HR have faced a huge number of challenges through 2020. Expectations have been sky high and many HR departments, leaders and professionals have been stretched.
However, through difficult challenges come immense opportunities. HR has stepped up, flexed its muscles and been the driver of change and performance in companies across the world.
It’s been an incredible learning curve for people of all areas of any business. The world of work has changed quite dramatically. So, what does 2021 hold for HR?
This time around, many people might decide against making New Year’s resolutions or setting goals for 2021, given how much of a rollercoaster 2020 has been.
But HR shouldn’t. 2021 is a year that presents fantastic opportunity! So, what HR trends are we likely to see in 2021?
HR trends in technology
During 2020, isolation, remote work and furlough were just a few reasons we had to rely more than ever on technology to help maintain many areas of our lives.
We’ve relied on tech such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to help us not just with our work but with keeping in touch with families and friends too.
The world has become even more digitally focused and HR must be aware of how this could change in 2021.
HR may look to rely more on technology to maintain employee engagement and employee benefits platforms and administration will become much more important, as will their effectiveness.
Advancements in technology could also find a way into the HR space, which we talk more about further in this article when it comes to AI and machine learning.
The key thing to consider is how could these technological advancements help optimise HR performance?
HR will play an even bigger role in 2021
HR has had a huge influence in business decisions in 2020 and this is likely to continue.
All the challenges HR have faced in managing people and teams such as managing furlough, supporting remote working staff and helping frontline workers seem set to continue and be a key HR trend for 2021.
Happiness in the workplace is key and business leaders know it. Key business decisions will need to be made to best protect staff and their mental health in particular while maintaining the business financially.
HR have always played a key mediating role between the team and business leaders and this role is likely to be more important than ever in 2021.
There will be key business decisions for many businesses around the likes of retention, recruitment, finances and workload as well as around maintaining the health and happiness of employees.
What this represents is a huge opportunity for HR. Often, big business decisions are made with the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders as the core objective and this in many cases is unlikely to change.
However, with HR having more influence, employees and their priorities are more likely to be prioritised as part of these key decisions.
Developing soft skills
When it comes to learning and development, technical skills are often the focus.
After a year where soft skills have played a huge role in the workplace, 2021 could be the year where these skills are more prominent in the learning and development of employees, making it a key HR trend for 2021.
Soft skills include things like attitude, flexibility and communicative skills. While technical skills have certainly helped businesses through 2020, it’s soft skills like adaptability, personability and a positive attitude that have helped employees of all areas through the year.
In 2021, developing these skills will help with managing and maintaining mental health in the workplace of everyone, dealing with bereavement or helping colleagues through tough times and adapting to the changing needs of customers, employees, laws and legislation.
While technical skills are still vital, developing soft skills within the business in 2021 is likely to be more important than ever.
AI and machine learning
AI and Machine Learning are gradually becoming a part of many areas of work and our day-to-day lives.
Machine learning is used in your Google Home or Amazon Alexa while AI is used to categorise all of your incoming emails.
These advances in technology are likely to affect HR in a number of ways and this will be an important HR trend in 2021.
There are the direct effects on HR software for example and how HR processes and functions could be affected by AI and machine learning.
Data is becoming ever more important and the processing and analysing of this data done through AI and machine learning can provide hugely valuable insights, allowing HR leaders and professionals to optimise processes and improve departmental performance.
For example, AI software has been used to evaluate key indicators of employee success, giving companies invaluable information when it comes to promotions and internal mobility.
A key question to ask in 2021 is how could you leverage AI and machine learning to benefit your organisation? Another key question to ask is how could AI and machine learning pose a threat to HR, employees and the organisation?
It’s important to consider not just the effect AI and machine learning have on the department of human resources but on other areas of the business too and how that could affect HR.
For example, could automation or the effects of AI and machine learning change job roles within your business? Could they force jobs out or create new ones? How might this affect your suppliers and their relationship with your business, in turn affecting your workforce?
The future of remote work
What are your company’s plans for remote work in 2021? Whatever your plans are, where your employees are based is likely to affect a number of areas of HR.
The transition many of us have made to remote work has affected recruitment, for example.
For employers who offer the chance to work remotely part-time or full-time are able to cast their net wider and can employ people from just about any area.
For those looking for work, they now have more options when it comes to who they can work for as more employers are more willing to accommodate remote workers.
This is important to consider when you’re thinking about how your company will set up in 2021.
So, while employers can recruit from further, employees can work from further too, so from a HR perspective companies may need to adapt and think about how they attract new talent and how to position themselves as a great company to work for.
Promoting company culture, perks and employee benefits that differentiate the company from competing employers will be key.
Climate change and boosting green credentials
The investment introduced to promote greener transport in 2020 by the UK government that saw a surge in popularity for cycling was driven by their commitment to reduce carbon emissions significantly for the foreseeable future.
Electric cars are continuing to advance technologically, and the UK Government are looking to help make electric motoring more affordable, while looking to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
More energy efficient homes are being built and greener energy sources continue to be subject of much investment in time and resources from governments and companies around the world.
So, how will this affect HR in 2021?
From a recruitment and retention perspective, it will continue to be important for organisations to demonstrate their green credentials.
Companies can do this in a number of ways, but introducing car salary sacrifice schemes (where electric vehicles are still subject to 0% Benefit in Kind tax) and introducing a Bike Scheme could be key ways of demonstrating green credentials when promoting the company in the job market.
2021 represents a huge opportunity for HR departments, leaders and teams to make a significant positive change within their organisation and the wider economy.
HR have had to have difficult conversations, make difficult decisions and perform under a lot of pressure.
When it comes to HR trends, 2021 looks set to present lots of similar challenges. Preparation is key, as is understanding the wider environment and how it is likely to change.
Understanding these and making changes to turn threats and challenges into big opportunities will be a challenge in itself, but it’s possible! The end result is a workplace your employees will love in 2021 and beyond!