Twenty-one months since the pandemic first began to wreak global havoc, surviving to thriving has become the welcome norm and experience for people at an individual, organization, community, and ecosystem level. Only resilient organizations stand the test of time. In a pandemic-hit world in 2021, organizations that adapted with agility, decisiveness and most importantly - with heart - are the ones that have stayed the course and even thrived, setting examples of growth every day when prioritizing their most valued asset – their people.
HR leaders from across sectors are investing maximum thought into building strategies that empower employees - from workplace transition to employee well-being to continued learning and development in order to help employees transition from surviving to thriving.
2021 in a nutshell
- A year of building resilience
The pandemic brought unique challenges, but also plenty of growth opportunities that people embraced. While the lines between work and homes blurred, it allowed employees to spend more time with family whilst experiencing flexible work hours – as organizations invented new ways to engage employees, enhance morale and improve productivity. Human and organizational resilience was tested time and again – with dramatic changes in the ways of working. This is the experience of a lifetime, and sets a benchmark for speed, agility, re-invention and resilience.
- Living in ambiguity but staying grounded with purpose
When the pandemic struck there was no playbook or framework for anything. As companies started adapting and evolving, making decisions about infrastructure, people, while continuing to serve customers, consumers and communities, the complexity around health impact grew from days into months. However, companies with strong value systems and relationships were able to adapt and thrive. Decisions that would have taken months to arrive at were taken in a matter of days driven by values.
- Protect your people first
During these difficult times, it became imperative for organizations to make decisions about people. While some companies had to make tough choices in terms of layoffs, some businesses chose to stay true to the idea of – “Protect your people first”. These organizations think for the long term, prioritize employees and their well-being at the expense of profits, build for long-term growth and create employee trust and loyalty like never before.
- Placing mental health at the forefront
With the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic and the restrictions and isolation of extended lockdowns, many people felt disoriented and lost their bearings, often borne out by a sense of inability to cope with the changes. This is especially true of employees who had been infected with the virus, or experienced personal loss and needed support both emotionally, medically, and financially. They needed a safe space that made them feel heard, protected, and valued. This placed utmost responsibility on leaders, peers, team members collectively in organizations to lead with empathy and understanding, to activate and amplify initiatives to support employee mental well-being.
Smooth transitioning into the new year - 2022
As we are set to move into 2022, smart organizations will take the learnings from the past year to build an evolving, flexible, agile, and empathetic workplace. The upcoming year will be critical for HR leaders and they will be required to support innovation and experimentation, build new strategies to identify, recruit and retain talent. Here are some trends we can expect to see:
- War for talent
The pandemic has thrown up new business opportunities across sectors – from the startup ecosystem to accelerated e-commerce, to innovations in healthcare delivery. E.g., the healthcare-tech industry is now booming with cutting edge technology-driven solutions adopted during the pandemic. Such changes have resulted in a dynamic marketplace for talent with options available in a highly competitive hiring landscape. Staying ahead and true to the organization's purpose will ensure it remains in the best position to respond to this.
- Relationship of work-worker-workplace has shifted
I believe that people will re-think some fundamental questions: Why do I come to the workplace? Who am I as a worker or what’s the impact of the work that I do? For some people, their work itself may not change drastically, but how they do it will certainly change hereon. For some people even what they do will change. If you look at customer development, marketing, and traditional functions, many of these will look very different in the short to medium term.
- Foundation and basics have become more amplified
The world was on a different path before the pandemic – our outlook on money, career trajectories, even relationships – was quite different. There is now a perceptible shift in society: there’s a big emphasis on health, humanity, community, society, choices, purpose and more. People are shifting gears, deciding what’s truly important to them in their lives and making decisions accordingly. And organizations will have to learn to adapt to this new way of thinking.