Two years of COVID. How has it changed Human Resources – and reshaped its future?
A lot. To say the least.
COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic changed everything. Worldwide. Locally. Home. Work.
Some days it may seem like we’ve always done things the way we do them now. After all, everyone adjusted through lockdowns, remote work, virtual everything, delayed re-openings and actual re-openings.
“Two years ago, a global pandemic turned nearly every universal truth about work on its head. Take the very idea of an office. Pre-pandemic, work was a physical place for most people – at least for part of the work week,” says Chris French, EVP of Customer Strategy at Workhuman, one of the researchers behind the report Two Years Into COVID: The Great Resignation Isn’t Over, as Many Employees Are Still Considering Leaving. “When health and safety concerns compromised the office, companies that once refused to accept remote work were forced to allow flexibility so business operations could continue.”
What we do at work now – regardless of where that actually happens – might seem natural, but if we reflect on where we were before the pandemic, you’ll see a lot has changed in HR. Some has remained the same. And change will continue going forward.
What was hot in late 2019, early 2020
Let’s take a look back at the months prior to March 2020. Here are the headlines from HRMorning stories, reflecting what HR professionals cared about most pre-pandemic.
- 13 employee development tactics every manager can take advantage of today
- The 7 hidden benefits of team-building activities
- Retention drives employee recognition ROI
- How to write job descriptions that attract Millennials
- 2020 trends: More employers offering paid parental leave
- In the age of legal weed, new breath tests show promise for employers
Then the pandemic …
In early 2020, the coronavirus started to spread, and was the topic – but not the headline – of mainstream news because it seemed distant from the U.S. As it approached, HR leaders took notice. These HRMorning headlines from late February and through March – before we recognized it would be a full-blown pandemic for two years – reflect what you were concerned about.
- Coronavirus: What employers need to know about travel restrictions
- 13 essential steps to great employee recognition
- Could coronavirus lead to workers’ comp claims? Experts say ‘yes’
- 4 keys to a successful remote work strategy, when you have to close your doors
- Drafting a remote work policy: 5 legal pitfalls to watch for
- 5 ways the COVID-19 crisis will transform HR’s role
And transform it did!
2 years into COVID
Fast forward to now, two years of COVID. Some of our most recent, popular stories include:
- 5 under-the-radar legal risks of managing a remote workforce
- Desired benefits: Parental leave, child care subsidies
- 5 ways to become a more inclusive workplace
- Study finds flexibility is the key to improving employee mental health
These reflect some of the pre-COVID issues and the lingering realities. While most of the topics we’ve always covered for you are still important, the HR approach to addressing each has evolved – and will likely continue to.
Going forward in a workplace that’s learning to live with COVID-19, here are some of the biggest HR trends.
Hiring at heart of matter
Spawned by the pandemic, HR will continue to face turnover issues and a volatile labor market. So hiring right remains a critical factor for companies going forward, according to Monster’s Future of Work Report.
“The future of work appears strong,” says Scott Gutz, CEO at Monster. “But we must recognize the long-term effects of the pandemic and its impact on work/life balance, a growing skills gap, and employee well-being. The findings in our report also indicate that competition for talent is extremely high and will continue to increase through 2022 and beyond.”
The biggest issue could be the skills gap. Eighty-seven percent of employers have struggled to fill positions because of skills gaps. That’s up from 80% the previous year.
But HR leaders don’t need to fear it. Embrace the skills gap. Nearly three-quarters of managers and HR pros are willing to hire and train candidates with transferable skills.
The key might be to broaden job descriptions to focus more on desired, transferable skills and performance outcomes. Then you might loosen experience and education requirements so roles become more attractive to people who can deliver the skills, interest and adaptability to get the work done.
Employees need to connect again
You might curb turnover by helping employees connect on different or deeper levels.
“At a time when people are questioning how they spend their time and how they make a living, HR and business leaders should take a step back and think about ways to make work less transactional – and more human,” says French. “Doubling down on connection, community, and belonging makes the most sense financially, in terms of mitigating turnover. And it’s also what employees expect.”
HR leaders will want to work up and down the chain of command to ensure employees become engaged in the workplace again. To help build connections, you might get a team of executives and front-line managers to put together a social and professional plan that includes appreciation, recognition, fun and meaningful events and interactions.
From there, involve employees more. As they come back to the workplace – and even if some stay remote – perhaps they can take the reins in organizing social events and resource groups that fit their needs in the post-COVID workplace.
Amp up diversity, equity & inclusion
Nearly every organization is emerging from the pandemic with an eye toward continuing to increase diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
But fewer than 40% of companies actually have a DEI strategy, according to the McLean & Company HR Trends Report. Instead, many organizations are more reactionary to DEI. While they might plan initiatives and execute some ideas, they tend to address issues as they come up.
Going forward, companies want a more defined strategy. In fact, DEI-proactive companies are more productive, effective with their HR functions and successful with employee inclusion efforts, the McLean researchers found.
To build a strategy that is progressive, consider – and address – these key areas:
- the level of diversity across the organization
- how diversity, equity and inclusion play out for employees now – and how you want it to play out going forward
- ways to create alignment and commitment across the organization for all DEI initiatives
- how you’ll train for your DEI initiatives, and
- how you’ll sustain efforts and evolve with time.