Envisioning Change in 2021

The changing demands of HR in the workplace

By Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP September 17, 2020
Envisioning Change in 2021

​The evolving demands of HR departments force all of us to change both personally and professionally. Now that it's mid-September, many of our organizations are preparing for open enrollment, reviewing and approving budgets, setting recruiting strategy, planning for end-of-year performance reviews and panicking over new laws that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Issues at the forefront involve laws, regulations and HR decision-making, with added focus on employee relations and engagement. Here are my thoughts on HR's evolution in 2021: 

  • Business driver. HR is no longer just a business partner; HR is now a business driver. Prepare to take your seat at the table and guide your organization by focusing on understanding its needs, both internal and external. What are the needs of employees, consumers, shareholders, stakeholders, the community? For supply chains, compliance, education, etc.? Focus on where the organization should improve and how you can drive business decision-making. It will be a challenge—and you will evolve. Apply the SHRM competencies of Communication, Relationship Management and Leadership & Navigation to ensure that you are providing accurate, efficient business-driven HR decisions. 
  • Organizational culture. During this overwhelming time for all employees, HR must focus on the needs of the workforce. How can we improve the culture? What can the organization do better? What benefits or perks can we offer to ease the current burdens in employees' lives? We not only need to ask these questions, we need to create business-driven solutions to help our organizations culturally evolve. The worst thing is to start asking these questions and then do absolutely nothing with the information. Change cultures by communicating, building relationships and analyzing data (the HR competency of Critical Evaluation). 
  • Continuing education and professional evolution. What skills have you developed through this globally challenging event? What did you learn? Now is a great time to focus on yourself and create a continuing education plan for the end of 2020 through 2021. Our personal skills need to evolve, just as the HR profession continues to do so. SHRM, for instance, offers a number of free courses, and the SHRM Foundation offers funding for professional development through scholarships, grants and awards. (In the past, I applied for and received two SHRM Foundation scholarships for continuing education.) Know the areas in which you need to improve, and build a plan focused on those improvements. Set stretch goals and remain disciplined enough to be successful. Change is hard—but absolutely necessary.

The needs of every organization differ. The HR profession must be a key business driver to help guide organizations through this difficult time in society. Do not be afraid to speak up, offer an opinion or make a decision. Recognize a mistake, learn from it and move on. I have all the confidence in the world that HR professionals will continue to be successful business drivers—now and in the future. 

Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting LLC in Elmira, N.Y., and co-owner of Labor Love LLC, is an HR consultant, an assistant professor at Elmira College, and an on-call mediator and fact-finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. He holds master's degrees in business administration and in human resources and industrial relations and is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.



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