We are already halfway through 2021 and life, particularly the way we work, has had to be adjusted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While many organisational leaders have seen some semblance of “normal” return, others have redefined where and how work gets done and how organisational goals are met.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is that companies that do not change will get left behind by those that do. This applies most importantly to people-centric issues. I would like to share with you some current information on one of the top HR trends in 2021 which will drive transformation, namely a renewed focus on the human element, particularly within teams working remotely.
“2020 showed us that there’s nothing more important than people. In 2021, employers are going to reprioritize the human element in how they support and encourage their people. The goal isn’t just to motivate people—it’s to inspire them to bring their best self to work.”
–Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory
Teams play an essential role in reaching targets and goals, but teams cannot function when their people are not taken care of. The responsibility of HR is to pay attention to individuals and that means everyone in the team. We have seen that embracing humanity at work is essential. The challenge to manage certain aspects remotely is one which takes thought and focus to ensure that individuals are equipped to maintain, and possibly improve the standard of work that was produced pre Covid-19.
A new term “Superteams” has been coined, these being a combination of people and technology to produce outcomes speedily and on a larger scale than would otherwise not be possible. Factors contributing to successful superteams include creating a culture that celebrates growth, adaptability, diversity and inclusion, and resilience; enabling a capable workforce through upskilling, reskilling and agility; in addition to these, superteams embrace new technologies and adapt to the use of these quickly.
Questions which arise from these revelations regarding the human element of our working world are:
- How will we train our workforce?
- How will we communicate?
- How will we onboard?
- How will we develop bonds between team members? and the big question…
- How will performance be evaluated?
It is common knowledge that when people bring their “best selves” to work they are more engaged, more productive, and overall, produce a more efficient and effective team.
“While there are many people-first, forward-thinking, business and tech-savvy HR leaders, I hope that we make 2021 the year that HR finally transitions from paper-first to people-first. And I mean all of HR. If you wake up in the morning and your first thought is on the mountains of paperwork on your desk and not on your people, you need to take a good hard look at yourself first.”
–Tracie Sponenberg, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Chief People Officer at The Granite Group
If you are the leader of a team business unit or organisation, questions which need to be asked and considered of yourself include:
- Are you leading with empathy, kindness, vulnerability, compassion and love?
- Are you having tough conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? And more than that, are you doing something about it?
- Are you talking about wellbeing in the workplace? Not just physical wellbeing, but mental health, financial health and social connections?
- Are you giving AND receiving regular feedback?
- Are you a fierce people advocate, willing to put your people before the business?
Employee Wellness has continued to grow as a priority to build successful teams, where healthy teams are essentially made of healthy individuals. This is a valuable tool to link the human element of our organisations to strategic goals, and while there is not a “one size fits all” we are able, as leaders, to drive a “fit for purpose” solution which encompasses the needs required to ensure our teams feel valued, secure and recognised.
Employee wellness includes both physical and mental wellness and has a great impact on employee engagement. According to experts in psychology and specialists on the hierarchy of needs, engagement is a key physiological need required for people to be able to focus on higher levels of work. We continue to encourage HR teams to see the value in understanding the benefits of effective wellness programmes.
Focusing on the experience that employees have with the organisation, specifically in this new remote/flexible working environment can only have benefits including:
- Boosting productivity
- Improving job satisfaction
- Improving diversity and inclusion
- Greater employee loyalty
- Investment by employees in the organisations vision
“Many suggest that ‘people are our most important asset,’ but today, that should be modified to ‘our people are our clients most important asset.’ HR initiatives that foster the right talent for clients will have much more lasting impact in our current unknown world. As clients experience dramatic pandemic change, talent must adapt as quickly (e.g., using digital information to access products and to manage people virtually).”
– David Ulrich, University of California, Los Angeles
An easy way for organisations to improve the employee experience in these uncertain times is to give them a voice. Moving on to re-shape and re-define how we translate the needs of our people, will provide a clear roadmap, to leverage our organisation’s human capital; addressing both the objectives and indeed challenges that will now lay ahead. We have all learnt to expect the unexpected, and the foreseeable future is going to bring its own hurdles that will require an empathetic, human focused approach.
While it is healthy to acknowledge the challenges this year will bring, it is also important to understand the opportunities we have in 2021 to positively impact teams through effective HR management.
Organisations should position themselves to thrive by embracing the trends mentioned above, adapting to new situations, and evolving to become more successful. Let us learn from the past year to come together and build a better future.
Candice Neumann is executive consultant at 21st Century.