Top 3 HR Priorities as Your Workforce Returns to “Normal”

As the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what can we do to facilitate a successful future? It’s already obvious that very few businesses will be able to go back 100% to how they operated before.

We see these three concerns as the most mission-critical for HR professionals in 2021 and beyond.

Skills Acquisition

The shortage of workers is filling the news media at the moment. Various reasons are given, including making better money from unemployment payments, fear of infection in the workplace, and difficulties with childcare (which have disproportionately driven women out of the labor pool).

We believe all these factors are at play, as well as the long-term trend of historically low unemployment, which predates the pandemic and arises from demographic shifts as the huge baby boomer generation retires, with less populous younger generations unable to fill the gaps.

Hiring talent will continue to be a challenge. Employers must choose to either sweeten the pot with improved salaries, benefits and working conditions, or provide their own means for workers to upskill or cross-skill; or perhaps a synergy of both solutions.

Employee Experience

Getting workers back into the workplace may require significant changes and concessions. First and foremost, they must be able to trust that leadership really cares about their wellbeing and values their contributions to the organization.

Assurance of health and safety on the job will encourage fearful individuals to return to the workforce, whether to their previous job or to actively hunt for a new one. Steps toward communicating information about the company’s sanitary equipment and protocols could range from contacting employees individually to a series of social media posts.

Enhancement of health benefits will be a primary consideration for employees and candidates. The most significant move is toward more comprehensive mental health care, as we deal with the emotional fallout from the pandemic: anxiety, loss and social isolation, to name a few.

Employee-Dictated Work Arrangements

Options for working partly or entirely from home will be the norm, as will more flexible scheduling for roles where physical presence is required. This effect of the pandemic may never go away, when so many people have rearranged their lives and are unable or unwilling to reverse those changes.

Given the fierce competition for workers mentioned above, we believe that nearly every employer will be forced to offer some flexibility of work location and schedule in order to have a chance at acquiring or retaining their talent.

There will be a learning curve for all of us as we transition out of this life-changing event. Leaders must dynamically adjust their priorities in a situation where everything from employee attitudes to skills needs to workforce availability is evolving before our eyes. Most importantly, support will be needed at every level: individual, team and organization.

Those with the resilience, creativity and flexibility to do so will empower their company to transcend present challenges and steer toward a successful future.