2021 was supposed to bring with it the promise of new beginnings. But even now, in February, HR departments are still coming to terms with the challenges that a new working world is presenting. It’s not just a matter of maintaining a safe working environment amidst a global health crisis, it’s also the impact on mental health and how best to manage staffing issues amid an economic downturn.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to make life difficult for us all. But for companies and organisations alike, HR departments must build new workforce and operations models in the face of these new challenges. Here, we list the 4 of the key challenges for 2021.
- Easing Employee Concerns
- Ensure Remote Work Works
- Hiring and Onboarding in a Hybrid World of Work
- Identify Mental Health and Wellbeing Needs
Arguably the most immediate challenge, with the Covid-19 pandemic curtailing business operations across practically every industry. In June last year, global hospitality giants Hilton Hotels were forced to lay-off 22% of their corporate employees, while US economy experts have reckoned at many as 42% of pandemic-related forced job losses are not going to be restaffed when things return to normal.
What this means is that employees have genuine fears they will either lose work or not have a job to return to. And all this along with genuine fears of contracting the coronavirus while struggling with isolation through a lockdown and enforced social distancing.
Easing such concerns is not easy, but HR departments do need to do their best to keep employees focused, motivated and assured. This means actively engaging with employees, encouraging social interaction, provide mental health support and being transparent about the possibility of layoffs.
One of the starkest changes to work is the necessity of working from home. It has become such a critical factor that even the major corporations have embraced the option in an effort to minimise risk to their staff. Microsoft, for example, have decided to continue remote working until at least July 2021.
Many others had adopted a hybrid approach of remote and office-based work. But whatever work model suits, there is now a need to ensure it operates effectively and efficiently for everyone. An investment in technology is critical to this being achieved. Remote working policies may also need to be continually updated to reflect developments in the ‘new normal’ and HR to strategically plan for whatever the future of work might be.
Recruitment has largely stalled but it is likely to recommence as 2021 continues. Managing the recruitment and onboarding processes for new recruits are going to be a challenge, not least because of the remote-focused environment.
From interviewing candidates to getting new recruits up to speed, everything will have to be done through digital and virtual means. Unsurprisingly, technology will be used to identify the kinds of qualities and skillsets needed in a candidate.
Onboarding, meanwhile, will need to be much more thorough to compensate for the lack of face-to-face guidance and hands-on experience recruits used to get.
Statistics have revealed a rise in mental health conditions during the coronavirus lockdown; in fact, the number of adults experiencing depression has almost doubled. And according to an article in the British Medical Journal, the mental health impact of the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the physical health impact.
But even spotting the issue is going to be a challenge for HR departments. After all, with so many employees working from home, the normal modes of detection will be ineffectual.
And even if the signs are spotted, tackling them is made all the more difficult. Offering counselling is complicated by the limited interaction online allows. So, it’s now necessary to adapt mental health and wellbeing strategies to meet the needs of staff.
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