2020 has been a year which many around the world would perhaps rather had never happened.
We’ll spare you the details (we’re sure you’re already well acquainted), but in a nutshell, notable events have included a global pandemic, recession, bushfires, the killing of George Floyd and consequent outrage, the Beirut explosion, and few rather contentious political decisions in both Europe and in America.
Needless to say, it’s been a busy year for everyone.
One might say though, that it’s been a particularly busy year for human resource professionals, as they’ve been repeatedly thrown into the limelight by these series of crises.
Not only have HR leaders had to oversee company-wide transitions to remote work with all the organisational challenges this presents, employee wellbeing and diversity and inclusion have also demanded significant attention over the past year, with HR leaders expected to take the lead.
And they will continue to lead the charge in the challenges yet to come. The corona-virus pandemic has accelerated digitalisation of our workforce, and the numbers of employees employees who would like long-term partial work-from-home setups has increased. With the new wave of incumbent young workers, generation Z, on the horizon, digitalisation and flexible working are here to stay, and leaders must plan accordingly.
2020 and the global pandemic has overturned the way we work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to ensure this change is for the better. Though a vaccine has been recently announced from Pfizer, it is unlikely to become widely available until late in 2021. This means the shocks to operations which waves of lockdown have created need to be accommodated in our strategies for 2021.
HR leaders need to create adaptive strategies, solving old problems with new solutions in order to ensure long term success. This should not be viewed as a chore, rather as an opportunity to transform outdated approaches to old problems, and to build stronger, more-robust and agile organisations.
That’s why, with 2021 on the horizon, we’ve highlighted 5 key items of consideration for your 2021 HR strategy.
5 Key Items for your 2021 Human Resources Strategy
Though moving the majority of communications to digital platforms was one of the first changes organisations made, this momentum needs to continue.
Feedback from employees regarding remote work has shown that isolation and siloing within teams has remained a significant issue.
Communications channels have not been enough to replicate a physical environment, and collaboration and networking has suffered as a result. Up to this point, employees have been drawing on their existing social capital in order to generate new business and to sustain a company’s culture. However, this is not sustainable.
Organisations should review how they communicate as we enter into 2021. The emergency comms tools implemented in the early days of the pandemic may not be the right ones for our organisation and its culture, and organisations should ensure they currently have the best possible comms systems in place.
Wellbeing has long been on the agenda for HR leaders, however 2020 has brought this topic to a new level of scrutiny.
Between increased pressure on parents or carers working-from-home, isolated and overstressed employees, and longer working hours, HR leaders would be well-advised to construct a comprehensive wellbeing strategy for 2021.
This wellbeing strategy should ensure it is flexible and adaptable to multiple locations, to encompass any potential third of fourth waves of the pandemic.
Examples of wellbeing activities which could be considered as part of this strategy include ensuring managers organise regular check ins with their employees, that employees have access to the tools they need, that they feel safe to speak out about issues, and are encouraged to partake in some form of exercise.
Organisations should also take care not to take advantage of employees who have their laptops at home, and working within working hours should be encouraged in order to help reduce employee stress. This may also include having policies in place around taking “mental health” days-off work if needs be.
Diversity and Inclusion
2020 has seen increased focus placed on the D&I initiatives of organisations across the globe.
Though the stimulus largely came from the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of George Floyd, it did not go unnoticed that this happened during Pride Month. Notably, the pride flag took black and brown stripes into the banner in order to show their sympathy and support for the movement.
Not only that, as feminism increasingly enters mainstream culture, there is growing year-on-year pressure to see more female leaders in senior leadership. Though COVID has seen women take the hit for the recession the pandemic has incurred, this is unlikely to stick in the long term as these women reenter the workforce.
Companies need to ensure they’re ready to face the future by having concrete inclusion strategies, non-bias training, and are tracking the numbers of diverse employees within their own organisation.
This will drive results across your organisation, as having more diverse and inclusive workplaces has strong correlations with increased innovation and higher year-on-year turnovers, with Boston Consulting Group finding that diverse teams earn up to 19% more revenue.
As entire teams have shifted to remote work, the way we engage our employees will have to change to encompass this.
Engagement strategies will have to include digital tactics in order to ensure their responsive to any changes in the coming months. This includes more video calls, new softwares, the introduction of collaboration tools, and digital recognition.
Thankfully the science of motivation remains unchanged (though 2020 has been a crazy year, it hasn’t yet overturned basic human nature). The RAMP Model still holds true for engagement, and leaders should refer to them when building their engagement strategies.
The four sectors of the RAMP model are relationships (the desire to be respected and connected to others), autonomy (the desire to have freedom and discretion in one’s job), mastery (the desire to improve skills and develop expertise), and purpose (the desire for meaningful work). You can learn more about this in our science of motivation blog post here. These fundamental principles should form the basis of your future engagement strategy.
As we move into 2021, more members of gen Z (those born between 1996-2010) will also move into our workforces. This group of digital natives will have a transformative effect on workforces globally.
The first generation to have grown up with social media apps, Gen Z are accustomed to instantaneous responses and feedback. With short attention spans and honed multitasking abilities, projects and processes will need to be streamlined and digitalised in order to meet their expectations
Gen Z have also grown up with a world of job opportunities, and are famously less committed to long term tenure with organisations. Gen Z are more likely to choose to work with organisations whose ethics are in line with their own, which demands organisations work on their purpose and values. They also display a need to see more instantaneous results, so ensure your processes are optimised and that you offer a clear path for growth in order to retain this talent.
By strategically tackling the above items, leaders will make their organisations more robust, ensuring success into 2022 and beyond.