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The new year has brought a more defined focus on the “new normalsince COVID-19, for many employers: remote working. The impacts of the pandemic have forced human resource leaders to review how their workforces are managed. From performance management to employee engagement, everything looks a little different now.

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You are not alone. At firstPRO, our team of employment experts is following industry trends and tools to help you and your business navigate the uncharted territory we're in. As such, here are our predictions of the top five HR trends to help keep your company culture, employee engagement, and employee experience aligned so your business can thrive with remote workers throughout 2021. 

1. Increased Importance of HR Within Organizations

The human resource department's main objectives are to support your company's employees through recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and employee retention. These have become quite challenging as a result of COVID-19, revealing concerns with the following tasks:

While there have been hiring freezes in industries such as hospitality and retail, more than half of employers report hiring at least one new team member since the start of the pandemic. Still, HR stretches far beyond hiring and firing. Employees look to their organizations for guidance and support during the pandemic. An employer's internal communications can help provide the confidence team members need to feel confident about the organization's direction.

Colleagues meeting around table with leader meditating

2. Focusing on Employee Mental Health

Mental Health and well-being have dropped 33 percent since the start of the pandemic. Chances are, you and your colleagues feel the gravity of the months-long pandemic, and it has weighed on all of our consciences since early 2019. Finding a work-life balance while working from home can be a challenge, though. That's why we believe that advocating for long-term strategies to support the mental health and well-being of an organization's employees will remain an ongoing HR topic throughout 2021.

To accommodate for employee wellness during the pandemic, we anticipate employees will need HR departments to:

  • Be available. HR departments can ensure employees have access to a resource where they can share struggles, frustrations, anxiety, and other feelings. 
  • Show empathy. While team managers are responsible for managing feelings of isolation or pandemic-related mental health issues, HR can address the concern and offer support when job performance is affected.
  • Offer long-term remote work support. In instances where organizations have made remote work a permanent solution, HR departments can provide long-term solutions to support an employee's mental state in the remote workforce.

3. Utilizing Data-Driven Insights

Shutdowns from COVID-19 have changed the way companies monitor employee productivity. HR departments have had to pivot from traditional methods of ensuring performance goals are met and employee satisfaction surveys, to digital tools that provide metrics on employee well-being, engagement, and productivity in real-time. HR departments have to rely on more data-driven insights from tactics such as email scraping, employee monitoring software, and digital employee surveys.

A compilation of the data will help make workplace improvement decisions and future hiring decisions that align with company goals. HR departments will likely use a combination of analytics tools to develop plans and programs that support a business's future projections and talent management. 

4. Adjusting to a Fluid Workforce

Flexibility has steadily been a top priority as organizations grapple with workforce impacts from the coronavirus. From where people work to their office hours, conditions and roles have changed the way we view people management. 31 million Americans lost their jobs due to COVID-19. The layoffs created enormous economic uncertainty and drove many employers to replace full-time employees with contractors to save costs. 

It is estimated that 80% of the workforce will be contracted by 2030. 

The 2021 trend: HR departments putting more thought and intention into their approach to managing human capital and the talent acquisition model for attracting contract or freelance workers. 

Woman with natural hair holding cell phone in surprise

5. Redefining the Employee Experience

We're all still adjusting to our new normal. One benefit of the pandemic is that the overall employee experience was not impacted in response to the transition to working from home. McKinsey surveyed more than 800 US-based employees and revealed that the flexibility of working from home improved engagement and well-being.

80% of respondents say the (coronavirus) crisis is materially affecting their daily work lives.

The McKinsey study indicates a need for HR departments to gain more insight into how employees' daily lives are affected. From there, utilizing employee data, an HR department could redefine the employee experience and the company's culture moving forward.

Looking Ahead in HR

While so many things are different in 2021, HR's focus on supporting human capital remains the same. How it's done and where it's done may have required adjustments and a dash of innovative ideas. However, employee engagement and wellness will be at the forefront of human resource departments for the foreseeable future. 

Contact firstPRO to talk through your hiring needs today.