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By: Jenna Louis on February 9th, 2021

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Future-Proof Your People Strategy: A Review of the Key Takeaways

Business Management & Strategy | Human Capital Impact Forum

On Friday, February 5, 2021, Helios HR hosted the Human Capital Impact Forum: Future-Proof Your People Strategy for 2021. The virtual event brought together over 150 HR and C-level leaders and was moderated Helios HR’s President, Ethan Gill, and included panelists: Monica Dalwadi, Managing Partner at Baker Tilly; Erin Ogburn, Chief People Officer at Kearney & Company; and Vandana Sinha, Editor-in-Chief at the Washington Business Journal.

Thank you to those who were able to attend the event! To those who were unable to attend, the webinar recording is embedded below, or you can continue reading for a recap of the event.

Lessons Learned in 2020 that Have Prepared You for 2021

Ethan kicked off the conversation by asking our panelists about their top lessons learned in 2020 that have prepared them for business in 2021. The panelists all agreed that first and foremost, technology is extremely important for the remote workforce. Technology has enabled employees to stay connected and has provided various lines of communication in the remote environment.

Balanced with technology is the need to ensure employee wellness: mentally, physically, and socially. Team members are faced with varying scenarios and challenges, so ensuring that employees have what they need to be productive has been important.

Open and honest communication between leadership, managers, teams, and clients has also proved to be incredibly important. Leadership plays a big role in communicating changes and tying the work of employees to the mission of the company.

Communicating to employees about how their work helps the business can be a valuable tool to improve engagement and productivity. Open communication also helps develop relationships between employees and leaders and in doing so, provides insight into what is important for employees to maintain productivity, whether that is flexible scheduling, wellness programs, or social interaction.

A quick poll of approximately 150 attendees confirmed that the top business lesson learned in 2020 was communication is critical!

Looking Ahead to 2021, What Challenges are Anticipated?

First and foremost, figuring out a plan for returning to the office. There are so many questions that still don’t have answers that make this a tough issue to tackle. Some of these questions include how quickly employees will get vaccinated, if employees will be comfortable being in large crowds or traveling, and what expectations clients will have on the other side of the pandemic.

A great takeaway that Monica offered was asking team members what their perfect workday would look like – do you work better at home? Or in the office? Do you need time during the day to work out? Leaders may be surprised at how easy it may be to meet employees’ expectations and needs.

Erin pointed out that, as employers, we want to pave out a path and make employees feel comfortable, but leadership doesn’t have all the answers in a time where so much is still unknown, and it's okay to communicate that to employees – it may even be comforting to hear.

Vandana echoed the sentiment that uncertainty remains in so many areas. Companies are starting to ask their employees who even wants to come back, and of those who want to come back, how many days a week will they want to return. Currently there is a high volume of subleased office space while companies work to figure this out.

Changes in Culture

Companies have been working hard to keep their culture alive during the pandemic. Erin highlighted that Kearney & Company has had a very deliberate culture for over 35 years that includes inclusion, trust, and a focus on people, but a lot of that culture was built around being together. In an effort to maintain their culture, they have hosted trivia nights and movie nights to keep employees engaged and connected.

Monica noted hosting events on a regular cadence has proven successful for Baker Tilly. The CEO holds a firmwide meeting the first week of every month, market calls are hosted the second week of the month – these calls highlight team member successes, thought leadership, and other relevant topics. The third week of the month includes Zoom lunch bunches where employees can gather and discuss fun topics like music, football, and virtual schooling. These events provide the opportunity for employees to connect with each other on a more personal level and have helped people get to know each other in a virtual setting.

The Future of Remote Work

Our panelists all agreed that remote work is here to stay in some form. This stems from flexible scheduling needs due to the region’s traffic patterns, the unknowns regarding children returning to school, and the fact that the pandemic has highlighted, for many companies, the remote work model can be incredibly successful.

Finding the right balance for your organization will require looking at the needs of your employees and the organization as a whole. Many companies are looking into a hybrid model in which employees have a balance between remote work and going into the office for collaboration, brainstorming, meetings, and gatherings – things that are all missing from the virtual work environment.

The key is discovering how to continue remote work while keeping the collaboration that you get from in-person work. Finding the right balance can provide a huge uptick in productivity and collaboration.

Our next poll showed an overwhelming 80% of attendees anticipate their future workplace will most likely be a hybrid model that allows for remote and in-person work.

The Shift in Talent Strategy and Recruitment

The shift to remote work has allowed employers to change the way in which they recruit. Once companies were able to prove their success in a fully remote environment, it opened the door to a much larger talent pool through nationwide recruitment. With the intense focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, having nationwide access to talent has allowed companies to tap into a more diverse talent pool.

Our next poll showed a divide in recruitment efforts – 46% of attendees said they are hiring talent across the U.S. to work remotely while 56% said they are continuing to hire locally.

That said, our region continues to attract and hire new talent – a whopping 72% of attendees responded they are growing and hiring either a little (40%) or a lot (32%).

The Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Topics like racial justice and inclusion have become a major focus in the past year or so. To address this incredibly important subject that has gotten so much attention in the past year or so, Ethan asked our panelists what steps they are taking to demonstrate that they’re committed to being inclusive, ethical, and socially responsible.

Across the board, there was an emphasis on the fact that this is a journey and not something that can be solved quickly and easily. It also is important that these topics cannot fall by the wayside; it can’t be a short-term movement or fad. It takes a lot of work, introspection, time, and commitment to keep the movement alive. Encouraging conversations and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion in the business strategy are crucial steps.

Vandana recently published an article about the Washington Business Journal’s Corporate Diversity Snapshot. The snapshot will look at the level of diversity within a company’s C-Suite, Board Room, and across the organization. The idea is to put progress on display and highlight the companies who have found success.

Monica also mentioned the implementation of a Retention Warn Line program. This program allows employees to call an anonymous ‘warn line’ to help unhappy workers. The caller is paired with a case worker who will help the employee to resolve the issue before they decide to leave the company. It’s been proven to have an 82% save rate – meaning 82% of the individuals who utilized the warn line resolved their issues and stayed with the company. It’s something that is actionable and focused on retention.

Looking Forward to 2021… and Beyond!

As we look forward to 2021 and beyond, the focus in 2021 will include:

  • Wellbeing – keeping the spotlight on taking care of employees, including mental health and wellbeing
  • Inclusion – staying dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Vaccinations – determining how employers play a role in the vaccination developments
  • Environment – figuring out what the future of work looks like for your company and figuring out what type of office space works best for your business

As you continue to plan and prepare for the year ahead, here are a couple of critical items to have on your radar for HR in 2021.