Now that 2021 is passing the halfway mark, it is a good time to look at trends emerging in human resources. The world has seen a lot of change and shifts in perspective and priorities over the past year and reassessing the current state of the field as well as what might come next is an important step to take.
Here are some that many thought would play a big factor in 2021 back at the beginning of the year and where things stand as of right now.
After the whirlwind of operating in the midst of a pandemic with remote teams and disrupted supply chains, many employers are realizing that their most valuable assets are their well-trained and experienced employees. This is a definite change from the more technology-centered approaches to HR that seemed to be poised to overtake the industry just a few years ago.
Today’s HR teams should emphasize the human element of business and work to balance employee efficiency with employee contentment. A happy workforce is an engaged workforce and an engaged workforce yields more innovative and high-quality results.
This might seem counterintuitive given the above people-centered strategies, however it complements it quite well. The focus here is not on replacing human talent, but rather improving workforce efficiency by automating more straightforward activities. This leaves employees better able to focus on the specialized work for which they were trained and it’s something that is becoming more commonplace across industries and companies of varying sizes.
The expansion of automation beyond traditional automation capabilities is sometimes known as hyperautomation and it’s expected to grow a great deal this year yet. In April, Gartner projected the hyperautomation-enabling software market would reach $596 billion by 2022.
While the 2020 shift to digital workplaces might have been a forced one for many organizations, it revealed the benefits of remote work nonetheless. HR teams must now focus on creating more permanent remote work options that allow employees the continued flexibility of working out of the office at least part of the time. Not all employees want to take advantage of this approach, of course, but many have come to appreciate the home-office comfort of the past year and work from home simply isn’t going anywhere.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is that employee wellness is vital to success in unexpected crises. Individuals who are ready to face the day with an open mind are the most able to adapt to change. This means that ensuring employees are healthy and happy is a vital aspect of current and future success and should be treated as such moving forward. 2021 is reaffirming that strong employees lead to a strong organization. This might translate into flexible schedules as referenced above or via enhanced wellness benefits designed to boost workforce self-actualization and esteem. In any case, the wellness conversation is still in its infancy and will continue to be explored in the years to come.
Normalizing New Technology
New technology was essential to workplace success in the face of the pandemic and the challenges it brought. It is important to take the opportunity to normalize the technology that helped keep teams together and business operations running smoothly. Do not just return to “business as usual” and overlook the important role that technology played in uniting teams remotely and enabling communication between employees and supervisors alike. As we emerge from this crisis, these tools have a permanent role to play in how we manage and engage the workforce, even if the organization opts against promoting flexible schedules. The need to have a flexible “backup plan” to carry out work remotely is no longer an option, but a necessity.
While the worst is hopefully behind us, the ramifications of the pandemic will continue to reverberate throughout 2021. HR should focus on reacting to the demands the pandemic wrought in a proactive manner to ensure that not only do employees have the opportunity to continue with the flexible schedules to which they have become accustomed but also have access to wellness benefits and technology to make their jobs easier.
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