Five Key HR Considerations to Take into 2021

To say that 2020 has altered the daily fabric in which we operate would be a gross understatement. The way the world works has dramatically shifted for the foreseeable future, thanks largely to the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Due to the ever-changing rules and government regulations surrounding COVID-19, we’re seeing a greater shift to a more virtual world. Remote working, virtual gatherings and socially distanced office layouts have all been on the rise whilst more traditional means of operating become a distant memory. From navigating through policy updates, furlough schemes and layoffs, HR leaders have been at the forefront of many of the changes implemented by businesses, and in doing so have exercised their organisations agility in these unprecedented times. In this article we’ll be assessing five key considerations every HR team should take into the new year in light of all the recent, and on going, changes we’ve faced in 2020.

  1. Keep the workforce engaged.

It has famously been said that an engaged workforce is a productive workforce - allowing the benefits of employee productivity to be felt by the company and individual alike. Workforce engagement was a challenge prior to COVID-19 with poll results showing only 45% of the UK workforce feel engaged at work. Factoring in the recent mass remote workforce shift, these rates could be brought down even further. There has never been a time where employee engagement has been more integral to an organisation.

At the core of employee engagement is a sense of belonging and feeling that the work being done is important (not to be mistaken with employee satisfaction which is a more subjective individual measurement). Opportunities for learning, employee participation, open lines of communication and well-defined goals are just a few considerations to implement for successful engagement. As experts have predicted that remote work will be a permanent fixture to society post COVID-19, HR leaders must continue to adopt new ways to keep remote employees engaged. HR teams can do this successfully by prioritising virtual interaction, whether it be arranging regular virtual upskilling / training sessions to keep employee skills aligned with company goals, or virtual social gatherings to replicate company culture. Afterall, a sense of belonging usually derives from the community culture of a company - which over 50% of UK adults cited as more important than salary when choosing a job.

  1. Building on critical skills and competencies

It is no surprise with the rise of AI and digitalisation in recent years, that building on critical skills has been a main priority for HR leaders. The pandemic has furthered the need for new and varying skills within the workforce, for this reason we believe building on critical skills should remain a top priority for all HR leaders in 2021.

There is no denying the importance of a workforce having relevant skills, with a survey predicting a third of the skills which were present in an average 2017 job posting will no longer be needed by 2021. HR leaders should spend time adopting a dynamic approach to upskilling their employees in areas such as digital skills, cognitive abilities, adaptability and resilience. This not only will help their employees adapt to the new norm of remote work, but also prepare them for any possible future change in circumstance, as if there's anything this year has taught us - it is that change is certain.

  1. Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace has become a paramount matter in recent years, with reputable companies such as Freshfiels implementing initiatives like the Stephen Lawrence Scholarship to address disproportionate underrepresentation of minorities. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many pre-existing issues regarding inclusion and diversity in the workplace. A recent study showed BAME workers were more likely to lose their jobs due to the pandemic than their white counterparts. Other varying surveys showed young people were furloughed more than any age group and online graduate job vacancies fell by 60 per cent.

As we enter the new year, the benefits of a diverse workforce should not be overlooked. Diversity is key for business innovation and as revealed by research from McKinsey, more gender and ethnic diversity in teams can drive profitability by 21% and 33%, respectively. HR teams should take advantage of the rise of remote work; geographical barriers are being removed and HR recruiters now have a nationwide digital talent pool to choose from. Remote working also provides an opportunity for inclusion to those who have disabilities, are at-home carers, and mothers who may otherwise may’ve been overlooked for certain roles. HR teams should utilise this opportunity to better morale and social corporate responsibility in the new year by increasing inclusion and diversity wherever they can.

  1. Health and wellbeing

The importance of good health and wellbeing of a workforce should be central to all HR strategies in the new year. COVID-19 has been challenging for everybody, adding work stress on top of the challenges brought by the virus itself (i.e lockdown, illness, loss, financial implications) may prove disastrous for employees. The implications of national lockdowns along with remote working have left a majority of employees feeling lonely and isolated. With remote work remaining an indefinite part of ‘the new normal’, HR leaders should prioritise implementing strategies that not only keep workers engaged but promote the health and wellbeing of every employee. Employee wellbeing apps such as Wellspace should be utilised in the new year. Providing open lines of communication, virtual social gatherings and encouraging exercise (ie through a group virtual workout session) should also be considered by HR leaders to eradicate (or decrease) feelings of isolation in the workforce. Similarly, special consideration should be taken into promoting career development and upskilling the workforce as doubts of job security are at the forefront of employees' minds with unemployment on the rise due to COVID-19.

  1. Adaptability and agility

The last consideration may be the most important consideration. I'm sure when creating a 2020 strategy, nobody predicted the drastic impact a global pandemic would have on the economy or their business. HR teams should continue to exercise adaptability and agility in the new year and constantly adopt new means of working which align with the everchanging government rules and regulations. Agility has proven to be make-or-break this year and will continue to be a  paramount component of any successful business in the new year.

For more information or to discuss your business needs, please contact Irfan Lohiya, Managing Director, Green Recruitment Solutions: