4 Emerging HR trends to follow in 2021

The world of work is undergoing unprecedented changes, and it is HR leaders’ mission to ensure that their organisations and people have all the necessary tools, skills, processes and support to thrive. But where do you start? And what should HR do to build and support the future of work?

4 Emerging HR trends to follow in 2021

We at Sympa have the unique chance to work with thousands of talented HR professionals scattered worldwide, in companies of all shapes and sizes. I had countless insightful conversations with HR leaders over the past months. As a result, —and with the help of fellow industry experts—I was able to identify four key trends that HR professionals hold dear for 2021 and beyond.

On top of that, I went around and asked my dear colleagues to share inspiring content in relation to those trends, from attending online courses to exploring new ways of working.

“We find that there’s a common characteristic between all five trends: technology. HR professionals have all sorts of supporting tech at their disposal to build the future of work.”
Kati Tammisto, Head of CX

Here they are, starting with the growing influence of HR across the board.

1. HR to step up and become a trusted business advisor

When businesses navigate uncertain times, HR professionals need to step up and guide the world of work forward.

Being on top of what happens both inside and outside of your organisation gives you the insights needed to deal with a changing business landscape. One way to stay ahead of the game in 2021 and provide your organisation with actionable insight will be to build the right skillset strategically.

Map out your skills

What is the best way to reach your organisational goals? Have the right people with the right set of skills. HR pros will increasingly rely on technology to precisely understand what their people can bring to the table, as well as what skills are missing to meet and exceed organisational goals.

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Kickstart your Talent Management strategy

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3 resources we recommend to explore the topic

  • PODCAST │ Unlocking us (Brené Brown)
    “This is by far my favorite HR podcast. It has both heart and soul and addresses current topics that are relevant globally. In short, it is about the changing world around us.”
    Anna Aarnisalo, People & Culture Director
  • ARTICLE│ How to be an inclusive leader through a crisis (Harvard Business Review)
    “HBR has made their COVID-related articles available for everyone. I like how the article reminds us to prioritise issues of inclusion and diversity, especially in the new normal. This article offers managers specific tactics to promote diversity among employees and future-proof the organisation through inclusion.”
    Kati Tammisto, Head of CX
  • BLOG │ The New Role of HR in the Future of Work (Sympa)
    “This is neither the first nor the last crisis that we will experience globally, and the pace of change is accelerating. Now is a crucial time to learn how we can create HR processes that will be able to withstand future change.”
    Michael Bjerrum, Director, Consulting & Development

2. Explore new ways of working

For reasons that are now obvious to everyone, remote work became the new normal during the pandemic, and we now know that it’s here to stay, even post-pandemic. The increase of remote work calls for suitable and well-functioning processes that ensure a digital workplace supporting your organisation and your employees.

For HR, this means adjusting or rethinking HR processes, processes for internal communication and remote leadership.

Towards flexible working

Of course, no one expects all businesses to become 100 % remote starting tomorrow, or ever for that matter. However, mainstream remote work started many discussions in organisations and has seen the beginning of flexible working. This means that HR teams are beginning to imagine a workplace where employees can work from the office or any other place IF they find it suitable, WHEN they find it suitable.

Mentalities are evolving fast. Tomorrow, the norm will be to spend a couple of days a week at the office, to complete tasks that require teamwork, while working from a calm and remote place the rest of the time to complete tasks requiring a lot of brain muscle.”
Kati Tammisto, Head of CX

Towards new ways of training

One of the most common reasons for employee turnover is the absence of personal growth and perspective. For this reason, constantly challenging employees into learning new skills is key.

Of course, With a drastic reduction in human interactions in the past year, it has been extra challenging for HR managers and team leads to provide a structured approach to developing their skills. Fortunately, from VR (virtual reality) training to simple conference calls, online collaborative solutions are legions. Part of HR’s role will be to introduce new methods/media to learn/grow skills.

3 resources we recommend to build the future of work

  • ARTICLE │ Strategies for building effective virtual teams (Business Horizons)
    “Many of us have undergone major changes when we started collaborating digitally and began working from home full-time. This research shows several strategies for managing remote teams. In the words of the authors (in reference to a Microsoft statistics report about remote working): virtual teams are here to stay. It really is a topic that is now more relevant than ever.”
    Linda Liljeström, Product Marketing Manager
  • TOOLBOX │ Toolbox for working remotely (Hyper Island)
    “Actionable tips and tricks on how to manage frequent online meetings and working remotely have proved very valuable in the remote-first environment, and will continue to be valuable in the future as the way we work continues to evolve.”
    Nora Laakso, Head of Marketing, Nordics

3. Employee experience as THE one North Star

People make successful businesses, not the other way around. As we just went through one of the biggest crisis in recorded history, the world of work was abruptly reminded of this. Now, if we’d have to extract one positive thing from the hectic year 2020, it is that it fueled a worldwide movement to bring people (and, therefore, HR) back at the centre of organisations.

