HR Trends 2021 by Tanya Spencer & Steph South
We’re always looking for the newest trends in Human Resources (HR), especially now as the pandemic’s turned things upside down. Management 3.0 got insights from two fabulous women who know the industry like no one else.
Steph South, an HR Business Partner for HSBC Technology and Tanya Spencer, former HR business partner for HSBC and the current senior HR business partner at BT, London, share their thoughts. You can also hear their insights on our podcast.
Predictions HR 2021 Trends
Steph: These HR trends (below) were already in play and became accelerated by various events from last year and I see them continuing into this year:
HR Trends 2021: Different ways of working (locations/patterns)
It’s clear there is a need to be more considered and strategic about true flexibility in these matters. Wherever possible, giving people a choice about where and how they work – and trusting them to do so. This isn’t just a topic for HR but provides an opportunity for HR to collaborate across teams, for example with IT, procurement, and those managing offices and office space. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘flexibility’ became a score on something like Glassdoor in future.
2021 HR Trend: Inclusion
While this has always been in focus, events lately have really put it into the spotlight and made all of us realize we can do more in all aspects of inclusion. This is something else I predict will be a Glassdoor score of the future.
HR Trend 2021: Authentic leadership
Last year has been a great leveller in many ways. With the majority of colleagues working from home and facing similar challenges, there are fewer hierarchy cues. Leaders have had to really trust their people, serve their people and communicate with them in different, more engaging and personal ways. In all organizations, colleagues noticed how their leaders behaved and this will have a real impact on talent retention and engagement. The leader of the future is becoming more of a servant leader.
HR Trends 2021: Wellbeing
In particular a focus on mental health will continue into this year. It’s great news that we have a coronavirus vaccine; however, the restrictions and lockdowns won’t cease overnight and this is affecting people in different ways.
And finally, 2020 was the year that agile really did make its mark outside of its usual association within technology. Many people are already working in an agile way without even realizing it. Companies that have reaped the benefits will rightly consider how they can harness this to their advantage going forward. This is going to influence everything from operating models and ways of working to business strategy and change. It will accelerate reinvention. I hope that organizations use this opportunity to transform themselves for the better and don’t look back.
Tanya: In a volatile and uncertain world, predictions are an odd business. However I think there are some trends that will continue, some learning I hope we embed, and a bit of hope to round it all out.
2021 Trending HR Topic: Remote working!
Flexible and remote working have been trends for some time. However until 2020 there was still resistance to working from home from a number of people and organizations. Whilst we have resoundingly proven that most office based jobs can be done from home, I think we are finding that doesn’t mean they are best done from home. Depending on the nature of work and individual circumstances, this doesn’t suit everyone.
I believe we’ll return slowly to a mix of virtual and face to face interactions, with the level of both based on preference and necessity. I strongly believe that the teams should decide their working practices – how often they need or want to collaborate face to face and what is appropriate for the work they do. They know the work and they know what works for them.
Any return to the workplace for those currently at home will be complex. We have people with different health risks, personal circumstances, risk appetites, and who will get vaccinated at different times. Legislating for every situation is impossible. We need to set guidelines and then to empower our teams and our people to find the best ways of working. We have done a great job working virtually – now let’s get better at integrating virtual and workplace to provide the right options for our teams.
One rule I have heard and loved is to design everything as if it will have to be done remotely. This is a great way to capitalise on the digital progress we have made in 2020 and ensure we are ready for any future uncertainty.
2021 HR Trend: Work/life balance
I hate this phrase. It implies the two are distinctly separate, as if your life does not include your work and your work is uninfluenced by the rest of your life. They have definitely been combined thoroughly in 2020.
A quote that resonated with me:
Whilst the boundaries may have become too blurred for some, at least we have broken the myth that work and life are separate. I hope we keep this in mind when designing what we do next.
Trending Topic: Human Connection
It feels like we finally genuinely care about wellbeing at work as a society – physical, emotional, and mental. We are more open, with more support. I hope we don’t lose this as some normality begins to creep back in. We have all had a window into each others lives this past year. I would like to believe we are now a bit more human to each other. I hope that we remember this and we feel safer being ourselves whether inside or outside “work”.
On a lighter note, please let this be the end of “business dress”. Restrictive dress codes have never felt particularly modern to me. We have now thoroughly realised what it is like to be more comfortable and flexible in what we wear whilst working. My favourite dress code was given to me by a former colleague: “Wear what makes you comfortable”, both physically and in context.
However let’s not continue the 2020 lockdown mullet – formal work clothes on top, pyjamas on the bottom.