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5 HR trends to look out for in 2021

18 Dec 2020

PeopleGoal’s Nikolaos Lygkonis highlights some of the ways technology will transform HR and people management next year.

HR teams around the world have spent 2020 in reactive mode, trying to remain compliant while managing core HR and overseeing an en-masse switch to remote work.

Add to that constantly evolving C-suite demands and the tall order of maintaining engagement and performance during a pandemic, and it’s safe to say it has not been an easy year for HR.

However, technology has played a vital support role. So, what’s on the horizon for HR tech in 2021? How will it help people teams navigate the ongoing climate?

1. Learning and development from a distance

Organisations will increase their reliance on and investment in employee learning and performance technologies. This will help them upskill and reskill employees in line with the fast-changing environment. The emphasis here will be on best-fit HR technology systems that can support the continuity of learning and development in the context of remote work.

Technology will play a key role in providing HR teams with the visibility they need to determine where skills gaps exist, as well as which gaps need to be filled ahead of others. And, while humans are undoubtedly best placed to map development initiatives, there will be rising demand for HR tech as both a remote learning and development enabler and a process facilitator.

The reason for this is that technology is vital to bridging the disconnect in remote work. It empowers organisational leaders to sustain learning and development from a distance. In and of itself, this sends a fundamentally important message to employees: your development matters to us and we’re continuing to invest in you.

2. HR tech as a driver for transparency and trust

In uncertain times, people crave certainty and they want to know exactly what is expected of them. By offering employees self-service access to their goals, feedback and recognition, HR can support employees’ heightened need for transparency and, by extension, foster an increased sense of trust and improved engagement and performance.

In this way, HR technology can actually be used as a tool to demonstrate positive intent. By recording and tracking employee information and development in an accessible platform, HR and business leaders will, in effect, provide employees with a concrete indication that they intend to continue developing them.

This creates an added layer of security and reassurance for employees and it’s especially important in the current climate.

3. Boosting support and breaking down stigma

Employee wellbeing was an important issue well before Covid, but the pandemic has had a catalytic effect on its rise to the top of the business agenda. Organisational leaders have realised that wellness is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have and it’s one of the few positives to come out of this crisis. So, how will HR technology continue to support employee wellbeing next year? Its impact is twofold.

Firstly, tech-led wellbeing surveys will inform leaders’ understanding of the changing sentiments, engagement levels, issues and challenges that remote workers are experiencing. And, with mounting evidence to suggest that employees are struggling with ‘always-on’ culture and increased stress, HR technology will act as a key facilitator by creating open channels of communication that support early detection of wellbeing-related issues.

Perhaps far less understood is the value of HR tech in breaking down long-standing stigmas around employee mental health. Simply by using technology as a tool to poll employees, organisations can help to normalise mental health in the workplace, demonstrate that it is an important issue to them and, most importantly, denote permission for employees to share their true feelings.

4. Customisation as standard

One of the most welcome trends we’ll see in 2021 is the continued decline of one-size-fits-all HR tech. Customisation is a synonym for agility and, in the current climate, customisable technology is empowering HR to act quickly and in a way that resonates well with specific audiences. Presented in this way, it’s easy to see why demand for customisable HR systems is rising so rapidly.

However, this particular trend won’t end when the pandemic does because although Covid is the crisis of the day right now, the challenge next year may well be a completely different one and that too will call for a custom approach.

So, how exactly does customisable HR tech help here? A customisable solution is, in effect, an open-technology system, whereas a one-size-fits-all system is closed. Any deviation from the standard with the latter and the computer will simply say ‘no’. In many cases, this leaves HR teams with redundant processes that cannot be changed and that fail to engage employees in any meaningful way.

With an open, customisable HR platform, the opposite is true. Organisations that embrace this growing trend will better enable themselves to react and adapt in the best way possible.

5. Defining and depicting team dynamics

Who would have thought that HR technology could depict real relationships by capturing networks in action and enabling visibility of the nuanced dynamics that exist within teams? That’s pretty powerful stuff, but it’s now a reality and it’s something that more HR leaders will be able to tap into next year.

This isn’t a new-fangled technology that has sprung up on a whim, though. It’s born out of a growing need for tech that aligns with the evolving structures of modern-day teams.

The linear model of one manager to one employee is becoming increasingly rare and HR leaders are turning to this emerging HR technology in order to get sight of, and better understand, the new make-up of specific team dynamics. These include multi-manager structures, multi-dimensional relationships and many dotted lines.

In normal times, this would be extremely beneficial. But in current circumstances where remote employees are less visible in a physical sense, it is providing crucial insight and supporting more informed decision-making. It’s also going to be a big-ticket item on the HR 2021 wish list.

By Nikolaos Lygkonis

Nikolaos Lygkonis is founder and CEO of PeopleGoal, a people-management platform based in the UK.

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