The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot to describe this year. There isn’t a business that hasn’t been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s been a temporary shut down, staff having to work from home, or having to navigate the government’s furlough scheme - there have been a lot of business firsts.
As the year draws to a close, it serves as a good time for organisations to take a step back and reflect. While the news headlines are currently dominated by the positive news that vaccinations have started rolling out, it is certain that businesses will not return to pre-COVID norms.
Many of the changes we have seen this year will carry on into the future - we will not be returning to working life as it was at the start of 2020, and in some cases we have not yet experienced the full impact of the pandemic.
So, what does this mean for businesses and HR leaders as we head into 2021 and beyond? We’ve outlined our key predictions below.
HR Qualifications Will Need Updating
As it currently stands, outplacement and redeployment do not currently feature in the CIPD training for HR professionals. We strongly advocate for this to change as we head into the New Year. The job market is in crisis, yet there are huge benefits to any organisation that actively seeks alternatives to redundancy. HR professionals need to know exactly how outplacement and redeployment strategies work, so they are able to make the best case for it to the business leaders.
Redundancies Will Continue to Rise
While the UK Government’s furlough scheme is credited with helping to save millions of jobs from redundancy in the short term, redundancies look set to rise in the year ahead, with the Chancellor predicting that unemployment will increase to 2.6 million by mid-2021.
While the government is doing all that it can to help, it is crucial that organisations do not use this time to delay the inevitable or procrastinate. How organisations handle this issue will have a lasting and long term impact on staff productivity, brand reputation, employee morale, company performance and the wider economy. It is therefore vital for organisations to start workforce planning now, if this has not been started already. This should include alternatives to redundancy including redeployment and reskilling for the creation of an agile workforce.
The Creation of Employment Bridges
In 2021 and beyond, we expect to see a rise in the use of ‘Employment Bridges’. An Employment Bridge is a mechanism that takes surplus workers at one company and finds them temporary employment at another company, while allowing the original employer to retain the ability to recall them when and if business turns around.
As we’ve seen, some industries have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, such as the hospitality and tourism industries. However there are other industries such as security and online retail that have a need for short-term employees to deal with increased demand.
Businesses have found themselves in an unprecedented situation, which calls for an innovative solution. The use of the Employment Bridge is a solution that not only benefits businesses needing a short-term change in staffing, but also keeps workers in employment.
The Rise of the Chief People Officer
We will not be returning to the typical office 9-5 working environment. Many businesses will continue to implement working remote policies, or at least will adapt a hybrid system - and all businesses will need to ensure they continue having the agility in order to respond to further have the infrastructure in place in case of further strict lockdown measures.
Companies will either employ someone to specifically look at company culture, or at least have it as a key part of the job description. Whether it’s to help with the onboarding of new staff, keeping employees motivated or even just recreating the social element of office life remotely - the organisations best place to succeed in the year ahead will be those who take company culture seriously.
The Rise of AI Means Businesses Need to Future-Proof Skills
The rise of technology will continue to have a fundamental impact on businesses and the world of work. In some instances it has created new companies, sectors and in turn job opportunities. On the other hand it has created a demand for a new set of skills that can be hard to fill, and has ultimately meant that some roles have become redundant or are no longer seen as mission critical.
New skills are required to support this shift and business leaders should see the opportunity to enhance careers, protect employees and shape the future of work in a way that benefits all. Changes in technology, longevity, work practices, and business models have also created a demand for continuous, lifelong development and this can bring significant value to the workforce.
There will be more M&As
As we head into another year of disruption, we will definitely see more takeovers and M&A deals - likely on a scale not seen previously.
There will be a great strain placed on HR leaders of these companies to work with the board to ensure that peaceful and smooth restructuring, outplacement and redeployment takes place.