgeries and long hours must go. The experience and connection of multiple stakeholders must improve beyond marketing campaigns. There is still too much disengagement that associates have with their work, their managers and their workplaces. This destroys creativity and human potential. I hope 2021 is a year of conscious duality on these parameters. 

Talent – Efficiency, Economics, Experience, and Efficacy – Will Stay the Centrepiece

The coming year will continue to worry about talent. There will continue to questions of the 4 Es as I see it. As the business models, snd customer ask to get disrupted so also the talent supply chain. What really will be the definition of talent? I think the search for niche skills will intensify as will the need for people who connect the dots. Organizations could be simplified to unleash the power of talent. The way to engage the new differentiated talent will be more individualized and finally, the entire talent acquisition platforms will see disruptive opportunities. The war for talent is still on except the definition of talent will get sharper in the larger sea of qualifications and experience. 

2021 thus will bring with its possibilities and opportunities as it will its share of threats and risks.  Some firms will creatively meet their tryst even as others will get corroded. The invitation is to all and we shall see a year later who finally made it to the party.


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