Top HR Trends for 2021

January 12, 2021 | Shannon Shoemaker

Many are looking to the COVID-19 vaccines to bring the world “back to normal.” But even once the virus is under control, we’re all coming out of this permanently changed. And few professions have undergone a drastic transformation like human resources. We’ve handled changes in practice, process and place of work, and the profession is still evolving.

“There’s no such thing as going back to the way that we’ve done business,” says Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR. “Employees are savvier, they’re more nuanced, and they know what to expect of themselves and their HR department.” The HR trends of 2020 will follow us into 2021. We’ll continue to see a rise in HR’s role in the business and an emphasis on taking care of our workforces.

Here’s how you can adapt to the HR trends we’ll see persisting into 2021.


Embracing the Role of Business Partner

HR will play a vital role in protecting business continuity moving forward. Think of yourself as a business partner regardless of whether you have the title, suggests Liz Weber, CEO and Strategic Planning Consultant at Weber Business Services LLC. “Step out of your comfort zone,” she says. Ask leadership what their goals are for the first two quarters so that you can support managers in achieving them. HR has to know how to communicate with leaders and articulate how their decisions affect the bottom line. If a leadership decision harms people, processes or human capital management, don’t be shy about speaking up.

As an internal HRBP (Human Resources Business Partner), it’s incumbent on you to embrace HR technology. “If an HR leader wants to be relevant, wants their organization to perform well, wants to be top of mind for their leaders,” Price says, “you’re going to have to be the HR professional that understands the role of technology.” Work with your peers in the IT department to evaluate vendors and products and make the best choice for your people and processes.


Stewarding Workforce Health and Safety

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of protecting employee health and safety, as well as addressing  mental health issues and concerns. HR also needs to be aware of outside forces such as the pandemic, politics, and racial inequities that impact workers, Weber suggests. Work with plan administrators to offer comprehensive mental health benefits, while also  working toward a culture that doesn’t stigmatize their use.

“Make meaningful recommendations to leaders in the organization to promote better health and mental and psychological safety of team members, whether they’re remote or in the office,” Price says. Physical safety is essential, too. We may have a vaccine widely available in 2021, but organizations that resume in-person operations will need to remain cautious. HR will continue to be instrumental in contact tracing and social distancing, as well as implementing anti-COVID-19 measures introduced by the Biden administration.


Encouraging a Healthy Culture

Whether your workforce remains remote or returns to the office, workplace culture is more crucial than ever. Culture encompasses your best practices, processes and priorities and how those are lived in the workplace. Some priorities include diversity, inclusion and equity, accessibility, facilitating better communication, breaking down silos through cross-training, and filling knowledge and practice gaps through succession planning.

The decision to remain remote or to return to the office once it’s safe is a matter of culture, too. Your employees are key components of your culture, and you need their buy-in for effective decision-making. Whichever decision your organization makes, employees will need to be managed differently moving forward. “HR needs to take the lead on this with the leadership team,” Weber says. “What was our culture before? What is our culture like now? And what do we want it to be in 2021, 2022 and 2023?” Collaborate with leaders on a road map for leading your workforce through the coming years.

Today, you are instrumental in moving your business and your people forward and successfully through the growing pandemic. Stay confident in the value of your professional knowledge and skills, and safeguard your workforce’s well-being and autonomy. Tap into these HR trends to create a new normal that benefits everyone.

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