Top HR Trends HR in 2021 and What to Expect in the Future

The post-pandemic era will not look entirely like before as companies reimagine and reconfigure their workplace policies and procedures. Employees can expect to encounter change and these are the top trends HR experts are forecasting as a part of the transformation.

  • With employees not ready to relinquish the safety and comfort of working from home, there are a number of key trends businesses should be focused on in 2021 and beyond, from corporate office space to what business travel looks like.
  • Human resource departments should expect an increased demand for modified employee benefits like health and wellness programs and flexible work arrangements in the coming year in order to manage child care, mental health and other issues that have been heightened due to the global pandemic.
  • HR departments will need to pay close attention to any new laws and regulations regarding COVID-19.

A successful company is nothing without a strong human resources (HR) department. These professionals are responsible for recruiting and handling job applicants, hiring the most qualified individuals and retaining the talent over a period of time. The strategies that HR departments employ to recruit and retain employees are always changing and adapting to "new normal" brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

Businesses and experts in the field need to be aware of these top HR trends in 2021 and be ready to implement the changes necessary to keep up with the future of HR.

1. Diversity and inclusion are a priority.

The Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice efforts taking headlines in 2020 have made employers and HR teams realize that their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts need to take center stage in today’s workplace. Diversity and inclusion training programs and initiatives appropriately implemented can bolster talent acquisition efforts, employee engagement and productivity, company reputation and overall staff retention.

2. Automated technologies will streamline HR processes.

The CEO and founder of the automated onboarding and screening system StaffGlass, Jared Rosenthal, commented on the current situation HR departments face in acceleration in the push towards the use of cloud software not only to automate, but manage their workflows. This is a trend is increasing in 2021.

Digitalization has been in place for many aspects of recruiting and onboarding, but with the rise of remote work due to the COVID pandemic companies that weren’t embracing these practices are doing so now.

"The end of the pandemic in 2021 will not stop the push toward automating HR services," Rosenthal reported to Business News Daily. "It's simple: If you're going to compete in the post-pandemic world, you need to move as much to the cloud as possible, including seemingly offline HR activities like drug testing and pre-employment occupational health testing."

Small and medium businesses are not isolated from this. Even the smallest firms need technology today to increase efficiency especially while the “office” is a more “virtual” concept.

3. Long-term remote work, is it here to stay?

Long-term remote work

With governments calling for lockdowns early on trying to sequester the virus, a temporary transition solution to the impending question became more of the norm and now businesses, and more so the employees, are wondering if it is worth going back to the office. This unintended permanent solution for many businesses has been made possible by advancements in technology. Health and safety are one of main reasons employers will continue this practice, but also demand.

"Employees love the flexible schedule and the absence of a commute so that there is more time in the day to spend with their families," said Angela Rochester, assistant general counsel and human resources consultant for Engage PEO.

In practice, this will require HR departments to act as enforcers. For example, Rochester said that HR employees will need to ensure remote workers are correctly documenting their time, impose timekeeping policy violations and implement accountability measures to track performance more readily.

4. Boosting company culture and employee engagement are creative feats.

Without a physical office space to connect with co-workers, employees can feel isolated or disengaged, especially new hires. Providing training and integrating the “feel good” team environment through a digital device is challenging.

"Maintaining employee engagement is crucial as remote work looks set to continue well into 2021 and beyond," said Nicole Reid, chief people officer at Xero. "To keep people engaged, they need to be connected to a purpose. It's important that every member of the team has a clear sense of the company's direction, and how their role contributes to it."

Online meeting fatigue is real, having back-to-back virtually meets via Zoom or another platform can be draining. So, it becomes a challenge with ice breakers and team builders will become just another meeting teams need to schedule. Transparency, good communication and leadership are key here to understanding what employees need and when.

5. Employees' wellbeing is a main focus.

Health and wellness are popular topics due to the pandemic taking a microscope on how we view our wellbeing. Employers are privy to this and have placed greater importance on investing in holistic or team building programs that impact employee morale, focus, and ultimately efficiency and success. of the importance of employee wellbeing and its impact on business success. While during these uncertain times, employee wellbeing is likely to decrease or fluctuate, companies need to shift their attention to improving employee amenities and benefits as they adapt to the "new normal".

Leaders within the business can help improve their employees' health and wellness by providing transparency and clear communication throughout the organization. Leading by example, taking time for self-care and setting work/life boundaries, are two such ways leaders can inspire others to follow suit.

COVID-19-specific paid sick leave and other accommodations

6. COVID-19-specific paid sick leave and other accommodations.

As coronavirus cases surge around the globe yet again, many employees will likely need to get tested and request time off to quarantine, especially those public facing. Countries will have to look at how they will now treat the realities that face COVID survivors that have disabilities on the account of the virus. While not all governments will act the same, many will deem these repercussions as disabilities that may create new or different conditions in the workplace.

Employers should continue as they have with policies that respect and identify these limitations and the difficulty they impose on the employee’s job duties. There should be an open conversation and willingness to adapt to the new realities this pandemic have spurred on.

It will be imperative for businesses to stay up to date with the current rules and regulations that govern your employees' rights regarding COVID-19-specific paid sick leave and accommodations.

7. The COVID-19 vaccination may be required.

As the coronavirus vaccine rolls out and becomes readily available to the general public, employers are going to have to decide – will they require their employees to get vaccinated? Here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind when considering whether to mandate a COVID-19 for your employees.

  • Pros: Regulating the COVID-19 vaccine would undoubtedly help minimize the risk of on-the-job transmission and could potentially limit an employer's liability of COVID-19-related workplace illness.
  • Cons: If an employee got vaccinated because it was required by their employer suffered an adverse reaction due to the jab, that may render the employer responsible for workers’ compensation.

If employers do decide to mandate COVID-vaccinations, they need to pay special attention to governmental guidelines and other employment agencies policies. These will vary country-to-country.

Long story short, HR departments have a big task at hand and are seen as a central channel for communicating employee needs and employer policies and procedures. With the advancements in technology, aspects of the job will be eased through automation, but new challenges will arise. It is a very dynamic field that is in demand. Qualified leadership is needed at the helm.

Do you think you have what it takes? Here at GBSB Global, we offer a state-of-the-art program geared towards the future of HR management, preparing students to meet the monumental tasks posed by the pandemic and beyond. Learn more about our Master in Human Resources and Talent Development!

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