HR trends and priorities for 2021

January 24, 2021

At the start of 2021, it’s interesting to reflect on 2020, what was one of the most challenging years that we are likely to experience  in our lifetime.

Technology’s previous creep into the workspace suddenly became a sprint, faster than many of us would have ever believed possible. 

But, without this invasion of technology and our ability to use it to manage complex work and social relationships, how would we really have fared in 2020?

With the rapid mobilisation of home-based workforces. Including sectors where presentism and traditional working patterns looked like impossible hurdles to progress. We have seen a total reinvention.

But at what cost?

Will corporate cultures be eroded? Will business districts become ghost towns? Will our economies cope with such dramatic changes to daily life?

Yet, we have also been shown that a healthy work-life balance, including flexible work arrangements, may now be essential to our job satisfaction and positive mental health.

As we look forward, it will be the businesses that genuinely identify the potential from what we have experienced, that will also see the future opportunity.

All too often, businesses take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to retaining their employees. Often thinking what works for one employee will surely work for another. But nothing could be further from the truth with today’s workforce.

Creating open communication between employees and management has definitely helped many organisations foster a sense of community and a shared purpose. Especially when large numbers of employees are miles apart from their leaders and teams. But ‘employees leaving managers’ is certainly valid.

Whilst the vast majority of employees will remain in their roles during economic downturns, the actions taken (or not) by leadership teams during the crisis could actually lead to a whole new set of problems when the recovery period begins. In fact, Executive actions may actually be increasing turnover intentions, with many employees planning to ‘jump ship’ once the economy improves.

One of the things that has also become clear during this time is that organisations need a strong purpose – being an ethical and values-led company with a clear stance on social, environmental and sustainability matters. This will not only win the hearts of customers in a challenging market, but also those of employees. 

What we do know, however, is that the workplace will certainly look different after COVID-19. So what will become ‘normal’?

Technology will continue to disrupt and force businesses to be smarter. Embracing the technological revolution is a now pre-requisite for survival. Retaining or developing a human touch alongside the never-ending pursuit of productivity will see the best brands rise above. 

Organisations can obtain incredible amounts of employee data. Now we are seeing them using this to transform how they recruit and develop talent.

As businesses operate a more flexible workforce with regular remote working, further investment will also be required in technology to keep employees engaged, motivated and productive. HR will continue to play a huge role in facilitating employee engagement but will need the systems to support them to do this effectively. There are undoubtedly many challenges companies will continue to face  in 2021. But, in this period of significant change economically, politically and socially, HR has shown its ability to truly make a difference.

If you have any questions about this article and if you need support hiring or finding the right role for you, contact Lucy or somebody else from our specialised team of HR interim consultants