James Condon, HR Business Partner at HRLegal

2021 proved to be an extremely challenging year for businesses as many had to deal with numerous hurdles throughout the year. Covid-19 brought challenges from lockdowns to temporary closures, continued remote/hybrid working etc. In addition to this, many businesses had to deal with several other factors including the impact of Brexit and the uncertainty this brought along with increased competition for talent due to the ‘Great Resignation’. These challenges also brought businesses the opportunity to learn and adapt and as we look forward to the year ahead, some of the learnings HRLegal have from its client interactions include;

Learning 1 – We definitely have a ‘new’ normal. 

It is now certain that we have entered a new world of working and businesses need to get with the times as soon as possible. 2021 initially began with many feeling a return to pre-2020 ‘normal’ and the end of Covid-19 was just around the corner. This has not been the case and we are most certainly in a new era. The new era of new ways of working, flexibility and increased employee expectations is here to stay, and businesses need to adapt, or risk being left behind. Flexibility and remote/hybrid working will remain as part of the new world of working long after the pandemic ends. Employees now expect some degree of co-operation from employers with regards to these issues and it is important businesses try to engage and move with the tide. Remote working is not possible or practical in every role or industry but an increased level of co-operation, flexibility and understanding of an employee’s situation is expected now.

Learning 2 – The power dynamic has swung.

The power dynamic between the employee and employee has changed considerably and 2021 certainly highlighted this. The ‘Great Resignation’ became one of the most discussed topics of the year within the business world. Employees have started to consider their role in new ways due to the pandemic with more considerably focus being put on purpose their role, their value and career development potential. The availability of roles has increased dramatically leaving skills shortages in many industries. Employees have on demand access to new possibilities and the option to interview from the comfort of their own home in many cases. Similar to learning 1, businesses now need to adapt to this change and look internally. A major focus on creating retention plans should now be a priority. Retention plans should focus heavily on creating ties and loyalty to the business by looking at creating meaningful responsibilities, a sense of purpose for the employee and development opportunities. Retention should not focus on offering fancy or gimmicky benefits, employees want to know their values align with the company and they have an opportunity to be part of it’s story.

Learning 3 – Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Nobody likes being left in the dark. It leads to isolation, uneasiness and resentment in many cases. 2021 has shown just how important it is to communicate with employees particularly in an ever-changing environment. HRLegal’s most successful clients of the year all had one thing in common, they communicated regularly with staff. The benefits were seen across retention levels, performance and engagement. Communication within these clients came in different styles and methods but were always frequent. Many used a balance of both formal (performance management meetings, townhalls etc) and informal (weekly team catch ups, coffee mornings etc) to keep staff up to date and attached to how and what the business was doing. . Communicating with the top performers and showing them your plans for them is the first step to keeping them.

Learning 4 – Upskilling became a priority.

2021 provided everyone with several new challenges that we have not encountered before. If we take managers for example, regular health and safety changes, manging teams remotely, staffing shortages and increased wellbeing issues all became frequent challenges. The need to upskill employees and provide them with the tools to work in the new environment has become extremely important. Businesses now need to prioritise this area by promoting access to further education opportunities, workshops, etc. The benefit of doing so is two-fold, the business gets a more skilled workforce while also potentially improving retention by creating ties and attachment. As mentioned in learning 2, businesses now need to show staff they are invested in them and that there is opportunity to develop and grow. Investment and creating a roadmap for employees will go a long way to keeping them.

For more information and for expert industry advice, given by HR experts, visit hrlegal.ie.