Common HR Issues and Solutions

Jennifer L'Estrange
September 17, 2020

Needless to say, 2020 has presented unique challenges for HR departments in the United States and globally. As we begin to come to terms with the permanent changes that the pandemic has brought to our professional and personal lives, we are looking at a Q4 and an opportunity to plan for a 2021 marked for further transformation and recovery.

Finding and Retaining Top Talent

The war for talent shifted in in 2020 with unprecedented changes in unemployment rates, followed by federal incentives that, in some cases, encouraged employees to stay home rather than secure work. We are now faced with two somewhat contradictory characteristics in the talent pool. On the one hand, talent is on sale, particularly at junior levels and for candidates that don’t yet have a specialized skill. On the other hand, some candidate profiles, especially tech roles, are in increasing demand and are hard to engage and retain as they look for employers who offer intangible rewards that promote flexibility. Top talent will always be in demand, whether or not there is a tight labor market. In the current environment, you may be able to attract candidates that otherwise would not be looking to jump.

Your employer brand will be key in 2021. Look for ways to communicate not only what you do to serve customers but also how your employees differentiate your company and your brand. Culture, values and a strong message communicating what kind of candidate will be successful in your company will all be an important part of your employer brand strategy and communication plan next year.

However, getting top talent is only the beginning. Employee retention is the name of the game in talent management and this year is no exception. Listen to your employees for cues on what’s going to keep them with you for the long run. Retention is directly related to productivity and overall business success. Often it’s not the grandiose gestures that keep employees happy. Simply knowing that they are seen and valued by the organization as individuals and feeling they are connected to the organization and the people they work with is enough for them to stay.

Creating Meaningful Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

2020 has brought what has the potential to be a sea change for diversity and inclusion and HR leaders in organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to step up their initiatives and make meaningful changes to their HR processes to support diversity goals. There is also the risk of achieving absolutely nothing meaningful if it doesn’t have the C-suite support and if the D&I success measures are not tied to organizational and executive success. And let’s not mince words, by this, I mean compensation. 

If you’re genuinely looking to make a change in your diversity goals in 2021, we have a guide on how to tie these goals to HR processes which is available for download. Spoiler alert: there is no silver bullet. It takes years of hard work to make change here but starting with design changes to your HR processes is a great place to start. 

Developing the Workforce in 2020 and Beyond

The pandemic changed employee development – forever. 

Regardless of how and when we come back to the office, we learned some important lessons while we were at home. One of them was that classroom based training can be a real time suck – from the perspective of learning content. It’s incredibly hard to measure the ROI and the more senior the audience, the harder it is to keep them in the room. The day jobs don’t stop because they’re in a training class. BUT… you know what is never explicitly measured and is the single most valuable outcome of a leadership development training?

It’s the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with a peer group. A group that can advise and support based on the foundation of a shared learning experience. 

COVID-19 sent us all home. We missed out on these opportunities to build face to face relationships – in universities, professional training centers, or just the good old fashioned HQ leadership programs that large companies have relied on to instill values and culture since the 50’s. How do we recreate this almost tribal ‘classroom’ of leaders? The tech will only get us so far, so we’re looking at ways to bring people together differently, in smaller groups with limited in person contact, but designed with a laser focus on the authentic leadership conversation.

Leveraging Technology

2020 brought revolutionary change. Not in the content, but in the speed of adoption. Never before, in my career at least, have I seen such low resistance to change. Anything and everything was worth a try. And try we did. As we look to 2021, technology will support and, in some cases, drive employee engagement, work life balance, and asynchronous collaboration. 

Employee engagement is the degree to which an employee identifies with and believes in the mission and vision of the organization’s goals. It is their commitment to work toward the organization’s goals. Look for technology that helps make work easier: tech that lessens the administrative burden, that creates new learning options, and that enhances performance quality and speed. 

Work life balance went out the window with the pandemic. For many, work was scarce and for others it went into overdrive. Very few managed equilibrium. As we establish new norms post-COVID, look for tech that supports blended office and WFH options. Apps for hot desks office hoteling will be more widespread than ever before – and far cheaper to implement. Time tracking apps with geolocation will also grow in popularity as will HR systems that easily support remote and geographically distributed workforces.

Asynchronous collaboration has been around for decades, but until now, reserved for a narrow set of job profiles that were more apt to ‘check in’ and ‘check out’ work product. Now, it’s going everywhere, with teams collaborating on work product at different times and locations using cloud based apps or simply document sharing capabilities. The little guys are winning here: small businesses were already using G Suite services, cloud based project management software, and collaboration apps for brainstorming. When they were sent home, they just picked up right where they left off the day before.

Personalizing the Employee Experience

For years, businesses have talked about UX or the user experience in systems design – creating an experience for the user that is intuitive, useful and desirable. The employee experience is no different. Your process design should be focused on how the employee experiences it. There is always a systems component that you cannot change, at least in the short term, but think creatively about ways to engage with employees and provide interfaces to the process that save time rather than waste it.  Offer opportunities for them to be delighted by the opportunities available for learning, communicating and collaborating. 

Personalized experiences will be even more important next year, with much of the workforce still working remotely most of the time. Any opportunity to reach someone at an individual level is a change to create a deeper understanding of their needs and wants and establish a relationship of trust and confidence with leadership. Performance management is a great example here. It’s a process that has been historically loathed by employees and touted as a perfunctory once a year conversation that starts and ends with a rating. Now is the time to literally toss it out the window and start having meaningful conversations with people about their contributions to the business and goals (yours and theirs) for the future.

What Makes Red Clover Different?

Red Clover specializes in people strategy and planning for small and mid-sized organizations. We offer uncommon support for uncommon businesses. Our consultants come from leadership roles in different industries and decided that HR – and consulting – was a way to best leverage their expertise. We work with CEO’s and C-suite executives to help them get the most out of their people, tangibly and intangibly. We help these leaders create organizations where their people are highly engaged, enjoy the work that they do and become the strategic competitive advantage that allows them to win in the marketplace.

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