HR departments across the country are grappling with a completely new workplace reality. Unfortunately, tens of millions of Americans have applied for unemployment benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many offices are moving permanently to remote work situations, which means hiring and team culture events take place almost entirely online. Other companies are transitioning into hybrid situations where workers are remote for part of the time and also using co-working spaces. So, how can HR departments prepare for even more changes in the new year? Well, the first step is to anticipate the trends within the HR industry.
Keep reading to learn about some of the biggest HR trends in 2021.
Benefits Beyond the Office
Thanks to the coronavirus, many of the usual in-office perks have evaporated. No more in-person happy hours, no more lunches with clients, and no more shared office resources. As a result, businesses are rethinking the perks they offer in light of these changes.
Here are a few of the benefits that many companies are rolling out to match the remote work environment that will be the reality for workers across the country for at least another six months:
- Remote technology stipend
- Utilities stipend
- Virtual happy hours
- Online therapy subscription
- Online exercise subscription
- Free fitness tracker
- Snack box subscription
- Co-working space stipend
When you’re rethinking your perks and benefits, think about what your workers and team actually want. What will make their lives easier and a little more joyful? Use these questions to determine what perks to offer to your remote or semi-remote team.
Diversity and Inclusion Prioritization
Now more than ever, HR departments are highlighting issues like diversity, inclusion, and equity. Why? Because studies show that companies with more diversity are typically more profitable. So, not only is it better for employees themselves, it’s also better for the company to have a diverse team.
Well, HR departments are getting creative and looking at what diversity means in all forms of the word. For example, does a company show diversity of thought? Diversity of age? Diversity of personality? Diversity is much more than just race and gender.
Inclusion is another important priority for HR departments in the new year.
But, how can you make sure people feel included when you’re working remotely? Make sure there are multiple channels of communication so that employees (especially new ones) have easily accessible ways to connect with others.
Stronger Focus on Mental Health
Millions of Americans across the nation have been touched in some way or another by the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps a worker has a partner that lost a job or maybe schools shut down and now your top-performing employee is responsible for homeschooling their toddlers. There are plenty of employees that are under increased mental and emotional strain.
Employees who are feeling burned out, depressed, sad, or unmotivated aren’t going to be productive. To combat these mental health issues, HR departments are using employee wellbeing programs. There are also wellbeing apps that allow employees to track their sleep, moods, and general health. Some of these wellbeing apps also feature a virtual coach that guides them through any potential issues.
Another mental health issue that might crop up during remote work is employees who feel lonely or isolated. If you’re in charge of creating events for employees, consider keeping open office hours to allow team members to come to chat about any problems.
You can also set up virtual “water cooler” hours where departments or teams come together for casual office conversations. You can set up questions for more structure to these events or just let the conversation flow naturally.
Using Data to Drive Decisions
Although data-centric strategies have been a trend for years, 2021 will herald a new year where companies lean on data more than ever. HR departments are dealing with tons of changes regarding budgets and workforces. In turn, they’ll rely on products, strategies, and products to make decisions. For example, a particular app might drive employee retention, employee engagement, or boost productivity.
HR teams will be tapping into new and old data to figure out the best way forward into the new year.
Development and Professional Skill-Building
When workers join a company, many aren’t just looking for a temporary position. Instead, they’re looking for a place they can call “home” for many years and develop their skills. It’s critical to show employees that they have paths to promotion. Otherwise, ambitious employees who want to continue growing may leave for greener pastures if they believe they’re in a dead-end job with no possibilities of promotion.
HR teams can introduce many ways to encourage the professional development of their employees. Here are a few ideas you can use as a jumping-off point:
- Skill workshops
- Regular performance reviews
- Tuition reimbursement
Automation of HR Tasks
Although automation is already a huge trend, 2021 will continue the trend and make it even bigger. There are tons of manual HR processes that can be sped up through automation. Software like applicant tracking software (ATS) can help you sort through resumes, applications, and cover letters to find the cream of the crop, for example.
You can also use ATS to schedule out interviews, send emails, and accomplish other essential hiring process tasks.
Even with the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine on the way, companies are still being cautious about making any new hires. The economy is poised to rebound, but much more slowly than some experts predicted. As a result, businesses aren’t looking to grow their teams as quickly or as much.
It might take years for companies to hire in larger numbers again. In the meantime, HR teams will need to focus on keeping current employees happy.
Takeaways: 2021 and Beyond
HR departments are the heart of many businesses. HR is responsible for promoting workplace culture, hiring, and providing a safe space for employees. Even though the pandemic has changed how HR departments look, HR teams are still essential, even in a remote environment. If you’re curious about what trends you can anticipate in the HR industry, use this article as a guide. You might even want to use this post as a guidepost for any workplace policy changes to incorporate.