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HR Leadership Session: Insights

Is it 2021 yet? Actually, shall we just jump to 2022?

As we head towards the back end of a challenging year, we thought it would be worthwhile to share some insights from our recent HR Leadership webinar so you can see that:

1) You’ve not been alone in the challenges you’ve faced and –
2) You’re not the only one looking at 2021 thinking we’re not out of the Covid sh*tstorm yet.

The good news? Despite everything, people are still winning, and the future of work is a little bit closer. The HR leaders we brought together were from a range of backgrounds and businesses which resulted in a good measure of different ideas and experiences. We’ve handpicked some of the highlights and key takeaways below.

Biggest challenges faced this year.

One that most are on top of now is furlough. The initial process of how the scheme worked was challenging, as well as the selection process of who to furlough. But more recently the challenge has been when, and how, to un-furlough employees with the unpredictable nature of government guidelines and marketplace activity.

Another obvious one for several reasons (crikey Sam, did we need a blog to tell us this?!) – home working. This has been the biggest challenge of 2020 for a lot of businesses. On a practical level, availability of equipment and IT infrastructure for a number of employees just wasn’t ready and IT functions have had to move quicker than they ever knew how to get the workforce who can, working remotely. But, beyond the practicalities of being able to work, many businesses have had faced difficulties with ironing out new ways of working, keeping employees engaged and motivated, and especially as we come to the end of the year, mental health and well-being.

One issue that primarily affects businesses with a blue-collar workforce – maintaining equity and fairness between home working employees and site-based employees. This has proven to be a multi-faceted issue, largely due to the enhanced risk to a site-based worker, perceived enhancement of pay/benefits to home workers and a lack of contact between the two camps, running the risk of an “us versus them” scenario.

It’s not all bad though. The general view is that 2020 has given us some short-term pain, for long term gain and bringing the true future of work closer, quicker. 

Now for the good.

A number of HR leaders cited a growing shift in attitude towards home working, or at least more flexible working, and the acceptance thereof. Cultures that were previously driven by some degree of presenteeism have been disrupted and the ongoing nature of the world and the need to be more flexible in the present day is seeming to help shift the mindset of those that have previously shown resilience to change. Is it going to be permanent? Will the way we work now be the same in 12 months’ time? We can’t answer those questions clearly, but our participants conceded that there would likely be a “somewhere in between” approach in the future.

Has 2020 helped with performance or efficiency? You bet. Several people referenced lower absence levels, better retention rates and improvements in performance. The absence of a commute has clearly given people the opportunity to start a bit earlier or do a bit more work. While allowing flexibility for school runs and actively encouraging time to exercise has seen people working with better intensity at the times they are working, instead of milling around the office kitchen or staring out of the window. Aside from the changes in time at the desk and people performance, businesses have been forced to assess their processes. This has enabled a number of efficiencies to be made – reduced times to conclusion on open ER cases and greater agility for inductions to be made (now virtual) – and therefore earlier start dates. These are just a couple of areas HR functions have seen gains this year.

We talked through a number of solutions, particularly around well-being and creating a safe home working environment. As well as how businesses will transition to more permanent ways of working when we return to a less restricted life. But if you want those trade secrets, you’ll just have to join us at our future events!

If you’d like to be involved in our next HR Leadership webinar, get in touch. 


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Sam Chambers

Sam Chambers

Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant

07458 160 719
01908 032554