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        6 min read

        HR’s Biggest 2021 Lessons – In Their Own Words

        HR’s Biggest 2021 Lessons – In Their Own Words

        If 2020 was the year of disruption, 2021 was certainly about adaptation, the Great Resignation, and how an employee-centric model will be necessary for employers to successfully move forward.

        As we wrap up the second year of a worldwide health crisis that altered the way we interacted, worked, and attended school, we wondered what lessons — about remote work, culture, and other challenges — business leaders and HR professionals would share with peers. Here’s what 11 of them had to say.



        Michael Moran, Founder & CEO, Green Lion Search Group

        “The tight labor market of 2021 has highlighted the importance of building employee loyalty and improving retention. Companies that have done this well have avoided the short-staffing issues and hiring challenges plaguing many businesses and are best positioned to grow and thrive in 2022.

        As far as how to increase retention, the simplest and cheapest solution is to listen to your employees. Don’t wait until people quit to ask them for their input. Regular pulse surveys and one-on-ones with team members let you get ahead of potential problems in the workplace. Simply being more open to employee feedback can help because it makes team members feel like they have a voice and that their opinions matter.”



        Harriet Chan, Co-Found & Marketing Director, CocoFinder 

        “When the coronavirus pandemic struck our planet, employers struggled to keep essential, front-line workers safe and set up others for remote work. When things started to fall in place, employers also realized they needed to maintain ongoing learning, training, and development initiatives in a new environment. They are also still required to prioritize diversity and inclusion. The HR department and employers learned to focus and provide empathy, transparency, and flexibility to address arising challenges.

        This pandemic has taught me the importance of empathy and honesty. Of course, working in HR necessitates always prioritizing listening to all employees’ needs and concerns, but the stress and anxiety of handling the pandemic demanded something more. Before the epidemic, we assumed that employees requesting “flexibility” meant they wanted to work from home. However, we now understand that they needed the capacity to integrate their work into their lives in a more reasonable manner. Prior to the pandemic, wellness programs were viewed as an employee benefit, but managers were forced to take employee wellbeing into their own hands throughout last year.”

        How to Accelerate Recruiting and Retention with Delightful Benefits


        Jared Pobre, Co-Founder, Caldera + Lab

        “With remote and hybrid workers, many companies are turning to hard data and defined outcomes to measure employee performance. But this may be a miscalculation as it’s merely a numeric description of their work. For this reason, qualitative performance reviews should factor equally with the quantitative assessment when measuring a remote employee’s productivity. While qualitative metrics are subjective, they are the intangibles that drive value down the road. Looking at a team member’s overall performance and how it adds to your objectives is essential in gauging their actual success rate.

        It’s also vital to consider the long-term client relationships an employee has established when measuring their performance. Customer retention is a valuable KPI in quantifying your business’ success and growth potential. Those long-term business relationships are built on empathy and trust. And the relationships you have with your employees should be, too.”


        Headshot_ JayaAiyar

        Jaya Aiyar, Founder & CEO, Créatif and Créatif Franchise

        We’ve learned a lot in 2021, and many of us are happy to put it in the past. But as we look ahead to the new year, I think there are many positives to bring forward. First, we learned to be humble. The Covid-19 virus is a sneaky and unpredictable enemy, and most companies found that “learning as we go” was the best strategy. I would suggest that humility is a business strength in good times, too. Second, we learned to listen. Listening to employees is the most crucial business practice because employees are a company’s #1 asset. Employees live our brand every day. So their feedback, ideas, and concerns are the most honest of all. Third, we learned that HR is a bold, innovative, and noble profession at its core. The HR profession grew up this year, and we take this new role and responsibility in the future. HR departments have to take care of people, simplify, and help the company grow — we have to listen, adapt, experiment, and create.”



        Alina Clark, Co-Founder & Marketing Director, CocoDoc

        "In retrospect, my biggest management lesson in 2021 has been learning how to lead with empathy. The current work environment requires managers to rethink how they interact with employees. Being all technical, or trying to micromanage your employees doesn’t work, especially if they’re working remotely. Moreover, maintaining bureaucratic hurdles and keeping an emotional distance from the employees also leads to higher employee turnover.

        While empathy has always been considered a “soft skill,” it’s never been as important as it is today. Leading with empathy requires the manager to step into the shoes of the employees, and to try as much as they can to safeguard the health and interests of the employees. In my experience, this is one of the key ways to breed employee loyalty within the company. Leading with empathy also empowers the employees to become more engaging, since they can relate better with the management.”



