COVID-19 Employer Resource Center


By: Ber Leary on December 29th, 2020

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8 HR Items to Put on Your 2021 Checklist

Business Management & Strategy

As one year ends and another begins, it’s the ideal time to start preparing for the challenges ahead. There are some standard things to put in any preparedness checklist, such as reviewing your staffing plan, ensuring open enrolment is working, and talking to department leaders about their resource and training needs. But after the extraordinary events of the past year, you may need to include some additional items to your checklist 

What HR Leaders Should Be Thinking About in Preparation for 2021 

Here are a few questions to ask to ensure you’re prepared for the year ahead. 

1) Do employees feel understood and supported? 

2020 was one of the most extraordinary in years in living memory. There was upheaval at work, and many people faced what some experts called a “tsunami” of mental health issues. Employees have done a tremendous job of staying focused through it all, but they’ll need continued support throughout 2021.  

This is an ideal time to plan regular check-ins for the year, such as monthly pulse surveys to assess employee wellbeing. You may also need to review Employee Assistance Programs to ensure that everyone has the support they need.  

2) Are your total rewards packages ready for next year’s challenges?  

Last year, people really understood the benefit of a well-designed total rewards packageThere’s a greater focus on things like health insurance and access to remote working, as well as flexible training strategies and meaningful recognition programs 

In 2021, employees will expect to see more benefits that help with the post-pandemic period, including support for remote working and flexible leave policies. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that some employers may have to scale back their outlay on compensation, training and benefits. If you’re in the latter situation, it’s best to communicate to employees as soon as possible and set expectations for 2021 

3) Do your org charts reflect the current structure? 

Last year, the idea of “business as usual” gave way to the concept of “The New Normal.” Nobody really knows what this New Normal is yet, but hopefully it will emerge over the course of the year. One thing is for sure: office structures have fundamentally changed in the past 12 months.  

It’s worth starting 2021 by reviewing your organizational structure and seeing what’s changed. The switch to remote working may have affected team structures in some parts of the business. There are also financial challenges ahead for most companies, which will mean that most managers will need to do less with more, leading to further restructuring.  

4) Have you considered new policies for full-time remote workers? 

Remote working is here to stay. Around 16% of employees expect to continue telecommuting after the pandemic ends. For employers who are new to remote work, this means creating a set of long-term remote work policies to cover things like scheduling, training, communication, and health and safety.  

Remote working has also made it easier for companies to hire outside of their locale, with some even acquiring employees from other countries. This raises some important questions about compensation, like whether everyone gets the same salary or if it’s appropriate to vary remuneration according to the local cost of living.  

5) Has the company clarified its position on vaccines?  

Fingers crossed, 2021 will be the year of the big Covid-19 vaccination program that will allow us to return to normal. But not everyone is enthusiastic. 20% of Americans are vaccine-hesitant, which raises ethical and legal questions for employers. Even though the EEOC has provided initial guidelines on the vaccines for employers, it still leaves us with many questions. Can you force employees to get vaccinated? Can you allow non-vaccinated workers to return to the office?  

It’s a delicate issue that requires a lot of consideration. Now is a good time to talk to employees about the vaccine. This will allow you to build a policy that accommodates everyone while keeping their colleagues safe. Also, think about how you’ll need to support employees. For example, you may need to offer time off to get vaccinated, or you might set up a reminder scheme so people don’t forget their booster shot.  

6) Have you prepared for any upcoming legislative changes?  

2021 sees a raft of statewide changes to employment law, with California facing especially dramatic new legislationIf you’re in the Golden State, you’ll have to consider changes to minimum wage, contact law, diversity requirements, and several rules related to Covid-19. Other states are bringing in their own laws, so it’s a good idea to double-check with your local authority.  

On a federal level, 2021 will see a new President who has promised to be more worker-friendly than the previous administration. We’re still waiting to see how this will take shape, and much depends on the Senate run-off elections in January. In general, however, you should watch out for greater support for unionization, increased minimum wage, and stronger legal protections for workers’ rights.  

7) Are you ready for a cultural reboot?  

The pandemic had an immeasurable impact on culture in every workplace. In the coming year, we will all have to try to build a new culture that supports hybrid teams comprised of on-site and at-home workers. A lot of this will come down to communication technology, with Slack and Zoom as the communal office space for the rest of 2021.  

But this is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to renew your office culture. Right now, at the beginning of the year, is the ideal time to have a high-level discussion of how you want your teams to function. What are your most important values? How should people communicate with each other? What drives each team?  

8) Have you taken a moment to recharge?  

Finally, it’s time to reflect on your own experiences this year and prepare for the challenges ahead. 2020 was good at keeping leaders on their toes, to say the least. It was a year of sleepless nights, snap decisions, and working tirelessly to support others.  

The most important thing for any leader right now is to take a moment to pause. You’ve probably been encouraging your people to practice self-care over the last 12 months. Now, you should put some of those self-care tips into practice for yourself. Look after yourself, and get ready to make 2021 a year to remember