How on Earth Is HR Supposed to Prepare for 2021? (3 Tips)

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Neelie from AIHR: Can you write an article for us?
Me: Sure. Any topics?
Neelie: Perhaps how in the ^*!&#$ HR is supposed to prepare for 2021?

Ahh, this is such a good question.

HR people have to plan – we have cyclical things we plan for. We know that the fourth quarter brings performance appraisals and year-end raises, and the fiscal year ends in July, so we need to be prepared with a budget. We know that sexual harassment, code of conduct, and diversity training all need to be completed by a specific date, and then we get to follow up with people who skipped out.

This, we’re good at doing.

We’re also good at emergencies. If you come crying because your mom died unexpectedly, we’ll hand you a tissue, explain bereavement leave, and arrange to send flowers from the company. When someone walks out the door and doesn’t return, we don’t skip a beat in posting a job description. When someone senior quits, we pull out our succession plan and say, “Well, it looks like Bill and Kara are both quite prepared for this role. Let’s bring them in for an interview before we look externally.”

If we’re good at planning and good at the unexpected, why are we huddled in the corner with our ice cream, which we eat while ensuring we’re at least two meters away from our nearest coworker. And, we are not sharing ice cream – for safety reasons.

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But, plan for 2021 we will. The only problem is that we need the world to get on board and develop a plan, and the world is not cooperating. Scotland just announced that they are closing restaurants and pubs in many areas to try to get a handle on Covid. Disneyland just laid off 28,000 people because California couldn’t come up with a workable re-opening plan. In other words, our governments make planning extremely difficult. 

But, plan we will – as we always do – and we will deal with the emergencies when they come up – as we always do. That’s what HR does. We’re good at it. So deep breath; here we go.

1. Pay attention

Watch the figures in your area; listen to what the government says. You can guarantee that when given the same scenario, California will act differently than Texas, and France will act differently than the UK. So, numbers alone aren’t enough to make decisions. Follow what the political leaders say in every office location. Decisions are often made on the local level, so do your best to keep up on it.

2. Use your skills to ensure the business’ success

What’s a worst-case scenario for your business? That varies from business to business. Some businesses have been off the charts busy -working around the clock and struggling to stay staffed. Others have laid off and furloughed just about everyone and are hanging on by a thread.

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In the booming business, for HR, it may mean planning ahead for recruiting, training, figuring out retention bonuses, and benchmarking salaries. Remember, if you need to pay new people more to get them to join the business, you need to bump your old staff members. Nothing kills morale like the new guy earning 20 percent more than the long-time loyal employee.

In the dying business, plan for more layoffs, shut down production lines, and closed restaurants. Ask yourself if there is something you can do to use the skills of the staff you still have. It may be time for the business to pivot. Sure, it’s the CEO’s job to figure out how to make that shift, but she or he does so with the help of their executive team. If the HR head isn’t given a seat at that table, grab your folding chair and join – Zoom bombing (appropriately) if necessary. 

The key thing HR can add here is how to look at people’s skills and how to transfer those to new positions. Businesses can rebrand and retool, but they need people to continue to run them – even after the change. As the people expert, you can help determine how the business can use the current staff to perform in the pivoted enterprise. 

3. Conduct an employee survey

What works and what doesn’t? You know some of it from looking at the business, but there is so much you don’t know. How are your employees faring under current regulations? Do they feel overwhelmed with work and home and safety? Is the work-from-home set up sending your extroverted employees over the edge? How is everyone doing mental healthwise?

If you know the answers to these questions you can work to create a plan for 2021 that helps fix some of these problems. Some we can’t fix – if your local laws require employees to wear masks, everyone has to mask up regardless of how they feel about it. But, if your employees know you care and know that you listen to them, they’ll feel better even if you can’t change.

Of course, listening is far more than just doing the (pulse) survey – you have to follow up. So, report back to your employees, “We heard you loud and clear that you’re tired of working from home so we are going to do X and Y starting next week to make things a little bit better.” Or “Everyone reported cracked hands from the repeated hand sanitizing. We’re sending everyone home with a bottle of [super effective] hand cream. Hopefully, this helps a little! Thanks for keeping everyone safe!”

2021 isn’t as scary as we think

We had no idea what we were in for at the beginning of 2020. We’re seasoned now. We know that change will come rapidly. We know that this isn’t going away next Tuesday. We’re ready.

It can seem stressful, but think of how much you’ve accomplished this year! Think of what your employees accomplished! Everyone basically did what we thought was impossible. So, as you prepare for 2021, know that you’ve accomplished great things and look positively toward the future. 

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And fingers crossed that it goes better! Better keep that ice cream freezer stocked just in case.

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