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Gartner: 5 future work decisions for HR to address in 2021

Business Chief North America takes a look at the five future work decisions HR leaders need to address in 2021 identified by Gartner

|Jan 16|magazine8 min read

As organisations continue to grapple with the ever changing challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner explains the need for organisations to revisit their hybrid workforce strategies, the role of the corporate office, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. 

In its latest report titled ‘5 Decisions About the Future of Work HR Leaders Must Make in 2021’, Gartner identifies five future work decisions HR needs to address in 2021. 

“2021 will be a year of not just recovery, but renewal and acceleration as organizations adopt new business, technology and talent strategies. Given the tectonic shifts of 2020, HR leaders will have to face decisions they must be ready to make in order to set their organizations up for success,” commented Emily Rose McRae, director in the Gartner HR practice.

Revising workforce strategies

First up on the list is the need to revise workforce strategies., “At some point in 2021, organisations will need to revisit the remote and hybrid work policies written during the crisis,” comments Gartner. 

The report highlights that successful HR leaders will establish triggers for reviewing and revisiting remote and hybrid workforce strategies, instead of waiting for the strategies to be impractical.

Emerging technologies

Next up, Gartner recognises that leaders will need to look at reducing the amount of tasks that are performed onsite, with emerging technologies playing a vital role in achieving this.

“Robotic process automation (RPA) and immersive technologies – such as virtual and augmented reality – are two categories of technology that are likely to help reduce the need for onsite work [...] A 2020 Gartner survey revealed that nearly a quarter of senior finance leaders plan to increase investments in RPA as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Redefining office space

“In 2021, employees will work at home, onsite and potentially in third-party spaces,” stated Gartner, who explains that organisations will need to decide what their corporate offices can offer employees that other spaces can’t. 

To achieve this HR leaders need to understand the emotional needs of employees, and identify opportunities so that the workplace can meet such needs.

“This requires HR to work with other business leaders to make decisions about the purpose of corporate spaces and how to evolve them, while also determining how and when to reduce the organization’s real estate footprint,” added Gartner.

Employment models

“Many organisations experimented with innovative employment models as a pandemic response, such as offering 80% pay for 80% of full-time hours to employees who needed more flexibility, bringing in gig workers for pilot projects or setting up formal talent sharing arrangements with other employers to make up for low talent supply,” reflects Gartner. 

Going forward, organisations need to determine whether to continue using the same employment methods. Gartner states that this will be particularly important for those with a high percentage of older employees in critical roles.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Finally at number five, Gartner identifies diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a key area for HR to address in 2021. With many organisations making new or heightened commitments for more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces in 2020, Gartner states that the demand for employers to “take a stance on current societal or cultural issues, even if those issues have nothing to do with their employer,” have become more urgent.

“In 2021, HR leaders need to evaluate their organisation’s talent strategy to ensure it will meet their commitments to DEI.” 

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