Revealed: Top three HR trends for 2021

For the past few months, employers have been in reactive mode

Revealed: Top three HR trends for 2021

For the past few months, employers have been in reactive mode. Survival instincts most certainly kicked in as employers scrambled to keep a hold of their people and their practices. Now, as we enter the decidedly cheerier 2021, it’s time for HR to think strategically. What key themes will we see come to the fore in the coming months? What skills will leaders have to hone to remain competitive?

HRD spoke to Meghan Stettler, Director of the O.C. Tanner Institute, who revealed some predictions for the year ahead.

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“While we remain hopeful for what 2021 has in store for the future of work, what that actually looks like for many organisations is still being decided as we’re still very much in the grips of this pandemic,” she told HRD. “Yet, we’ve learned some important lessons along the way that continue to be helpful for companies navigating unsettling times.”

1. Communicating frequently and transparently with your people

“During the pandemic, frequent and transparent communication improved employee satisfaction, trust in leadership and engagement,” added Stettler. “In the absence of information, we default to the fear of the unknown and that impacts our ability to engage and do great work.  This learning principle will continue to prove critical as we look to forge and communicate our return-to-work strategies, among other changes that may arise.”

Read more: Five recruitment priorities for 2021

And the research only serves to confirm Stettler’s theory. Communication is often the first domino to fall following some sort of company crisis – despite the very nature of the chaos calling for more collaboration. A recent report from Salesforce found that 86% of executives blame workplace failures on ineffective communication - with 33% of workers citing a lack of internal connectivity as the main reason for poor employee morale.

2. Valuing your people in meaningful and purposeful ways

“Developing a sensitive awareness and understanding of our people was so important this year – asking that question, ‘how are you doing’ and working to identify what they needed to feel supported and be successful was a true mark of leadership,” continued Stettler. “More than ever, our people need to know they’re on the right track, doing meaningful work and are being valued.  By calling out the great work individuals are doing, and how they are uniquely contributing helps accelerate and reinforce feelings of success, inclusion and psychological safety.

“Employees who feel their unique identities are appreciated and valued are 2x more to have a sense of belonging.  Influencing and shaping the powerful peak, and micro-moments of our employees’ experiences will continue to prove critical in building cultural improvements that last beyond these crises.

3. Reframing safety to be about more than preventing injuries

There’s no more pressing concern for employees than the safety of their employees – both in terms of physical ability and mental wellbeing. For the latter, 2020 proved quite the challenge. Mental health has taken a nosedive – meaning HR leaders need to go the extra mile in protecting their workers in the coming months.

“Safety is no longer just about avoiding physical ailments in the workplace,” added Stettler. “It’s about ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of employees, in and out of the workplace, so they are healthy, alert and engaged while at work.  While the state of employee wellbeing wasn’t bright moving into the pandemic (only 14% of employees believed their organisation prioritized emotional wellbeing, while only nine percent said social wellbeing was a priority), when employees reported they had achieved a successful work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were 63% less likely to be depressed. 

“As organisations continue to lead with empathy, embrace humanity and provide moments for their people to be seen, heard and valued, they will be able to shape a successful next-generation workplace culture that will allow their employees to thrive and contribute in unparalleled ways.”

What are your predictions for HR in 2021? Tell us in the comments.

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