We are now halfway through 2021, and the global COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cause organisations to think swiftly on their feet to respond to shifts in perspective and priorities and reassess future planning. The world has seen a lot of change, and July marks a good time to look at the common HR trends that were anticipated at the start of the year and those that are emerging now.
Whilst the shift to home working might have been a forced one in early 2020 with the pandemic, many organisations are now citing the benefits they have seen by having a remote workforce in place. Many employers are now looking ahead, with the final lifting of restrictions currently postponed to July 2021, to create more permanent agile working options that will provide employees with the flexibility of a part-time return to the workplace (or in some cases, no return at all!). Not all employers will take on this approach, but it certainly looks like many organisations will in some form.
The need for organisations to be agile and innovative with hybrid working extends to recruitment, most specifically with talent attraction. Recent data from Indeed has shown that searches for remote work have increased by a whopping 966% since the start of the pandemic, as the location of the candidate is no longer such a big factor with remote working. Companies who adopt remote working might find themselves with the opportunity to select from a larger talent pool, which may have been limited before agile working had become more prominent.
Though upskilling might have always played a role in learning and development opportunities within the workplace, employers have recognised the efficiency of focusing on upskilling and reskilling before turning to recruitment. To compare the two – reskilling is the development of additional skills to transition into an additional role, whereas upskilling is the training that enables someone to better perform in their current role. For example, for those in sales or retail, there has been a digital shift to e-commerce and therefore certain digital upskilling might be needed to ensure there is not a downward shift in supply and demand. Reskilling meanwhile allows you to reassign talent to best suit the business’ needs.
By upskilling and reskilling, organisations can develop a workforce who are adaptable, agile and willing to learn.
Consider these two recruitment and onboarding scenarios:
Organisations now need to rethink their onboarding process for new employees, especially if they are working to a more remote/home working schedule, to ensure that they can connect with their team without all the ‘real life’ interactions such as hot drink rounds, work shadowing and office interactions. Elements such as work-life balance, online connections and informal team building activities will need to be experimented with to ensure employee satisfaction, retention and ultimately work towards success in the probation period.
A few years ago, you might have said that technology was poised to take centre stage of the workforce, and indeed whole industries, however, the pandemic has caused different ways of working to become the norm (with remote teams, and less need for workspaces) and put employees at the forefront again. Employers are realising, more than ever, that their most valuable assets are their employees and therefore strategies and policies need to be re-evaluated and implemented to ensure that the workforce is engaged, happy, and productive to realise organisational efficiencies.
This also leads to the wider conversation of employee wellbeing and rethinking rewards and benefits packages, as well as the implementation of wellness strategies. Whilst previously organisations might have offered schemes such as free breakfast, fresh fruit available, cycle to work schemes etc, companies will need to be flexible in how initiatives such as these can be implemented in more of a home environment.
The conversation around mental health is more prominent than ever. Mental health charity, MIND, have found that 60% of adults and 68% of young people have said that their mental health got worse during COVID-19 lockdowns. Organisations are urged to take these statistics into consideration and think about how mental health strategies can be implemented, and the conversation opened so that employees feel as supported as can be.
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