As we all know, 2020 has not been kind to businesses both large and small. We have seen unprecedented revenue and profit loss and an unimaginable number of layoffs, furloughs, and salary reductions. As the year progressed, many businesses have already written-off 2020 as a complete loss, and have begun turning their attention and energy towards 2021.

The hope for recovery will put pressure for businesses and employees to get back to pre-pandemic levels of performance and profitability. This charge will fall on the shoulders of a significantly reduced workforce because hiring often lags behind economic recovery. As such, the already stretched workforce of 2020 may not be getting a break anytime soon.

One of the biggest questions floating around the business ecosystem now is: Will the increased emphasis on employee well-being and support regress once economic recovery is in full swing and markets and companies demand better results?

Human resource professionals focus on the welfare and well-being of their employees; and as the pandemic subsides, HR leadership will remain just as critical in 2021. This is because companies need to ensure that they do not foster resentment and ill will as they reach out in search of clearer skies.

For many organisations, corporate values in place prior to the pandemic helped guide action plans and responses. Similarly, the values that business leaders focus on now will be a predictor of outcomes in 2021.

According to Andréa Carter, the SEVP and CHRO for Global Payments Inc., there are four traits that may provide the best position for a businesses’ success in the new normal. These traits are:

  • Resilience – The capacity to cope and recover from difficulties during a crisis. COVID-19 has truly tested the resilience of businesses around the world. An organisation’s ability to embrace the new normal of 2020 and practice resilience across business units will better prepare it for what is to come in 2021.
  • Agility – Agile companies are those that are able to recognise social, cultural, and economic paradigm shifts and seamlessly adapt to said changes. Agility is traditionally one of the few advantages that SMEs tend to hold over larger organisations.HR leaders are best suited to advise their organisations on how to successfully adapt to changing environments, especially as employees have increasingly higher expectations for businesses and business leaders to address social and cultural issues.
  • High Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – A new buzzword in the business sphere that has proven itself true. Organisations with high EQ have reaped benefits in the business world, which tends to leave behind those without. Leaders with a high EQ can recognise, understand and empathise with their own and others’ emotions, and turn these reflections into action. Even as the threat of the pandemic passes, stress is likely to remain high and employees will expect an empathetic response.
  • Dynamism – Those who exhibit dynamism tend to commit themselves to activity, progress and positivity, in many ways, a combination of the values above. There is no way to shelter a company from industry pressure or cultural unrest, but being dynamic in response to employees, customers and the community will prove vital to weather any storm.

Finding the right talent and supporting them will also become one of the prime objectives of HR moving into 2021. The real challenge comes with better understanding and identifying the relevant talent. But perhaps more important than selecting talent, the role of HR leaders will be integral in supporting the workforce as team members emerge from the aftershocks of the pandemic. The elevated attention and resources to support flexible work schedules and mental health that the pandemic has brought about will continue to be indispensable in 2021.

Organisations should not wait to prepare themselves for next year. HR leaders need to gather their team and start charting a course immediately to decide their company’s position in the future. Focusing on the right values and cultivating crucial talent will be key to avoiding any more nasty surprises heading into 2021.


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