Performance Management

8 of the Biggest Challenges for HR in 2021

By Betterworks
September 14, 2021
6 minute read

As HR departments continue to evolve to meet the demands of a fast-paced, digitally-driven environment, employers are met with a new and distinct set of challenges with each new year. 2021 promises to be no different as organizations strive to identify, develop, and retain talent in more efficient and effective ways, realizing competitive advantages and enhanced culture along the way.

Betterworks Engage is excited to see what enterprises and their greatest assets, their people, accomplish in 2021 and, as always, wants to help prepare organizations for challenges that might arise.

As you’ll notice, none are in any way insurmountable but require sufficient attention, effort, and resources from enterprises to prevent any impediments in reaching goals and vision.

Feedback and engagement platforms like Betterworks Engage will continue to be an organization’s best defense against the toxic effects of poor culture, attrition, and malaise. Be prepared and prescient, maintaining one organizational eye on today and the other on tomorrow to arm your enterprise, employees, and stakeholders against these challenges so 2021 can be a satisfying and productive one.

1. Engaging the Workforce

If you’re at all familiar with what we do at Betterworks Engage, you already know how important we feel employee engagement is to the overall health and future viability of any organization. Of course, we’re not alone in such sentiments as improved employee engagement is already a top priority of HR departments in a recent poll, with 78% of organizations currently having some form of a workforce engagement strategy in place.

Suffice it to say, as enterprises become more people-centric and place their workforce towards the center of nearly all strategies and decisions, employee engagement will only continue to grow in importance in 2021 and beyond. Like most strategies, however, employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight but requires a persistent, calculated effort for it to take root and thrive. While Betterworks Engage provides the technology that powers such a movement, employers should build the initiative itself upon fertile ground with a buy-in from all managers, departments, and team members for it to reach its potential.

Therefore, management must be astute in the policies and procedures they adopt to help authentic, enduring engagement bloom. In 2021, enterprises will be well-served providing managers with sufficient training to help foster engagement within their ranks, including deskless workers. There’s much work to be done, however, as a meager 15% of employees currently feel engaged with their employer. With engaged employees exhibiting 202% greater productivity than those not actively engaged, organizations should revisit their engagement strategies to ensure they’re covering all necessary bases to make certain their employees are as engaged with their work, coworkers, and enterprise as possible.

2. Attracting Talent to the Enterprise

A tight labor market will more than likely make talent acquisition a challenging endeavor for organizations in 2021. Therefore, employers must be intelligent and efficient with their recruiting strategies, ideally centering their efforts around a strong recruiting brand that adheres to an organization’s vision, goals, and ethos, utilizing all available tools for maximum impact.

Like the marketing campaigns they so meticulously coordinate and implement to reach target consumer bases, a recruiting brand should leverage technology to the fullest extent, crafting and distributing the recruiting message across the most impactful channels. Again like consumer marketing, enterprises should also mold their recruitment messaging around the customized career affinities that speak to the individual candidate.

The traditional method of casting the widest possible net to capture the greatest number of job seekers has long given way to a personal, honed approach that identifies and attracts innovative, motivated talent that propels an organization into the future. Technology will continue to play a pivotal role in this essential recruiting dynamic going forward, streamlining the entire process to provide employers with efficiencies that maximize impact while saving resources they can devote to other key areas of operations.

3. Managing Relationships

Job satisfaction and productivity depend on an equitable workplace with open lines of communication and strong relationships between management and a workforce. That critical communication is too vital to an organization’s well-being to relegate it to an employer’s best guesses as to what its employees truly value and expect. To foster healthy, productive relationships, employers will continue to look at feedback as an essential component to a robust workplace and culture in 2021 that aligns vision and values for the betterment of everyone involved.

With an effective feedback strategy, organizations can rely on authentic, accurate, and timely people data to guide decisions that directly impact a workforce and, thus, proactively manage relationships between employees and coworkers, teams, and management. Nothing corrodes an enterprise’s culture as quickly and thoroughly as deteriorating relationships but, with an effective feedback protocol, employers can identify problems before they become systemic.

4. Training & Development Strategies

Given the overwhelming importance of training & development programs, one of the main challenges to HR departments and employers in 2021 is to devote adequate emphasis and resources towards this essential component of growth and productivity. Traditionally, too many organizations have viewed training & development as a sunk cost rather than an investment into stability, innovation, and competitive advantage.

