Human Resources Strategies for 2021: Focusing on the “Human” Aspect of HR

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on February 24, 2021

Two warehouse workers elbow-greeting each other.

Employers and employees entered the 2020’s with high hopes, but met some staggering challenges. The global pandemic disrupted many people in both their personal and professional lives. Fortunately, Human Resources professionals and business leaders are thinking outside of the box to ensure workers are supported and thriving in the wake of an anxious time. Find out how employers are focusing on the people that drive their organizations to move forward from the pandemic.

Human Resources Strategies for Moving Forward

American workers have adapted and innovated to cope with the global pandemic, but a challenging year has created anxiety, uncertainty, fatigue, and feelings of isolation. What started as a temporary set of cautionary measures became a months-long change to the way workers operate, punctuated by resurging COVID-19 cases. Human Resources professionals are charged with the duty of keeping workers productive, content, safe, and inspired in 2021. To move forward, HR professionals and leadership need to focus on the “human” aspect of Human Resources.

Supporting Work-Life Balance

A growing body of evidence shows that if HR professionals support their workers’ personal lives, workers enjoy a higher quality of life while performing their work functions better. As a result, more employers are focusing on improving wellness. SHRM reports employers are offering more benefits and solutions targeting mental health. Long term stress and anxiety can have lasting effects on employees, including detrimental effects on both health and productivity. Over the last five years, employers have focused on onsite stress management programs, meditation and mindfulness programs, and even massage therapy to combat the physical effects of stress and anxiety. 

To drive health and well-being, employers should innovate with wellness programs while offering creative ways to support their employees’ health. 

CTA Block for the Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership Roles

A crucial aspect of effective human resources work is emotional intelligence. For those unfamiliar with the term, emotional intelligence is a set of competencies to enhance your ability to relate positively to others. Recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions is a cornerstone of effective management, as our emotions determine so much about our work and personal lives. Instead of ignoring or repressing emotions, embracing them can improve working relationships while driving productivity. 

According to data from TalentSmart, high emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of professional success, and 90% of high-performers test high for emotional intelligence. In contrast, 20% of low performers test high for emotional intelligence. According to Travis Bradberry, author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” leaders that with low emotional intelligence can have a detrimental effect on their workers’ productivity and morale.

“Leaders prime the emotional state of the organization…So when they’re ineffective, when they set poor examples of how they treat other people, that trickles down throughout the company. It’s very hard on morale, and you start to lose that discretionary effort that you get from people who love their jobs and work in motivating, comfortable environments.” -Travis Bradberry, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

Fortunately, HR professionals can support emotional intelligence at their organizations with the following tactics:

Starting with Self-Awareness

Though it may be easier to look at external metrics of your employees to gauge emotional intelligence, gaining insights on your own situation may be the most valuable way to move forward. Communication with your employees should be a free flow of communication that goes both ways, and you might gain some constructive feedback on your work habits and emotional intelligence through open communication, employee surveys, suggestion boxes, and meetings. 

Open communication with employees is an effective method for driving engagement and improving productivity, but will also provide an avenue for self-reflection on growth of your own emotional intelligence.

Listening with Empathy

Listening (and ensuring your workers feel heard) is an important part of effective communication. Like many skills essential to leadership, it is often underestimated and more challenging than it appears. Listening to your employees requires demonstrated engagement, including verbal and nonverbal communication.

Some common listening mistakes leaders often make include:

    • Listening to truly understand: Deciding what you’ll say before they’re done speaking:  When listening to your employees, it’s important to communicate you truly understand, with clarifying questions and reiterations of their input. Be sure to think about the entirety of what your employee is saying, and avoid making a judgment until they’ve communicated their complete thought. Additionally, your employees need to know it is safe to speak up while inviting further conversation.
    • Ignoring non-verbal cues: There’s much more to communication than the speech alone. Body language and tone tell a powerful story when communicating with employees. Keep in mind that non-verbal communication is also a two-way street, and that you are communicating with your body language and tone of voice while your employees are communicating with you. This can be especially difficult for workers that work remotely. Avoid multitasking or paying attention to other media like phones or other tabs while communicating remotely. 
    • Not following up: Ensuring your employees feel heard requires a degree of follow-up. A great way to communicate your active listening skills is to summarize their response, and asking clarifying questions if anything is left ambiguous. Following a meeting, sending a follow-up email or communication affirms their communication was clear, and worker’s input was appreciated. 

Download our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement

Company culture and values are growing priorities for employees and job-seekers, and employee engagement is more important than ever. Read our eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement” for insights on making your organization a more meaningful place to work.

Download the eBook

Understanding Motivation

Work is more than a wage or a salary. Employees (and employers) are motivated by a world of non-monetary incentives, though competitive compensation is an important piece of the motivation puzzle

The following aspects have been shown to be effective motivators in today’s workplace:

  • A sense of community at work
  • A healthy work-life balance
  • Effective communication with management
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Recognition of quality work and results

For a deeper dive into the chief motivators for todays employees, be sure to download our eBook, “How to Increase Productivity in the Workplace.”

HR Strategies When Employees Can’t Work from Home

Though working from home was nothing new, the social distancing and lockdown protocols made it a necessity for many American workers. According to Stanford economist Nicolas Bloom, the numbers of full-time remote workers, Americans out of work, and essential services workers have undergone dramatic changes since March of 2020. 

“We see an incredible 42% of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time. About another 33% are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26% – mostly essential service workers – are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.”

The Continuing Importance of Safety at Work

Though much of the initial shock of the pandemic has worn off, workers that can’t work from home may have some lingering anxieties related to COVID-19. All these months later, safety and hygiene is still a major priority, and Human Resources professionals should continue to focus on best practices for safety protocols in the workplace. 

Some ideas to promote safety and wellness at work include:

  • Provide workers with mental health resources
  • Open door policy for safety measure recommendation
  • Check in with employees on how safe they feel at work
  • Provide anonymous ways to send employee feedback (employee surveys, suggestion boxes, etc.)
  • Allow flexible work arrangements (if possible)
  • Purchase additional equipment and tools 
  • Purchase additional PPE equipment

Communicating Appreciation for Essential Workers

When workers don’t have the option of working from home during the pandemic, it’s natural for them to feel a degree of anxiety. Showing your appreciation for your workers goes a long way to promote morale.

Some ways to show your appreciation for essential employees include:

  • Buying lunch, coffee, or donuts for your staff
  • Gift cards
  • Socially-distanced parties and happy hours
  • Hand-written cards
  • Shout-outs for individual contributors
  • Buying swag for your employees

Need Help with Staffing?

If you need skilled workers in the aftermath of a challenging time, we offer pre-screened and qualified workers to fit your business. Despite the uncertainty this pandemic has brought, we’re here to provide essential staff with the skills you need. Reach out to TERRA Staffing Group today to take the next step.  

We’ve also created a resource center for employers to give you easy access to the information you need when you need it.  We are committed to being a partner you can count on in any circumstance.

Categories: Employee Engagement Ideas, HR and Management Advice, Staffing Tips & Recruiting Trends


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