HR Insights 5 min

Top HR Goals for 2021

November 3, 2020

At this point, everyone has run out of new ways to say, “2020 has been a tough year.” We’ve had all our expectations turned upside down and felt thoroughly robbed by the last year. And now we’re asking you to look forward to 2021 and think of what your HR goals should be.

The good news is you’ve already dealt with a lot of emergencies in 2020, so you’re that much more prepared. 2020 has also pushed HR and employee experience to the forefront, highlighting just how important they are to a business’s success.

Whatever you’re faced with, your strategic 2021 goals for HR will be at the heart of your organization’s strategy moving forward. As you create your HR goals for 2021, here are few hints to help you plan and prioritize.

Lead the Way

As we’ve already mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight (and a whole lot of work) on HR. But that also gives HR a more central position in organizations. “Just as CFOs have greatly increased their scope since the 2008 financial crisis,” Harvard Business Review (HBR) argues, “CHRO’s now have that same opportunity to become central C-suite players. We believe this is HR’s moment to lead organizations in navigating the future.”

Because of the pandemic’s continued impact, your HR goals for 2021 should answer many of the questions your organization has about its future, like:

  • How will we keep employees safe?
  • How do we make our physical workspaces safe and compliant?
  • Should we keep working remotely, or who should work remotely?
  • How do we communicate our financial plan or situation to our employees? How will hiring or layoffs fit into that plan?
  • How do we keep our employees engaged and maintain our culture during this challenging time?

Make Employee Experience and Wellness Organizational Priorities

In a recent report on employee experience, BambooHR asked HR decision makers in small to medium businesses why employee experience is a critical measure of an organization’s health. One response put it succinctly: “Employees are your greatest strength. Without them, you don’t have an organization.”

This last year proved that employee experience is more than a trendy buzzword. It’s people working from their kitchens, couches, and basements to get projects done during lockdown. It’s people juggling kids and shooing cats away during video conference meetings. It’s people staying healthy or getting sick, in part because of their work environment.

See how other HR leaders are navigating the employee experience era.
Read the full Employee Experience Report.

And we’re not the only ones who have noticed the renewed importance of employee experience. HBR, in an article on HR’s future jobs, points out the challenges of working during the pandemic “have put a new emphasis on the importance of worker health and wellness—and not just in terms of physical health. For HR professionals, this means the future of work will include developing a stronger focus and a more holistic view of employee wellbeing, one that encompasses the emotional, mental and spiritual health of workers along with the physical.”

Here are some questions and ideas to get you started on improving your employees’ experience in 2021:

  • What do your employees need to be healthy and safe? If you’re not sure, now might be the perfect time to measure employee satisfaction, so you can find out what you’re already doing well and what you need to change.
  • Do you have resources you can offer employees? Help employees make better use of the benefits they already have access to, even if it’s just reminding them to get a flu shot. If you offer an employee assistance program, make sure employees know how to get help.
  • How can you encourage a better work-life balance? Educate managers on the dangers of burnout and stress, so they understand that more work is not always better. Track employee hours and PTO to make sure employees aren’t unnecessarily working overtime and that they take their vacation days.

Stay Flexible and Learn from 2020

So 2020 didn’t work out like anyone planned. That doesn’t mean 2021 has to be more of the same, especially in our response to it. As the Evil HR Lady Suzanne Collins points out, “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’re ready.” You’ve had to be flexible, but now it’s imperative to make that flexibility part of your HR goals rather than a defensive move.

A more active strategy for 2021 begins by understanding what 2020 has done to your particular industry and organization. “For many, if not all, organizations the three-year strategic plan may be gone and planning is occurring quarterly,” says Brian Kropp, distinguished vice president at Gartner. “Perhaps most importantly, understanding the future of work is about understanding the permanent workplace shifts post-COVID.”

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Retrain Employees to Meet Workplace Needs

The pandemic hasn’t just changed how we work—socially distanced, masked, or from home—it has changed the work itself. Up to 42 percent of jobs lost to the pandemic may disappear forever and be replaced with some form of automation. The problem isn’t necessarily the change to relying more on robots and AI, which many had predicted. The speed of change, however, makes it hard for workers to adjust and gain the skills they need to find a job.

Much of the responsibility for retraining workers to meet the new workplace realities falls on other shoulders, like the government. But within your organization, the task for identifying and offering new skills training will likely fall to HR, so you’ll want to include technology training as part of your HR goals, especially if you’re not in the tech industry. New hires and veteran employees alike may need help adjusting and learning new skills or tools.

The Best Thing About 2021? It’s Not 2020

Whatever your HR Goals for 2021, we’ll all heave a sigh of relief when 2020 is finally over and done with. We can (hopefully) look forward to better employee experience, which will result in better business success. As an HR leader expressed to BambooHR in the Employee Experience Report, “Happy and engaged employees create better experiences, which leads to more satisfied and loyal customers and, ultimately, brand and company growth.”

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Marie-Reine Pugh

Marie-Reine Pugh is focused on making HR simpler for HR professionals and workplaces a better place for everyone. She pulls from her previous experiences as an educator and six years of writing and researching to explore how to create inclusive company cultures that help businesses succeed.