HR and Recruiting

What HR should prioritize in 2021

Written by Eric Titner

To call 2020 a turbulent year for the work world is an understatement, to say the least. Nearly every conceivable industry was thrown in a state of unprecedented flux, resulting from a massive jolt of disruptive forces—including a global pandemic that’s impacted every facet of how we approach work, as well as a tidal wave of technological innovation that’s forcing a rapid evolution in how business is conducted on a global scale.

The pace of these breakneck shifts that are impacting the world of work would have been nearly inconceivable just a short while ago, but that’s often a key aspect of change. We don’t always see it coming, but those who respond accordingly to it are best positioned to pivot effectively and find a successful path forward.

Businesses are learning how to make their way through this global historical inflection point. Figuring out how to help navigate their teams through the turbulence and volatility, remaining viable, learning the lessons of history, and forging an innovative path forward are among their primary challenges as they make their way through the early days of 2021—and HR is at the vanguard of helping companies achieve these core goals.

As a business develops and evolves through its operational life cycle, HR professionals are always essential to help keep things running smoothly and to steer through uncertainty and change, and that’s never been more important—and challenging—than at the dawn of this new year, amidst the flurry of operational headwinds and obstacles companies are facing.

It can hardly be argued against that HR teams have a lot on their plates at the moment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things they’re focusing on and prioritizing as 2021 unfolds.

Organizational design

The wave of volatility that characterized 2020 shows no sign of abating in 2021, and it’s forcing many companies to drastically reimagine how they conduct business in an effort to meet revenue targets while hitting key performance metrics. Many are making significant structural and organizational changes to their teams to embrace a more lean and agile mindset, reduce overhead costs, and stay viable during this period of economic uncertainty. These types of dramatic changes can be disruptive and often require the guidance of HR personnel to plan wisely, implement these shifts effectively, and help employers and employees alike adapt to the changes appropriately and thrive in the new paradigm.

Employee support

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has tested the fortitude, resilience, and flexibility of employers and employees alike in new and unprecedented ways. The abrupt and often rapidly shifting changes we’re all being forced to accommodate into our lives are by no means easy to cope with. Everyone from business leaders at the helms of multinational corporations to small business owners to seasoned workers, to those who are just getting started in their career journeys, have felt the brunt of these forces and are struggling to cope with them on a daily basis and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Helping to make sure that employees are doing well and feeling supported and connected is chief among the goals of HR personnel right now, which should come as no surprise. On top of ensuring that workers remain dedicated, focused, and capable of staying productive and meeting their goals without overworking to the point of burnout, beneath the work titles and roles, HR pros are typically caring and supportive individuals who want to ensure that their colleagues are doing okay.

Bridging the skill gap

Things are changing in the work world at breakneck speed, and companies both large and small are trying to pivot accordingly in an effort to stay viable. Those that are able to stay agile and respond accordingly to change will be best positioned to weather incoming storms and lead their industries into the future.

The same holds true for employees. Those who are able to weather incoming volatility, quickly adjust to new baseline concepts of workplace normalcy and demonstrate value to current and future employers will be the ones to thrive—while the rest of the pack struggles to keep up. This means that employees need to stay on top of the latest tools and technology in their industry in order to stay connected and productive—whether they’re working from home, nearby, or halfway around the world.

For some, the adjustments required of us throughout 2020 and into 2021 were relatively uneventful; for others, things have been more difficult, which has been a real source of stress and frustration for many employees. A key challenge for HR pros is to ensure that any skills gaps that threaten to diminish the productivity of employees are recognized and addressed—often through additional support and training to get them confident, prepared, and up to speed.

Regardless of industry or area of expertise, HR teams certainly have a lot to handle in 2021. Those professionals who help their companies address key issues—including the ones mentioned here—will be best positioned for long-term success.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.