That isn’t to say, however, that such programs must be expensive or time-consuming to be effective. Quite the contrary, a top-down approach that leverages the reach and convenience of technology can be both cost-efficient and useful in delivering training programs that an employee can readily absorb while fitting the sessions into their schedules. Management must lead by example, however, particularly in light of a workforce more reliant on millennial talent by the day.

Therefore, as millennials continue to climb the organizational ranks, career path planning as part of a training & development strategy can clearly define an employee’s trajectory within an enterprise. When that trajectory is well-charted, it removes much of the career-focused ambiguity that contributes to attrition that, over time, reduces the quality of management within an organization.

5. Talent Retention

As stated, a hyper-competitive labor market will continue to be a challenge for organizations. Of course, this notion doesn’t only affect recruiting but, just as importantly, retaining current talent as well. Compensation isn’t enough to keep talent satisfied in their positions and organizations but, as Betterworks Engage has stated in the past, is merely part of a bigger picture that revolves around culture and the employee experience.

Furthermore, many enterprises simply can’t afford to offer employees above-market compensation and benefits packages in an attempt to mitigate attrition. Fortunately, organizations have solutions available that don’t require mortgaging either their current or future financial well-being to find significant results in talent retention.

For instance, research has shown that a more structured, personalized approach to employee onboarding boosts the odds of at least a three-year tenure from the new hire by 58%. Effective onboarding immerses the employee within an organization’s culture and serves as a powerful and effective entry point into a satisfying employee experience that reduces attrition and helps retain ever-important talent within an enterprise.

6. Diversity in the Workplace

Organizations are on the frontlines of a monumental cultural shift, a thought that won’t be relenting or any point soon. Expectations have changed, evolved with the times, and employers must be vanguards for that change or risk falling to the wayside and quickly becoming ineffective and inconsequential, particularly in the eyes of the millennials and Gen Z that will soon define the modern workplace if they don’t already.

A more diverse employee base takes root on two separate but heavily intertwined fronts: an organization’s culture and its hiring practices. Start aggressively including diversity workshops in training & development programs, discussing the repercussions of exclusionary actions and thought but concentrating on the many benefits diversity brings to the work environment as well as the entire organization. Likewise, make diversity a central component of hiring practices going forward, ensuring the workforce evolves along with the ever-changing expectations and demographics across society.

7. Embrace Inevitable Change

As a parallel to diversity, change is a broader term that encompasses many different facets of operations. And while change as a concept is ubiquitous and always present, 2021 promises to be particularly challenging for enterprises that have traditionally made a habit of entrenching themselves in an outdated, stubborn view of business and management.

Between technology, shifting workforce demographics, continually segmenting consumer groups, and countless other dynamics, enterprises must be nimble in the modern marketplace, perpetually ready, willing, and able to make necessary changes. In other words, organizations must continuously embrace change as a part of operating in the digital age. Failure to do so might not ensure that an organization goes the way of the dinosaurs but certainly will make it more difficult to effectively compete in a crowded environment.

8. Employee Health & Well-Being

Feeling healthy has spillover effects to nearly all facets of a person’s life, their career included. Healthy employees are 67% more likely to feel engaged at work which, of course, has benefits to the entire enterprise. Maximizing the collective health of a workforce and realizing the accompanying benefits will again be a critical challenge for employers in 2021 as organizations look for any source of competitive advantage. Since employees are every enterprise’s most valuable asset, keeping them as healthy, satisfied, and productive as possible directly coincides with innovation and growth.

Employers can help their own cause by emphasizing a work-life balance that forms a healthy foundation for team members. When coupled with employer-sponsored stress management, exercise, and general wellness programs, organizations help their employees be healthier and happier in all areas of their lives while reaping the rewards through higher productivity, engagement, and retention.

From a cost savings perspective, a healthier employee base also reduces absenteeism as well as the costs of many benefits. A quick review of headlines on any given day should be all that’s necessary to convince management that healthcare benefits won’t be getting less expensive any time soon, if ever. Therefore, employee health and well-being will be a critical factor in 2021 and one that requires particular attention from HR and management to make workforce health an asset rather than a liability.

Every year has its own set of challenges. 2021, just like previous years, will present organizations with hurdles to overcome — some ongoing from 2020, others new to an enterprise — but hopefully none of which are insurmountable. 






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