Challenges Talent and HR Leaders face in 2021

Jamie Sharp

Writer & Blogger

2020 has been a challenging year for HR departments and businesses in general. Contending with an unexpected requirement to work remotely to ensure employees remain engaged with their roles and aren’t adversely affected by isolation away from the office due to the global pandemic, HR teams have stepped up and proven their worth. However, this hasn’t come without cost. In a recent survey of 751 HR leaders, 71% agree that 2020 has been the most stressful year of their careers.

A constant theme has been one of change throughout the year, and 2021 is not expected to be any different. As the disruption caused by the pandemic and lockdowns continues, a more permanent shift towards remote working for many companies is becoming the ‘new normal’. Employers find it difficult to justify a full return to the office and are conscious of losing top talent by being inflexible, so continuing with hybrid working is inevitable.

HR managers will need to adapt their employee experience to suit this new way of working and will need to view future employee experience through a hybrid first lens. Technology will significantly impact how HR teams enhance employee experience, whether they implement company surveys or use other tools to measure experience or engagement, that data and analytics will frame their strategic approach.

2020 has been an exhausting and draining year for employees and HR professionals alike. One of the challenges HR leaders face in 2021 is how to mitigate the ongoing stress, connect, support, and lead the workforce through what could conceivably be an equally challenging year. 

What will be the challenges facing Talent and HR leaders?

Focusing on Digital Transformation

Having a customised employee engagement platform allows HR leaders to do more with fewer resources and positively impact the entire company. Simply put, if HR has the tools they need, readily available, they won’t be burdened with administrative tasks but can spend time on strategic initiatives.

Employees receive significant benefits from an engagement platform, providing them with a centralised place to find company updates, stay connected with the colleagues who are also working remotely and maintain a semblance of stability during these unpredictable times.

Fostering Deeper Connections

After numerous lockdowns and many months of having to work remotely due to the pandemic, your employees may by now feel disconnected and remote from your company and their colleagues.

Their sense of inclusion and comradery may have dissipated, and this is an area that needs to be addressed. Reinforcing your businesses’ mission, purpose, and values can foster a sense of belonging. Sharing updates from leaders and teams can also give a sense of unity and purpose.

Many businesses have posted a weekly message from the CEO that employees can react and comment on, building a connection and boosting a sense of community. The CEO becomes less of a figurehead and increases their visibility and approachability to employees across the business.

Keeping workplace culture alive

As we’ve all experienced throughout 2020 and into 2021, long-term remote working can impact your employees’ morale. Recognition of their efforts and achievements has always been essential, but no surprise that it is especially crucial now.

Without the in-person contact with colleagues and line managers, it is easy for individuals to be overlooked and left feeling under-appreciated. Digital tools help organisations improve the culture in the workplace and reward and recognition platforms ensure HR leaders can spotlight excellence across the business even when it is less evident due to current conditions.

These digital tools can provide real-time analytics to HR, showing them which teams receive the most recognition and which departments need additional appreciation. This can boost collaboration and creates a culture of gratitude throughout the organisation.

The challenge of digital recruitment

Even though digital recruitment has been around for years, it isn’t how many businesses had previously chosen to recruit. When overnight, it became the only option for getting new employees into your business, many companies struggled. In fact, many are still finding digital recruitment difficult.

These issues have been amplified by the way the pandemic has played out. As each wave had reduced, companies had reverted to face-to-face recruitment then having to pivot back to virtual hiring when the next peak of the pandemic arrived.

In reality, virtual recruitment may become the norm. The issue for companies then becomes upskilling hiring managers to recruit effectively, including hosting interviews digitally using software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, utilising online assessments and if required creating digital assessment centres.

Rolf Bax, CHRO of added that he believes HR professionals should leverage technology to help with recruitment, particularly AR (augmented reality) and gamification to help identify the qualities and skill sets that companies are looking for in candidates.

Additionally, onboarding packages will need to be more comprehensive to take into account the lack of face-to-face introductions and training new hires would get.

Supporting employees throughout 2021

Employee stress and burnout will be an ongoing issue in 2021 and beyond. Worryingly, so will the associated mental health issues that often accompany stress and burnout. The challenge will be identifying the employees who face more of a struggle when they are not in the office.

Remote working means that there is less interaction between employees and their colleagues. Harriet Shurville CPO at Iris is quoted as saying ‘with people working from home, it is harder to spot that people need help’.

In 2021 companies will need to identify better ways of connecting employees, supporting them, and giving them the reward and recognition that they deserve. Using the right tools, Talent and HR leaders can better face the challenges ahead, supporting their people and setting their company up for success in 2021.

Find out how our award-winning, on-demand recruitment solutions can reshape the way you meet your hiring needs.

Abbey House, Farnborough Road
Farnborough, GU14 7NA
T: +44 (0) 1252 624 699

Useful Links

Social Media


© 2023 eSift. All Rights Reserved.