        Minesh Patel, Founder, The Patel Firm

        “Learning to recognize the first signs of burnout and fatigue is everything in remote work. The pandemic has worn everyone down, and though hybrid and remote work can often lead to more productivity, the increased isolation can also lead to burnout over time, which is hard to spot from afar. Having regular check-ins with our team, not just on task statuses but on their stress levels and feelings about the work is essential, and having these conversations in person or via video call is the only way to create the connection needed to comfortably have those conversations.

        Overcommunication is better than too little communication when you’re working remotely. Don’t be afraid to check in with your team, especially if you feel something is off — those instincts are fine-tuned from years of management experience.”



        Tina Hawk, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, GoodHire

        “As the virtual office becomes commonplace across industries, tech adaptability becomes a necessary part of everybody’s skillset.

        One piece of advice I would offer in regards to remote work is the necessity for all of us to be adaptable when it comes to utilizing increasingly technologized workflows. Remote and hybrid work are no longer new or unusual aspects of our professional lives, and we continue to see tech stacks evolving at incredible speeds.

        As professionals, we’ve got to be comfortable adapting to tech upgrades that are essential to both maintaining success, as well as improving growth. This third year of the pandemic will see tech development continue to ramp up, and we’ve got to be ready to maximize those benefits when they reach our desks.”

        Support Employee Wellbeing



        Sam Shepler, Founder & CEO, Testimonial Hero

        “This year, I’ve learned that asking questions is so important in the age of remote work. Even asking questions that seem stupid is important for any situation. I lead a remote team and we are going into a major work transition following the pandemic. I encouraged them to think of any questions possible, no matter how minute and seemingly unimportant.

        I wanted to get all the questions out of the way to start off the transition process. It is also helpful to have video call group discussions when you can in order to see that people are still paying attention to your instructions. It’s clear on someone’s face if they understand something or not. You need to look for the signs when cooperating with these team members.”



        Ryan Brown, Integrated Marketing Director, Kenra Professional

        “One thing that’s hugely obvious is that many people can work well — or even better — when given the freedom to work wherever and whenever they want. Especially for creatives, it’s hugely important that they have the flexibility and little to no micromanagement, which can strain their creative mind. It’s really helpful to keep that in mind when hiring for future positions. You’re opening up a world of candidates if you allow them to work remotely, versus being constrained to those in one city. If location isn’t absolutely critical to the job function, allow remote candidates to apply.”



        Archie Payne, President, CalTek Staffing

        “As we close out 2021, the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last year is that HR must continually adapt to employees’ experiences. Investing in digital platforms that support collaboration and learning are the tools for success in the coming year. Employees are an investment, and reskilling to align with today’s technological advancements, reviewing employee benefits and adapting to changing needs will be paramount. Change must be actioned by HR leaders and not just be an idea that may not materialize. Employees at all levels need to be considered for new growth opportunities in the organization, and HR must be at the forefront of driving this culture of inclusiveness.

        If one thinks about it, HR has become the trusted go-to for both employee and employer to ensure a safe and healthy transformation into the new hybrid work situation we are facing. HR has to define its strategic priorities for 2022 to balance individual and organizational concerns. I would encourage HR departments to be authentic in their approach as we move into 2022 by displaying commitment and actioning inclusive initiatives that build trust for all workers, both on-site and remote.”



        Lynda Fairly, CEO, Numlooker

        “The biggest lesson for HR in 2021 may be the introduction of a new, innovative compensation package for those who work from home. In an increasingly connected world, it’s obvious that remote work opportunities could help companies. Companies would have a larger pool to choose from when hiring and could better meet the needs of their workforce by allowing employees to work remotely on certain days or specific hours. However, HR needs to be prepared for the impact this would have on compensation.

        Compensation Needs to Reflect Remote Work
        Compensation for employees who work remotely is complicated. Jobs that can be done from home require different compensation packages than jobs that require a physical presence in an office. As such, HR must figure out how to account for remote work when creating pay packages. Compensation needs to reflect the job and the employee and cannot simply be based on location.

        Remote Work Means Less Office Space
        This is an obvious change, but HR needs to consider office space when implementing remote work. As more people start working remotely, offices may become more empty on some days. This means that HR needs to adjust their office space just as they would if the office were full.

        Remote Work Means Separation Anxiety and Communication Problems
        Some employees who work from home may experience separation anxiety when their coworkers leave. They may even experience communication problems with coworkers once they start working remotely.”


        Reimagining the Workforce

        The HR pros that shared their unique experiences and lessons from 2021 embrace a new strategy focused on attracting and retaining talent, providing the digital tools for employees to do their best work, and zeroed in on the importance of an inclusive yet flexible working environment. As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic landscape and employees re-evaluate their priorities, drawing on their experience while also prioritizing employee wellness can help you reimagine a company culture that puts employees first.

        HR’s Biggest 2020 Lessons – In Their Own Words

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        Why We Were Thankful for HR in 2020

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