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7 trends for HR in 2021

Looking back on HR research topics that clearly predate the coronavirus crisis, I feel slightly melancholic. We may well be done with corona, but corona is seemingly not done with us yet. How does this impact HR? Seven trends for the 2021 HR agenda.

1. Focus on wellbeing

The first wave of the pandemic in 2020 was followed by resounding calls for ‘all hands on deck’, by pride in organisations and great efforts to maintain productivity, but now another phase has begun. Due to the coronavirus crisis, a third of all Dutch employees now feel less loyalty towards their employers. Zoom fatigue has set in. Minor annoyances are no longer ironed out during lunchbreaks and ever-fewer employees join online drink parties.

Increasing happiness at work is currently the only remedy for helping employees feel more engaged and improving their mental health. Focusing on wellbeing must now be high up on the HR agenda: ensure that employees are engaged and having fun together, give them personal attention, assess their moods and conduct team check-ups, offer support if they’re suffering psychologically from working at home, and promote a healthy work-life balance.

2. Deepen the culture

Many organisations are now asking how they can maintain their cultures, standards and values remotely. To keep employees aligned when working at home, organisations must dust off and deepen their organisational frameworks – purpose, mission, strategic goals and core values.

How can we revive our sense of purpose in these times? How do we further involve employees in our goals? What types of behaviour align with our core values? What new standards of decency must we discuss and which habits have unfairly crept in? How do we ensure that successes are celebrated, employees feel valued, and we heighten our sense of mutual trust? How do we create a growing sense of community? How can we effectively communicate about our culture, top-down and bottom-up? Are new tools and channels needed? Does this include new rituals? Sadly, physical distance has also created mental distance from the organisation, so there’s much work to be done.

3. Digitization

Digitization got a boost from the coronavirus crisis, especially for HR. Digital tools for onboarding, performance management and offboarding are rapidly rising up the agenda. Digitization is set to remain high on the agenda in the coming years. Many HR departments are currently emphasising the need for speed and efficiency, but the real positive employee experience comes from digital tools that offer personalisation, and which are simple, fun and surprising. For an onboarding to be deemed truly successful, the entire onboarding experience must be fantastic, not just the app.

4. Innovation & learning

Enough creativity for now! The initiatives aimed at saving what could be saved sprang from the ground, unhindered by solid business plans. Long-term innovation suffers from a lack of focus and less communication between departments. Innovation must become more organised, and progress visualised digitally. Pressed by circumstances, agile working is now inevitable, so HR must do more to facilitate it. Many employees have also seen their career development stalled: it’s now difficult to observe and learn from colleagues, projects are paused and in-person trainings postponed. Growth and talent development remain priorities but are searching for new forms.

5. Office as clubhouse

“Work has left the building,” said corporate anthropologist, Jitske Kramer, in a recent publication. Working remotely is becoming the new norm. Offices will function as clubhouses, places for meetings and inspiration, offering quiet areas to those without that luxury at home. Alternative locations for work might also be established outside of the regular office. Workplaces will be designed with greater focus on health and safety, physically expressing what the organisation stands for, and will consequently require new layouts. More remote working also raises employment condition issues, like how to deal with teleworking and travel costs, expense accounts and car lease schemes.

6. Employee-centric working

The coronavirus crisis boosted the concept of ‘employees first’: in these times, what do employees really need to be the best versions of themselves. HR must offer personalisation, because everyone is different. Ask employees questions, work with them to find solutions that truly meet their needs. Employee-centric thinking applies to all HR issues, not just those related to the coronavirus crisis. 2021 is the year when HR can put on its agenda the development of personas, ‘voice of the employee’, employee journey maps and employee experience design.

7. Remote leadership

In 2020 the trade press reported widely on the changing role of leadership. Hierarchical and directive leadership had become untenable. The employees themselves had now put on the ‘planning and control’ management hat. Coaching leadership, with open ears, is what employees need, and this development is unstoppable. Leadership within organisations must therefore be evaluated: is the hiring profile for managers still effective; which leaders are future-proof; and does the management development track need adjusting? Given leadership’s enormous impact on employee happiness at work, this theme is a must for 2021.

As these 7 trends reveal, HR themes are no longer the sole responsibility of HR departments. The 2021 agenda requires HR to collaborate with other departments, including IT, Facility Management, Marketing, and Communication, as well as with management and the employees themselves.

 

This blog appeared on PWnet.

 

Author: Heleen Mes