HR Trends for 2021

Jennifer L'Estrange
January 8, 2021

Associate Rachel Cohen and Senior Consultant Eric Mochnacz were featured guests of Spark Hire in their HR and Recruiting Blog.

It goes without saying, but 2020 was a year for the books. It seems like only yesterday, Red Clover, our firm was temporarily closing for two weeks. Nine months into the pandemic, like other HR professionals, we’ve been going non-stop, full throttle at helping our clients bring innovative solutions to their HR processes to help their business achieve their ambitious growth goals. As we know, time doesn’t stop, and even as the world waits expectantly on a vaccine, COVID will have a long-term impact on human resources and our workplaces well into 2021. And although we don’t have a crystal ball, we’ve taken some time to provide our insight to HR leaders about what to expect for Human Resources in 2021.

Is Your HR Ready for 2021?

As much as it feels we are rushing to the end of 2020 while crossing our fingers for a brighter 2021 (where we can actually go outside and maybe enjoy a work happy hour), HR has a responsibility to take stock of the successes, challenges, and opportunities that this year has presented. Based on this assessment, HR professionals need to prioritize for the year ahead and set achievable goals to get the business (and its people) back on track to success. It’s critical that HR be courageous enough to pioneer the idea that success may need to be redefined into the new year and beyond, as 2020 was unpredictable, and yes, we’ll say it – unprecedented. So, as you prepare for a year ahead and the future of work, we recommend considering the following as you build a comprehensive approach to your people operation in 2020. 

Importance of Company Culture 

Company culture is the shared beliefs and core values within an organization that ultimately shapes the day-to-day operations and expectations of employees. With the significant increase in the amount of employees working remotely, it has never been more imperative to build a strong company culture to foster employee engagement. HR leaders can support this initiative by reinforcing organizational values, providing ongoing training and development, implementing recognition systems, and defining roles and responsibilities. This strong employer brand will help employees feel like they are valued by their organization and that they are making a valuable contribution to its overall mission.

 As the economy continues to recover, businesses will resume hiring talent. Building a strong company culture and employer brand is critical for this process as it will help attract talent that is a cultural fit to the organization. While employers should hire an applicant based on skill, their personality is also a good indication of whether or not they will be successful in the position and in the organization. A strong employer brand can be beneficial for employers as people are willing to negotiate on pay for a good company culture and benefits such as a flexible work schedule.

Emphasis on Mental Health 

The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting employers of all sizes to focus on their employee’s mental health. It is essential that employees feel physically and psychologically safe at work. In order to combat this mental health crisis, employers should provide ongoing support and accommodations to employees to mitigate the lasting impacts of the virus. Employers can continue to allow for flexible scheduling and remote work to assist with remote schooling and potential illness.

 Employers should be proactive by offering additional mental health resources in the workplace. The first step employers can take to break the stigma in the workplace is speaking openly and candidly about mental health. Once the conversation has started, it is essential to keep this conversation ongoing by incorporating them into day-to-day activities. Employers should also be encouraging employees to take time off and use mental health days to recharge. Lastly, employers can facilitate access to written, verbal, or audio resources for employees to seek mental health support.

HR Will Remain Virtual 

Let’s be real, we’ve learned a lot about the value of personal space and being mindful of who we invite into our workplace. By only having essential people report to the office, employers have a greater ability to keep their workers and workplace safe. Employees have gotten comfortable with working from home and flexible work schedules. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 

Sure, some workers will be clamoring to return to the office because they just want to get out of the house, while other workers have thrived given the opportunity to work from home. We don’t think companies will go completely virtual, but a hybrid model can surely be effective. 

The world of talent recruitment has been blown wide open by the necessity of building a remote workplace. First, businesses are no longer landlocked in the talent pool. A company that was suffering finding local talent now has the opportunity to expand nationally to potentially make their next great hire. It’s possible that workers of the future may never meet their new colleagues face to face.

