Top 5 trends for HR leaders in 2021
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Top 5 trends

Top 5 trends for HR leaders in 2021

from  February 26, 2021 | 5 min read

If Human Resource departments had a challenging job before the pandemic, the post-pandemic times look even more challenging, but many opportunities also lie ahead. As we ease into the new year, we believe it is a good time to reflect on lessons learned but also on lessons we still need to learn. We summarized the key HR trends to look on 2021.

2020 was a year of creating new opportunities in place we didn't know we could create value. With the pandemic, we all created new ways of working, socialising, learning and even exercising. With new routines in place, HR leaders around the globe are facing multiple challenges. Not only do they need to understand these new routines and habits, but they have to create a new set of rules, policies and actions that align with people and drive value to the business. After interviewing customers, reading analyst reports and thought leadership articles, we were able to gather the five most important trends for 2021.

1. HR is going fully digital:

In August, we released a paper called Distributed Talent Managementwhere we discussed the main HR trends that were taking place. At that time, HR professionals were snapped out of their traditional mindset and had to hurry up on implementing digital tools to keep their processes alive, since we were all certain that we were going to face a second lockdown. A few months later, as predicted, Europe entered the second lockdown. This time organizations and employees were ready to face it. Covid-19 accelerated the digital transformation, showing that HR is the driver of powerful and dynamic transformations. With their strong focus on employee wellbeing, employee experience and data-driven decisions, HR became a strategic advisor to the business. But the good work should not end after the pandemic. Digitizing HR is a critical lever that companies need to get right to achieve their goals. This means that in 2021 HR should continue with their digital transformation and keep improving their processes, experience and insights.

2. Organizations need a skill strategy

As a consequence of digitization, innovation and evolution, employees need more skills to do their jobs, and many of those skills are new. Organizations are facing a huge skill gap within their workforce. Some young organizations are lacking experience and some more mature organizations require digital expertise. What is true is that it's becoming harder and harder to map and predict what skills organizations have and what they are missing. In the latest survey conducted by Gartner, they found that building critical skills and competences for the organization is a top priority for 68% of HR leaders.

The workplace has changed. Remote or hybrid work is here to stay, which will make skill management even more challenging. HR has to find ways to strategically map and allocate their employees skills not only into jobs but into roles and projects. What's needed is a dynamic approach to skills management. According to PWC, 133M new jobs will require upskilling by 2022. Many employees aren't learning the right skills for either their personal development or for the benefit of the organization. HR leaders need to: firstly map current skills, secondly identify gaps and explore ways to leverage current skills to address skill gaps, and finally implement practices to upskill and reskill your workforce.

3. Defining the new employee experience

Employee experience is a top priority for 28% of HR leaders, 31% of chief human resources officers (CHROs) and 46% for heads of diversity and inclusion. With the shifts between remote, hybrid and purely office work, it is harder to create a strategy for employee engagement and employee experience. HR also has to preserve the company culture and fulfil employees' expectations while struggles to understand current employee needs in the different working spaces and conditions.

HR needs to contemplate multiple factors that affect employee experience

With a hybrid workforce, employees will need more personalized experiences. From hire to retire, HR needs to develop new approaches and strategies to understand their employees' engagement and wellbeing with and without physical interactions. Defining and redesigning the new employee experience should contemplate virtual and physical spaces, mapping out collaboration, personal interaction and productivity work in these two scenarios is key to succeed in the process.

4. Distributed Talent Management

We are moving into a world with more resilient and accountable individuals that push teams to behave like "micro-enterprises" and transform the HR department to a supportive institution that accelerates performance and growth. Distributed talent management is a trend that has been accelerated for the pandemic. With employees working from home they are now more than ever accountable for their performance and development.

Your job, as an HR professional is to enable your people with the right tools for everything they need to drive business results. You should do this by measuring engagement, offering learning opportunities, tracking performance and setting up a clear work-life balance policy. Your role is to understand people's dynamics and distribute the ownership of some processes. Technology is just a facilitator, you're the strategist behind the scenes that makes everything work. Make sure the tool is aligned with your organization's culture and values. This trend urges HR departments to stop working in silos, integrating and sharing information with other business units will facilitate the adoption and support.

5. The hybrid office

Much has been said about remote working, but the truth is, after the pandemic the concept of hybrid working should stay. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic. A survey conducted by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research also showed that 55% of US workers want a mixture of home and office working.

During the past decades, the workplace has indeed evolved. From offices with tons of small rooms and very hierarchical architecture to more open and even shared spaces for different uses (brainstorming, calling, and even for spare time).

Accelerated by COVID-19, we are now living in the hybrid workspace. Multi-purpose offices, closer to where people live and with the flexibility the new nature of work needs. Many employees have tasted the benefits of working from home, and even if it's convenient for many extra-work activities, people need a place to interact and collaborate out of the virtual space.

While ‘hybrid’ is key to a more flexible work future, it rises challenges for HR regarding employees' autonomy and trust.