Employee experience and employee wellbeing

While the “COVID-19 pandemic provided a master course, through success and failure, on vaccine development, data deployment, and global collaboration” (direct quote from McKinsey), the overall unpreparedness of organisations has taken a toll on mental health.

A survey conducted in Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US even shows that 66.9 % reported being more stressed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Of course, HR doesn’t have all the answers and cannot fix everything. However, now is a perfect time to shape the future of work based on how your colleagues and employees feel comfortable working. A concrete example of this is to ensure that remote workers have all the necessary equipment to work from home in the best conditions (computer, deck and sitting arrangements, etc.).

2 resources to enhance employee experience and support employee wellbeing

  • BLOG │ HR self-care: The new norm in the age of Covid-19 (HR Morning)
    “It’s a good rule of thumb to first take care of yourself – so you are able to take care of others. This concrete list helps HR professionals reflect on how they can ensure their own workability, now and in the future.”
    Anna Aarnisalo, People & Culture Director
  • MOBILE APP │ Headspace
    “Mindfulness and meditation has a tremendous ability to calm you down in the most stressful periods, while also being beneficial in the long-term as a regular exercise. I highly recommend integrating these types of exercises into your daily life. My app of choice is Headspace – you cannot have missed it!”
    Bjørnar Johansen, HR System Consultant

4. HR tech to unlock time for People

The pressure HR has dealt with this year has been substantial. When a crisis hits, core HR processes and organisational resilience are truly tested. HR tech – without a doubt – is essential if you want to roll with the punches.

Technology to make more time for people

HR technologies are assets, not competition. No one expects technology to replace the human in Human Resources. On the contrary, we expect technology to unlock more time for HR professionals. A time that they can dedicate to higher-valued tasks such as talking to their people.

HR to become data-driven

People data is important. Understanding it means understanding your people: why they succeed, where they struggle, and what they need to be more effective at work. Most teams now heavily rely on data to make more informed decisions and positively affect their organisations, using external data.

Moving forward, we will see organisations increasingly rely on HR to make more informed decisions – from the inside out – to outcompete their rivals.

Building a business case for new HR tech

Getting your organisation to invest in HR technology is not always straight-forward. Read our top tips on how to make your plan of investing in new HR technology a reality.

Read the eGuide

3 resources to understand the value of HR tech

  • VIDEOS │ HR Trends with Tom Haak (HR Trend Institute)
    Lately, I have been listening to talks and audiobooks on HR trends as I cycle. The role HR tech plays in helping during these times is a hot topic. Recent topical themes include the need for pulse engagement surveys for employees working from home and improved recruitment processes that use video and online assessments to minimise physical contact. I highly recommend learning how HR Tech can help you ensure your HR operations stay up-to-date in this changing world.”
    – Thomas Nakai, HR System Consultant
  • BLOG │ The role HR master data plays in connecting your company (Sympa)
    Informed HR decisions and recommendations can only be made if you have a complete picture of your employees. Current developments should hopefully inspire companies to think about HR master data as a necessity.”
    – Jaakko Mattila, Business Development Manager
  • BLOG │  The value of HR is proven under exceptional circumstances (Sympa)
    These times certainly present many challenges, but also a great opportunity to reflect on the core of your business and your current HR operations – including the use of HR tech.
    – Terhi Savela, Head of Sales

The new way of work is ongoing. Don’t miss the train.

It’s impossible to know what tomorrow will be made of. And, truth be told, what would be the fun in that? However, what organisations can do is prepare for the future and ensure that they are ready to function and support their people in the face of change.

One way to cope is to shift focus to the present, gain an accurate understanding of what’s happening now and how current events affect your organisation and its people. The more HR knows about your organisation’s people, the more it can do to keep them happy, motivated, productive, and at work.

With the necessary processes and technology to back you up, these signals can be read in near real-time, data can help make better predictions of the future, and leaders can quickly make adjustments to minimise impact – and take advantage of new opportunities.

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