Accepting virtual as a reality of today’s world at work also carries promise for a company’s recruiting practices. By offering video interviewing, you are already enhancing the candidate experience. A job seeker doesn’t feel like they need to put their health at risk in order to be hired, because they can conduct the entire interview process online. Using one-way interviews with Spark Hire, a candidate is able to complete their interview on their time at their convenience. As candidates juggle the job search, virtual school, and potentially their current job responsibilities, allowing them the flexibility to record an interview at 9 pm at night, because it’s the only time they have peace and quiet, is a huge advantage to you as the employer and the candidate. 

And if you’re concerned about the impersonality of a remote hiring process, Spark Hire has a number of other tools and resources to help you execute successful virtual interviews without losing the personal touch that job hunters are looking for. Red Clover leverages one way interviews internally and for our clients in lieu of the traditional phone screen because of the time savings and benefits to the candidate. But, we still have an introductory phone call with the candidate. This allows us to introduce ourselves, allow the candidate to get to know our recruitment point person, confirm interest and salary expectations, and outline the Spark Hire video interview process. We also leverage the video options so the candidates can learn more about our firm from the Founder and Managing Director, who they won’t meet until the tail end of the interview process.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality

As HR professionals were navigating through the implications of a worldwide pandemic, they were also asked to grapple with continued racial unrest and a tipping point in the discussion about diversity, equality, and inclusion. Society shifted in demanding answers for crimes caught on tape, and HR was expected to respond and support their people, during an election year, with workers on every end of the political spectrum.

However, HR professionals now have a responsibility to create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces. Workers are expecting more than online harassment training; they want skilled DEI professionals educating their organizations on unconscious bias, microaggressions and being anti-racist. There is a need for leaders to take a long, hard look at their business practices and identify ways they need to improve to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace. 

Also, as HR focuses on mental health awareness, there will be a continued call for HR professionals to acknowledge the effects of racially-motivated crime and the disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color on their BIPOC colleagues. If we expect individuals to bring their whole selves to work (and that line gets blurred as we work primarily from home), organization leaders need to implement support systems that acknowledge the employee as a holistic person, and recognize events outside of the office, and in society, influence someone’s ability to be their whole self while in the office. 

HR is in a position to advocate for all employees and proactively work for diversity, inclusion and equity as a strategic goal for their organizations. It is essential that HR and leaders work together to create and cultivate an equitable and inclusive workplace by researching and revising people processes in a way that guarantees people from all walks of life have a chance to succeed in your organization.

Data Driven Decisions

HR professionals can continually add more value to an organization and ultimately its bottom-line by utilizing analytics and adopting a data-driven decision making process. Now is not the time to be winging it. HR leaders have the ability to leverage the implementation of technological advancements, such as Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) and other HR tech, to create a competitive advantage in core HR functions. These systems allow organizations to collect anecdotal and research data that can identify its impact on the overall strategic goals of the company. This data can then be used to guide decision making processes to improve business functions.

 For example, HR tech can be used to establish assessment practices, such as employee engagement surveys, that can be used to provide performance metrics. These analytics can assess the effectiveness of a manager and employee satisfaction and can be compared throughout various departments so HR can identify what teams are most/least successful. HR can also benchmark their organization’s data with similar organization’s to see how they compare. Employee engagement surveys also provide insight into analytics that can measure employee risk and churn/retention rates. This will allow HR to determine what employees may be at risk for leaving. With these analytics, HR departments can make an informed decision to put more resources into employee retention programs.

If the right type of data is being accurately collected, HR analytics will provide the people insight and trend tracking needed to drive change to improve business operations. 

We are looking forward to 2021 and cautiously optimistic about the opportunities it will hold. HR professionals have experienced some pretty unique challenges this year, but it’s allowed us to develop creative solutions and refocus our efforts on employee experience. We will continue to forge ahead, with a focus on preparing our workforces to embrace and approach these emerging trends head on.

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