Top Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021
Before pandemic: During the years 2018 and 2019, the topic of discussion was VUCA world. A world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The fourth industrial revolution and its impact on the industries and HR strategies were also in prime focus. Organizations and HR professionals were trying to adjust their policies and practices to align with the needs of the VUCA world. The prime goal was to retain the best talent in the organization and also to attract external talent to succeed in the long term plans the companies have worked on.
The little we knew, the whole world is going to be altered suddenly and more significantly than any of us could have ever imagined.
During pandemic: Last year, talent leaders and industry experts had anticipated the trends that could reshape the HR industry in 2020 and in the near future. However, it was beyond anybody’s imagination that the COVID19 pandemic is going to create unprecedented challenges disrupting the traditional work culture.
During the initial days of the lockdown period, everyone was struggling to understand how to react to this unprecedented situation. The industry had no option but to move away from the traditional way of working from physical office spaces. In some parts of the world, the challenge was to build the IT infrastructure and ensure data security. But, eventually, it became the new normal. HR professionals played a crucial role in making their people stay motivated, productive, and engaged during work from home and they still continue to do that.
“There is a lot that changed in 2020. From commuting restrictions to staying at home in isolation, the COVID19 pandemic has left a profound impact on the way businesses function, and it may stay here for long. This pandemic turned the world upside down, forced leaders to think out of the box, organizations had no option but, to amend their policies and processes to suit the new normal and bring more ease in the execution.”
This led to a significant impact on the priorities set by the organizations and in many cases, they had to add or replace new priorities to sustain and grow in the coming years. The most notable aspect here is that it not only impacted HR as a function but, every function within the organization including business operations and support services.
While the 2021 year came with a bright hope of vaccine against coronavirus, there is still time to see the results and its execution will take a long time. So, the industry experts have started predicting and highlighting the priorities in the new normal which may shortly become normal.
Let’s look at some of those top priorities for the year 2021 and even beyond.
Home as the New Office
During this pandemic, the definition of the workplace has changed and it will continue for a long time. Even, governments had to look into this aspect and change their rules to support work from home. Home has become the new office place for which employees and the companies are getting adapted to. Traditionally, many organizations were not allowing their employees to work from home for various reasons including data security, productivity monitoring, etc. This has changed and now organizations are not only allowing work from home but, making it a permanent option.
HR Policies and Processes
Revising HR policies and practices to align with the emerging needs of time has become very crucial. Communication, engagement, productivity monitoring have taken a different turn. Managers are being empowered and they are becoming as the first level of HR connect. Flexible working hours are being followed and HR technology will gain high importance. The policies and rules will be viewed with more empathy than strict adherence.
Employee experience was always on the agenda of HR in recent times however, it has gained the top priority during this pandemic. Employees are also keen about the way they are being treated and expecting a lot to keep themselves engaged. In view of this, organizations are now reinventing the employee experience strategies which include more employee interaction, emotional connect, and family bonding. Informal ways of team building and socializing will increase. Work-life balance and physical/emotional wellbeing of employees will be at the peak. Instead of publicizing the company’s products, business, and office amenities, HR leaders and branding professionals are focusing to showcase the company’s efforts to support its employees and its customers too.
Employee Health and Wellbeing
Organizations have already taken steps to support their employees during these difficult times. From providing IT equipment or a table or a chair or even going beyond to give allowances. Uncertainties in the professional and personal life resulted in a lot of stress impacting the physical and mental health of employees. As a result, engaging with doctors or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) providers have increased considerably. HR policies are being revised to encourage more physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Even when we go back to offices, organizations will promote programs to support this critical aspect.
We have been talking about different generations at the workplace and designing workforce strategies as per their needs. However, with the flexibility in working conditions, availability of agile workforce, and virtual learning methodologies, companies may look at having multiple generations of the workforce and design their strategies accordingly. The reward, retention, and compensation policies would need to reflect this change.
Virtual Learning Methods
This pandemic has taught all of us that, people can be trained and retrained to achieve business objectives. The methodology of learning has already been shifted from in-person to virtual and that will continue as everyone is getting used to it. On the go, learning will become popular as it gives flexibility to employees and is easier to manage for companies.
Involvement of HR
This is a very debatable topic and there are different viewpoints, however, it cannot be denied that during this pandemic, HR was at the forefront and supported its employees as well as business. With this, the involvement of HR in business decisions will increase. As many of the business decisions are now more focused on the employee base, HR can be part of business strategies and these decisions will be taken based on the inputs provided from HR. Changing business models basis the availability of human resources could be one of the example.
This does not end here and there is a lot that will change or even suddenly become a priority. The most important aspect this pandemic has taught us is about life. Nothing is permanent and the whole world can change overnight. It is also leading some organizations to think of a purpose and build a ‘purpose-driven organization’ in the coming years. Humanity and empathy may become the core of any decision impacting its employees.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the organization he is working for or has worked for in the past.