Five future of work decisions HR must address in 2021

Wednesday, 20 January, 2021

Five future of work decisions HR must address in 2021

As HR leaders work to address the changes in business environments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner, Inc. has identified five future of work decisions HR must address in 2021.

Emily Rose McRae, director in the Gartner HR practice, predicts that 2021 will be a year of not just recovery, but renewal and acceleration as organisations adopt new business, technology and talent strategies.

“Given the tectonic shifts of 2020, HR leaders will have to face decisions they must be ready to make in order to set their organisations up for success,” McRae said.

Major shifts in customer behaviours and government regulations, alongside changes in organisations strategy and policy, have substantially shortened HR leaders’ planning horizons.

Revisiting workforce strategies

At some point in 2021, organisations will need to revisit the remote and hybrid work policies written during the crisis, with HR leaders establishing triggers for reviewing and revisiting their organisations’ remote and hybrid workforce strategies, rather than waiting for the strategies to become impractical.

Gartner identified two types of workforce triggers — talent and situational. Talent triggers ensure that business leaders can monitor threats to the organisation’s talent strategy. Situational triggers enable HR leaders to identify challenges emerging from strategic decisions, such as having teams in different regions and at one-off locations.

Emerging technologies for onsite tasks

HR leaders will need to find ways to reduce the necessity for employees to perform tasks onsite, with emerging technologies to help achieve this. Robotic process automation (RPA) and immersive technologies — such as virtual and augmented reality — can help reduce the need for onsite work.

RPA addresses barriers to create more efficient workflows; as a result, organisations have turned to this technology as a solution for business recovery and renewal. Immersive technologies will help organisations create new channels for high-value digital interaction; HR leaders should consider how investing in these technological tools will create demand for new roles or skill sets.

Redefining the office space

In 2021, employees will work at home, onsite and in third-party spaces. Corporate offices will need to strive to meet employees’ physical and emotional work needs, and determine what they can offer employees that other spaces cannot.

To do this, HR leaders must understand employees’ emotional needs and decide where the workplace can meet these needs. This requires HR to work with other business leaders to make decisions about the purpose of corporate spaces and how to evolve them, while also determining how and when to reduce the organisation’s real estate footprint.

Innovating employment models

In 2020, many organisations experimented with employment models, such as offering 80% pay for 80% of full-time hours to employees who need more flexibility, hiring gig workers for pilot projects or setting up formal talent sharing arrangements with other employers to make up for low talent supply.

Organisations must decide whether to continue using these employment models; this is particularly relevant for organisations with a high percentage of older employees in critical roles — offering more flexibility in when employees are working and how much they work can help retain employees who otherwise might retire.

Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

Many organisations made new or heightened commitments to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces during 2020. In 2021, HR leaders will need to evaluate their organisation’s talent strategy to ensure it meets their commitments to DEI.

“Recruitment, compensation, performance management and workforce planning strategies all need to be evaluated to ensure they are in alignment with the organisation’s goals and values, particularly if those shifted during 2020,” McRae said.

Image credit: © Nivens

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