3 Employee Policy Shifts to Consider in 2021
Let’s spare a thought for everyone who wrote 2020 predictions about HR. None could have predicted the disruption that the Covid pandemic would have caused, and now its influence is set to continue into next year. The 2021 HR trends we expect to see can all be linked back to the pandemic and how it will re-shape the new working world. Till recently, HR managers were seen to be extremely bureaucratic, defined by rigid processes. Increasingly, however, we see that this perception is changing with the focus more on people than on paper. Their role has come to evolve into holistic people management – helping those who struggle as well as shine.
Even as work culture and dynamics continue to change rapidly, HR professionals are more and more involved in promoting business goals. They are an essential part of business strategy as they ensure that employees are productive, stay motivated, and meet their career milestones – all of which can be tracked through business analytics and are important for strategy. The pandemic has not only speeded up some of the changes in the workplace which had already begun but also brought about some new aspects and dilemmas for organisations.
Here are the top 3 things to incorporate in HR policy in 2021:
1. Institutionalising workplace flexibility:
2020 has been a watershed year for workplace flexibility due to the pandemic. In 2021, an option to work from home, and more flexible work timings are the two major perks to be demanded by the talented professionals across the globe.
Workplace flexibility is tied to the idea of work-life balance, the belief that employees should be allowed to have a life outside of work, and that work shouldn’t dominate this life outside of work. And sure enough, there’s a growing demand for at least some degree of flexibility–particularly among younger workers.
However, coping with such requests would push HR to their extreme, as it will test their management skills and familiarity with technology. When it comes to flexibility in the workplace, it’s easy to think that it applies only to letting employees come and go as they please. But flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean a total lack of structure.
Concepts like Flexi-work time, compressed workweek, remote working and permanent part-time arrangements have already made it to practical work conditions. It helps to understand your team’s needs, limit unnecessary meetings and promote personal interests. Now, HR departments must institutionalise it by creating a solid policy around it.
In addition, HR teams also need to study different aspects of flexibility and not just around commute and working hours. Roles will also need to be flexible. For example – a manager may need to let go of certain controls to enable WFH so a trust-building exercise between managers and their teams will need to be carried out regularly. Similarly, employee flexibility will come into play if they need to be available for a pressing business need, hence realistic expectations must be set along with reality checks from both sides.
Having an appropriate and upgraded technology and efficient HR tools, especially around productivity management or providing employees option to log in to work during a specific duration in a day, are all going to be critical for the smooth working of any business.
From improved retention and increased engagement to raising morale in the workplace, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate more workplace flexibility into your company culture. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might anticipate. The whole point of flexibility is that it recognizes that one size does not fit all. Here are 4 considerations to draft an ideal WFH policy.
2. Ensure we lower fixed cost:
2020 has been an abysmal year for company performance as most of the year was a complete washout. Therefore it is critical for companies to reduce costs to stay afloat. Every department is being asked to trim expenses — and, at the same time, demonstrate the overall value it provides to the organisation.
If your HR department hasn’t been asked to curb expenses already, proactively working to promote effective programmes and reduce spending now can help prevent a future cost-cutting request. Cutting salaries is obviously not a popular option. However, reviewing how your current employee paychecks compare to the rest of the market can help you determine a reasonable, yet affordable raise amount, if at all for each position.
Research is increasingly pointing out the growth of the alternative workforce, both out of choice and necessity are gaining momentum. However, simply transitioning to the gig way of work as a measure of cost control can bring with it many new challenges which in the long run will cost organisations dearly. Though, once you are ready, the question is how can HR prepare for a smooth implementation of a gig workforce?
A good way to do this is to conduct an extensive employee survey to see which policies are redundant. Consider outsourcing services for some time. If you’re trying to determine what HR cost cuts to make, consider involving the employees in the decision — which can encourage employee buy-in, instead of selling the change as a management mandate.
3. Revisiting employee benefit programmes:
You’d have to be pretty heartless not to put some energy into employee wellbeing in 2021, especially after the challenges and disappointments of 2020 it could be hugely beneficial to your entire business. A workplace with negativity is also a result of poorly managed mental health of employees. Most people are unable to handle emotions such as anxiety and fear which often gets expressed in the form of anger, poor focus or social withdrawal leading to misunderstandings or hate and spreading toxicity. This is the main reason employee wellbeing is intrinsically linked to productivity.
So far, employee health and wellness programmes and benefits have typically been linked primarily to health insurance. A few organisations, in addition to insurance, have also explored gym memberships, counselling support, and even nutrition-related sessions. However, the pandemic has revealed that many of these programmes only skim the surface with respect to overall employee well-being. It has led to a significant increase in creative solutions to take care of both mental and physical health of the workforce and led to the introduction of the employee wellness policy.
Employers are actively looking at ways and doing what they can to support their workers despite facing significant challenges. By taking positive action around health and well-being, companies are putting people first, and that’s an investment that’s likely to build employee loyalty, raise engagement and enhance productivity.
Things like online mental health support or employee assistance programmes (EAP) will become more and more popular. They will help with employees’ personal problems or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, or mental and emotional well-being. EAP generally offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counselling, referrals, and follow-up services for employees.
Now it is time for business and talent leaders to redefine the purpose of wellness programmes. Here are a few practical ways to reboot your employee wellness programme in a pandemic era.
We can indeed list more than 3 focus areas for HR policies. But it’s important to start somewhere. After all, budgets are changing, workforces are changing and that means decision-makers might need more convincing to buy into products, platforms and strategies. And it’s simple – you can’t argue with the facts.
The underlying thread for any and all changes we can expect in future will be data. Therefore, the evolution of the HR professional is bound to continue as machines and technology replace tasks once performed by humans. But that doesn’t make people or the HR teams that work with them any less important. Tomorrow’s HR leaders will need to be bigger, broader thinkers, and they’ll have to be tech-savvy and nimble enough to deal with an increasingly agile and restless workforce.
HR teams will tap into the existing data to learn more about the habits of their workforce, which tools they’re actually benefiting from and, well, anything else that the data throws up. What we’re saying in a long drawn way is that, with the 2020 everyone’s just gone through, the pressure is on getting it better if not right in 2021!
At Yellow Spark, we can help you revise and revamp your HR policies. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.