Wellbeing | 3 people challenges facing HR teams in 2021, according to HR leaders

3 people challenges facing HR teams in 2021, according to HR leaders

A challenge shared isn’t always a challenge halved, but it certainly helps to understand that you’re not alone as a HR or People Director in the employee engagement and wellbeing challenges your small business faces.

We recently brought together a dozen HR leads for a virtual Executive Leaders Lunch Forum to discuss their people wellbeing challenges, and what their focus and expected trends for 2021 will be.

The discussions that ensued provided real insight, and so we’ve highlighted three specific challenges that could be relevant for your business:

1. Virtual onboarding strategies 

Virtual onboarding was shared as one of the toughest challenges faced by HR Directors. From embedding the company culture, to ensuring the right technology is received and the right virtual introductory meetings set up, it can be a minefield for many businesses.

Key strategies to tackle this included the power of sharing company purpose. Instilling the ‘why’ of the company and highlighting its values can help an employee feel emotionally and culturally connected to the business during the onboarding process, even if they’re physically distanced.

Whether it’s a handwritten note delivered from the CEO, connecting them with a colleague for a ‘coffee and catch up’, or inviting them to a virtual town hall, the emotional onboarding of company purpose, vision and values can have a great impact. In addition, providing all the right digital assets, such as your employee manifesto or leaflet outlining employee benefits, can help give a new starter the tools they need to read and reflect on during those quieter initial few days.

2. Furlough and flexible working options

The furloughing scheme is currently set to run well into the spring, and with over 1.2 million employers registered as furloughing in December 2020, these challenging waters are still being navigated.

Another unique challenge discussed was the different approaches taken to furloughing and the repercussions of this for some employees. One attendee from a digital media organisation noted a particularly challenging situation wherein they made up the 20% salary for furloughed employees to try and compensate for the loss of income.

Whilst the organisation felt this showed a great level of employee care and consideration for those people whose financial wellbeing was potentially at risk, the employees who were still working felt discouraged by the fact that their colleagues were being paid not to work.

Furloughing was also discussed as a challenge from a flexible working and parenting point of view. Some of the organisations present at the Forum had adopted two-week on and two-week off rotas for employee furloughing that meant both the end client or customer was taken care of, and that the employee had flexibility to manage their work and home life with dependents.

Opening up greater opportunities for flexible working hours not only can help with people's wellbeing and productivity, it’s more inclusive for those with constraints outside of work, particularly if those constraints are compounded under the current pandemic.

3. Managing emotional, physical and financial wellbeing across all levels

It’s no surprise that the wellbeing of all employees across the business were a concern for HR Directors. From mental and emotional wellbeing, to physical and financial, it’s likely society at large feels an even greater impact in 2021 than when the pandemic began.

One major theme that emerged from the forum was the lack of focus on the wellbeing of management and senior employees, and the often widespread assumption that because you’re a leader, you’re coping well or don’t require the same level of support as other employees in the business. Whilst required to keep the business functioning, management was reported as being regularly overlooked in terms of their mental health and wellbeing needs.

Focusing on engagement and support systems, such as a buddy system and simply asking ‘are you okay?’, can provide useful outlets for colleagues. More structured solutions have also been proven to provide much-needed support for stress or anxiety, such as the right private medical insurance to provide virtual GPs at your fingertips for busy professionals, or an employee assistance programme with access to a trained, confidential counsellor at the end of the line when they need it most.

Sharing insights – virtual HR Leaders networks

Whilst there were so many topics covered, the biggest theme that came from the session is that while HR and People Directors are largely experiencing similar challenges with regards to their people wellbeing and management, different organisations are taking unique approaches to solve these challenges. All of the attendees of the forum found the insights from different organisations useful, and having the space to listen to and share was helpful.

If you are a HR or People Director and would like to join the next Partners& Executive Leaders Forum, please get in touch with [email protected]

If you have any questions about your existing health and wellbeing programme or would like to talk to us further about how we can help set you up with one, please contact [email protected]

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