As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across the nation and a newly elected government floats policies for economic recovery, we all have reason to hope for better days ahead. As we regroup and regenerate our faith in the future, it’s clear we still have a tough climb ahead.
A divided society, high unemployment rates, business closures and continued coronavirusrelated constraints are resulting in some of the toughest challenges HR has faced. But the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is ready. In 2021, we are committed to delivering the most current research, learnings and evidence-based solutions in real time to empower you to lead the workplace revival.
The COVID-19 vaccine. Most urgently, HR must address the implications of the vaccine on our workplace policies. Whether they recommend or mandate that employees get vaccinated, employers will need to navigate a labyrinth of considerations and exceptions. SHRM will monitor the legal issues and health recommendations closely and provide evidence-based best practices that employers can tailor to their own workplaces.
The 2021 “office.” With organizations considering various work models, HR will take a more prominent role in strategic planning for the physical office, as well as in formulating new policies around remote work. HR’s challenge is to recast the footprint of the workplace while maintaining inclusive, equitable, productive workplace cultures. SHRM will be ready with resources and advocacy on paid leave, flexible work and other considerations for the new normal of work.
Diversity, equity and inclusion. Inequity and discrimination of all kinds will continue to be a focal point for SHRM this year. We will continually enhance content through our Together Forward @Work platform and the work of our Blue Ribbon Commission on Racial Equity, while expanding data and knowledge around LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities and others who routinely face bias in the workplace.
Talent strategies. Less than one-quarter of organizations we surveyed say they will invest in reskilling and upskilling over the next year. But the skills gap has not abated, and as hiring ramps up, 2021 will see a surge in skilled jobs going unfilled. We must redouble our efforts to upskill existing employees and tap into overlooked talent pools such as veterans, people with criminal histories, older workers and people with disabilities.
Mental health. HR’s new role as “workplace first responder” compels us to support workers facing grief, stress, isolation and burnout—from the impact of the pandemic as well as the social strife that defined 2020. The human costs of the events of the year are difficult to assess, but we all know someone who is suffering—financially, emotionally or both. This year, SHRM will explore mental health solutions for the workplace and guide HR leaders to strengthen mental health coverage and wellness resources for workers.
The empathy gap. For a lot of reasons we can point to—stark political divisions, isolation, an erosion of civility—our society and, by extension, our workplaces suffer from an empathy deficit. HR is well-suited and has the expertise to position empathy as a business asset and a company value that can be measured, developed and rewarded in the workplace. We can hire for it, promote for it and embed it in our People Managers. In 2021, the issue of building empathy will permeate SHRM’s resources and platforms.
I am excited about the coming year and the many new ways SHRM will serve our members and the HR profession as, together, we create a better world. I’m glad you will be joining us on this journey, which I believe will be one of the most consequential of our careers.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Photograph by Delane Rouse for HR Magazine.