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Lessons From Pandemic Year Shape 2021 HR Trends

The pandemic tested human resources in ways many never imagined with quarantine, COVID-19 testing and round-the-clock Zoom calls becoming new workplace norms in 2020. Now those experiences are shaping trends for the New Year.

Deloitte“COVID-19 proved that people and organizations are capable of tremendous growth under the pressure of a crisis,” the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report notes. “The challenge for many will be to sustain that momentum to discover new ways to thrive in the long term, even as disruption constantly resets the path forward.”

In putting together its report, Deloitte posed the question, “How can organizations position themselves to thrive when they are focused on making the changes necessary to survive?”

Of the 6,000 business professionals surveyed in 99 countries and across all industries, 44% were HR executives, with respondents asked how the pandemic shaped their view of organizational preparedness and challenges and opportunities confronting them moving ahead.

One trend will be to shift away from a work-life balance approach to one that places more emphasis on well-being, writes Jen Fisher, Deloitte US chief well-being officer. “While executives have long recognized that well-being is important, the COVID-19 pandemic brought home how significant it really is,” Fisher notes. “Organizations suddenly found themselves called upon to prioritize workers’ physical and mental well-being as a matter of survival, as protecting their health and alleviating their stress became critical to operations.”

Another lesson from last year that is relevant moving forward is how workers proved they could quickly adapt to new roles/responsibilities to handle critical issues that did not always have to do with their specific job. For example, automotive workers tapped “3D scanners and computer simulations to retool their assembly lines to manufacture ventilators for Covid-19 patients,” according to the report.

“Workforce potential is not about what workers were recruited to do, or what they are certified to do, or even what organizations or leaders want them to do next,” Deloitte notes. “It’s about giving workers more freedom to choose how they can best help tackle critical business problems as organizations and ecosystems evolve.”

One potentially disturbing trend for employees is the increasing frequency of their bosses to track and monitor their staff, as evidenced with the rise of employee monitoring software, HR Trend Institute reports. “Positively the trend can be called ‘Continuous Listening,’ but we should watch out for ‘Continuous Tracking,’ writes Tom Haak, founder and director of HR Trend Institute.

There also is the risk of increasing detachment among employees/employers as many businesses have adjusted to having their staff work from remote locations. “Keeping employees engaged while they are working remote requires a conscious effort,” Haak writes. While Zoom and other video meetings may help, it won’t be enough to offset this risk, he adds.

Another new normal that took off last year by necessity--remote hiring--will likely stick around this year as employers are more likely to maintain the remote working arrangements from 2020, The Enterprisers Project reports. Recruiting for remote workers will make it easier for employers seeking to increase their workforce diversity as this outreach approach will appeal to a larger pool of talent.

“From the applicant’s perspective, top talent will look for companies that offer remote work, flexible policies that enable more family time and a lower cost of living, and excellent health coverage,” writes Vijay Sundaram, chief strategy officer at Zoho Perks. “Perks like gourmet cafeterias, gyms, game rooms, nap pods, and unlimited free snacks will lose their appeal.”

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