Lauren Winans, Owner and Principal Consultant,  Next Level BenefitsLauren Winans, Owner and Principal Consultant, Next Level Benefits
2021 Predictions for HR
As a new year begins after one of the roughest years in modern history, employers are placing greater importance on the value that HR brings to an organization. New priorities like interim talent, mental health, DE&I, compassionate leadership, and HR tech are now competing with traditional business priorities like executive compensation and increasing shareholder value. Our 5 predictions below outline how HR will have an important role in shaping the future of work in 2021 and beyond.

HR teams will rely more on external partners

HR teams will need to get more work done with less resources, leading to the need for external assistance in the form of contractors, interim talent, and consultants like Next Level Benefits. Leveraging external talent affords HR teams the ability to add needed expertise to their team without having to add headcount (and the cost that comes with it). For example, Next Level Benefits acts as an extension of an HR team to get more work done in a shorter period of time and complete unexpected or complex projects. With deep expertise in HR and employee benefits, Next Level Benefits is an on-demand solution to a lack of team bandwidth or depth of experience. Expect to see HR teams looking for freelancers just as other business functions like IT and Marketing have been doing for years.

Mental health support will continue to be a high priority

Mental health has been at the forefront of employee benefits conversations for years, but the pandemic put a spotlight on the need for robust support services more broadly available to all employees (regardless if they are benefits-eligible or not). Whether it be a greater emphasis on Employee Assistance Programs, subsidizing talk therapy apps, facilitating voluntary group counseling sessions, or providing more time off in the form of “mental health days”, employees are turning to their employers for assistance in taking greater care of their mental health.

DE&I will be a cultural requirement

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are no longer optional within an organization, but a required component of a company’s culture. Employees are seeking employers who care about celebrating a diverse workforce, standing for equity in pay and promotions, and creating an inclusive culture for those working onsite or remote. DE&I initiatives will (and should) be common in 2021, but the employers who truly succeed will be those who take appropriate action, communicate well and often, and foundationally shift their cultures.

HR will put the “human” back into human resources

After a rough 2020, one bright spot is the increased willingness by employers to more broadly consider employees as human beings with needs, with families, with personal responsibilities, with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This obvious fact has largely gone unspoken within many organizations for years, but if 2020 has taught us one thing it’s that we all have struggles, we all have triumphs, and the separation of work and life is just not sustainable any longer. HR finally has the attention of operational leaders looking to infuse humanity, understanding, and compassion into the work and culture of the teams they have finally grown to care about.

Automation will be more vital than ever

HR teams have often gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to technology. After a year of social distancing and remote work, technology like video conferencing, enhanced purchasing and curbside pick-up options on apps, and the ability to track your dinner from the restaurant to your doorstep are quite frankly the only things that has gotten us through the year. Advances in technology have saved the day many times over, and now it is time for HR to have proper and compliant tracking tools for things like leaves of absence, furloughs/unemployment, and soon-to-come COVID-19 vaccinations, among other things. Automating mundane, time-consuming manual tasks will become more than just an obvious need but an imperative requirement to keep companies functional and profitable.

About the Author

Lauren Winans is the Owner and Principal Consultant of Next Level Benefits, a HR consulting practice focused on offering clients access to HR professionals with employee benefits expertise on a consulting, contracting, or project management basis.