HR Leaders: Challenges & Opportunities To Look Forward In 2021


2021 is almost here, and HR experts are already arguing that several opportunities opened up to transform how they work and service their employees to make life at work more interesting, engaging, and improve resilience.

In fact, the ‘Global Workplace Study 2020’ by ADP Research Institute shows that employees are 13.2X more likely to be resilient when more workplace disruption occurs. Now that we established growing resilience in the workforce, let’s look at other challenges and opportunities that HR leaders are anticipating in 2021.

Re-Prioritize Skills

The World Economic Forum suggests that 42% of jobs will require different skills in the next three years, and 1 billion+ worker will require reskilling by 2030 due to changing technology and economic drivers.

In such a scenario, everyone can be given an equal opportunity to succeed and excel if HR leaders work with businesses to transform employees’ capabilities into distinguished roles to accurately evaluate, spot and develop talent. Here’s how they can do it:

  • HR leaders must first evaluate different roles as the work environment evolves
  • Eliminate roles that could be affected by digitization. This doesn’t mean laying off the talent, but to predict a new role to replace the one that will perish
  • Retain existing employees to retain skills
  • Focus more on adjacent skills of future roles to identify more suitable candidates, provide suggestions for career development and redeploy individuals with the most relevant adjacent skills for the role
  • Provide opportunities to learn Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, RPA, Edge Computing & more, and have them automate components of workflows and work processes.

According to ADP Research Institute study, 44% of employers across 25 countries have official flexible working policies. 

HR leaders also understand that workplace flexibility works best when implemented to address both employees’ needs for work/life support and a firm’s needs for efficiency and productivity.

However, this has to be done in a controlled manner. I say this because recent studies suggest that employees at home are spending an extra 28 hours each month while working from home; this includes weekend teams chats that have increased by over 200%.

In such a situation, an effective version of remote working is to enable a platform loaded with knowledge that colleagues can tap into with a simple search functionality or exploring categories. Even when people are spread across, collective knowledge can be brought to a single place for everybody to utilize and redesign the work model for enhanced responsiveness!


A study commissioned by Microsoft shows that 52% of the respondents feel more valued or included as a remote contributor in meetings because everyone is now in the same virtual room. 

Going by this trend, employees will increasingly demand greater action from employers in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the workforce and continue to pay close attention to culture and social responsibility. In fact, there has already been an increase in the number of businesses seeking partners to close the gaps in their workforce.

Regardless of these trends, it’s in the best interest of the workers and organizations for employers to know people’s needs, make efforts to understand the working styles of each employee, show interest in the development of each individual equally and be empathetic towards employees. 

I believe HR leaders need to develop training modules and facilitate workshops that will help their people managers to – 

  • Encourage every participant for their opinion and acknowledge their answers during team conversations
  • Draw attention to similarities and distinctive strengths across the team
  • Embrace diverse thinking in generating ideas and getting useful feedback to create a culture where everyone feels valued, relevant, and part of a collective mission
  • Give credit to the original idea owner when an individual reiterates someone else’s idea
  • Express how they feel physically, emotionally, and intellectually by taking the Physical-Emotional-Intellectual (PEI) checks regularly.
Balancing Wellness

In addition to implementing basic practices like social distancing, private cabins and more, HR leaders must prioritize and enhance initiatives that promote mental wellbeing. I believe that organizations must do the following – 

  • Ensure employees have access to private clinical wellbeing counselling 
  • Promote the practice of following working hours, take holidays, and avail leaves
  • Promote and provide access to zumba, gym, yoga, and other forms of physical exercises
  • Communicate about employee benefits and initiatives to promote means to balance work and family.

While there has been a constant focus on the overall wellbeing of employees, I believe that the significant opportunity for HR will involve HR leaders combining multiple monitoring tools to gather data. 

Going into 2021, HR teams need to tap into the existing and future user data to learn more about the above-mentioned trends in their workforce and convert them into actionable insights to build resilience, courage and acceptance and enhance the workplace.

By – Vipul Singh

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