The year 2020 is clearly taxing for everyone. In the Philippines, the year started with the Taal Volcano eruption, and later this year an onslaught of typhoons hit certain parts of the country. There were natural disasters that also occurred globally such as the bush fires in Australia, wildfires in North America and many more.
Moreover, there’s a global health crisis such as COVID-19 that brought unprecedented changes no one was prepared for, this led to a ripple effect in the workplace such as pay cuts, lay offs, and work adjustments with tight budgets.
In the HR industry, the year was incredibly tough and stimulating at the same time. The industry faced an abrupt shift to remote management and digital efforts and brought upon challenges regarding employee management. This required a lot of companies to act quickly and make important decisions in such a short span of time.
With a lot of industries that are trying to adjust and continue operations in the “new normal”, they are also looking forward to bouncing back and regaining control over their businesses next year. As enterprises cope better and function at its best with safety and health restrictions, a new year approaches, bringing with it a new set of HR challenges.
Whether you’re an HR professional and have your own team or a business that works with a recruitment agency, you have to buckle up for the challenges that will present themselves in 2021.
The Challenges and Initiatives of HR Professionals
The global health crisis, social justice movements, isolation, job security, and mental health—these are some of the major issues that concern many employees today through the year 2020. Despite it all, HR professionals soldiered through to find ways to improve company morale, boost employee growth, and maintain a well-functioning organization.
However, HR teams have more obstacles to face in the upcoming year that are linked to the pandemic and will reshape the working industry for the next 12 months. A recent report by Lattice, The State of People Strategy: The New World of Work, outlined the most significant challenges HR professionals faced this year, including:
- Emotional exhaustion either for themselves or their team members (58%)
- Overwhelming workloads and responsibilities (54%)
- Employee morale/retention (51%), budget constraints (43%), and low perceived value of human resource’s worth in the company (29%)
The same report indicated the most important initiatives HR leaders have in the next year:
- Employee engagement (48%)
- Training and enabling managers (46%)
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs (44%)
- Learning and development (37%)
- Performance management (33%)
How HR Should Prepare for 2021
HR teams have to plan as the world rebounds and gradually adjust to the new reality that awaits. They serve as the organization’s eyes and ears to ensure that the company stays on the right track, and employees stick around to grow with them. HR leadership will be more crucial in 2021, and here’s how you can get started.
- Conduct employee surveys
The best way you can figure out what works and what doesn’t in your company and help your employees perform better is by asking them directly.
How do they feel working under the current regulations? Would they be willing to work in the office anytime soon? Do they feel overwhelmed and burned out at work? How is everyone’s mental health doing? What do they think about the company’s response to the pandemic and the current work arrangement?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you find solutions and devise a better employee management plan for the upcoming year. The employees are an organization’s best asset. Show that the company cares about their wellness.
For example, some employees may feel that the company is overworking them to the point of pushing them over the edge. You can report to them and say, “We are going to implement X starting next week to make things a little better for the team.”
- Maintain a transparent and open communication
Keeping an open and transparent communication is one of the challenges in an increasingly virtual team. But chances are, many companies will continue with remote work management indefinitely. Suppose it’s impossible to get everyone together in the office. In that case, the best thing you can do is assign a platform to act as your knowledge base for sharing employee insights and suggestions other than email.
It will also help to find the right balance when it comes to professional check-ins. Orient your managers about when and how to touch base with their respective teams’ workload management, productivity, engagement, and performance, and advise them to keep their lines open with their teams in case someone needs support.
- Offer flexible work arrangements
Some of your employees may be willing to come back to work, but some may still be worried about the virus (if it’s not entirely eradicated yet), which means you may continue with a remote work setup and open your physical office for those who are ready to come to work.
Moreover, since most of the workforce today are millennials and Gen-Zers, you can stay open and provide hybrid work setups, as long as they deliver the results expected of their role.
Flexible work arrangements do not necessarily mean you have to go against company disciplines. You can implement policies to ensure that employees still abide by organizational rules. Allowing them to work when and where they are most productive and focused can be a win-win, as employees delivering better results is good for the business as a whole.
- Provide better perks and benefits to employees
Attracting and retaining top talents is always a challenge for human resource professionals and recruitment teams. These days, modern workers call for modern incentives and benefits.
For instance, you can offer wellness benefits like a free subscription to fitness apps or classes, an additional day-off like a mental health day to avoid employee burnout (read: Google’s “collective well-being” additional holiday for its employees), and more.
Offering such benefits can boost employee morale, productivity, and overall experience and help reduce the turnover rate. You can base this on your employee survey and talk it out with the company executives before implementation.
- Implement mentorship or training programs
A huge part of workforce development is employee training. This initiative can help cut the costs of hiring, training, and onboarding new specialists for any opening you may have. Plus, it helps build up employee motivation—knowing that they have opportunities for promotion or upskilling can inspire them to work harder and strive for growth.
You can do this by carrying out mentorship programs for the seniors and juniors in your organization. This will benefit both parties: senior employees can improve their leadership skills, while the juniors can follow their seniors’ footsteps and rise among their teams’ ranks with new knowledge or skills. This comes with no additional expense, so it’s a definite win for the company.
Continue to Rise through the Challenges
No one was ready for 2020 and its slew of hurdles that essentially disrupted many businesses’ plans and goals. Changes come without warning, and the best you can do is gather your team, anticipate the challenges, and start planning, developing strategies, and working on how you welcome the future. It’s not enough to act based on instinct; you must prepare your workforce based on data.
Human resource professionals that are adaptive and forthcoming from the bottom-up play an essential role in helping their organizations thrive and look positively toward the new year. The year 2021 will undoubtedly present new opportunities and challenges, and these trusted workforce advisors will be ready to take on them and pose as stewards to empower the company when the time comes.