2020 has been unlike any other year we’ve ever experienced. It has changed the way we do business. It has changed the way we interact with employees. It has changed the way we think about work. And it’s very possible that these changes will be permanent.
No department or position has been exempt from these changes. Everyone has had to make adjustments to their strategies, forecasts, roadmaps, and priorities. The Human Resources department is no different. In fact, it’s easy to argue that the HR department has had to undergo more change than any other department in an organization.
Ultimately, HR is responsible for people. The “human” aspect of human resources is the prime focus of dedicated HR professionals. 2020 has changed how humans work, where they work, and how they communicate at work. To say that HR has had to be “flexible” would be a laughable understatement. HR teams have basically been forced to re-think and re-learn everything they knew about organizational structure, employee engagement, hiring and onboarding, and communication technology.
Many of these changes have been positive, while others have been extremely challenging to adapt to. What we do not yet know is whether this new way of doing work will continue, even beyond the pandemic. Our guess is that they will. The way HR has changed in 2020 will become standard practice in 2021 and beyond. It’s up to each of us to continue to adapt, learn, and grow while we adopt and embrace the new world of HR.
So with that as an introduction, let’s dive into the 5 ways HR has changed in 2020 and the reasons why HR will never be the same.
New Tools and Technology
Before 2020, many people’s number one association with the word “zoom” was with those old Mazada commercials. Now, it’s the ubiquitous tool that millions of people are using to communicate via video. Of course, this likely isn’t the only change you’ve made when it comes to technology in 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of companies worked in office settings where communication could be handled either in-person or over the phone. There was never any stress about seeing faces or wondering if the other people on a call could see your screen. Of course, this has changed dramatically and HR departments have had to act quickly in order to adapt. After all, communication is one of the most critical functions of an organization.
So you’ve adopted Zoom and maybe you have a tool like Slack to help employees message each other throughout the day. But what other tools and technology platforms do you need to maintain and build a healthy company?
During the pandemic, thousands of companies have realized that keeping employee documents in filing cabinets, or housing employee information in a spreadsheet, or having a PTO system that requires employees to submit a written request just isn’t practical anymore. HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems) software platforms have been adopted at record rates as companies begin to value the ease and accessibility of a cloud-based solution.
Additionally, companies have adopted software like Lattice to help with measure and track employee performance, 15Five to help keep tabs on employee engagement and satisfaction, Asana to track tasks, align goals, and manage projects, and Miro to collaborate and brainstorm in a digital environment.
Technology has become more important to the function of a business than ever before, and we’re lucky to be living in a day and age where there are many great products and services available. Choosing your tech stack and implementing across the company has been a major change for thousands of HR professionals. But as we become accustomed to working with these tools, our gut is that we’ll never abandon them, even if when we return to the office.
Need help getting set up with the right HR technology? Check out Eddy.
Onboarding, even when done in the office, has posed a challenge for many companies. Getting onboarding right takes a lot of effort, and for some reason, many companies haven’t been interested in making that effort. This leads to massive turnover in the first 45 days of employment and makes hiring and training employees even more expensive than it already is.
So if in-person onboarding is already proving difficult for more many companies, we really need to double down and focus on how to create an effective remote onboarding experience.
Here are some ideas that will help you get it right.
Just because you’re onboarding a remote employee, your goals do not fundamentally change. The goal of a good onboarding process is to get the employee up and running quickly, and provide them the proper information and training so that they can succeed in their job and learn how to operate within the culture, norms, and routines of the company. So with that in mind, you simply need to figure out how to do that well from a distance.
Like any onboarding process, this likely starts with completing the necessary paperwork on or before the new hire’s first day. If you’ve previously had the employee review and sign their paperwork in the office, you’ll obviously need a new strategy to deal with this now. Luckily, there are some great software options that make digital document signing easy. You can use products like DocuSign or HelloSign to create and distribute digital documents, or, if you’re utilizing proper HR software, this capability should be built right in. For example, Eddy allows customers to send all required onboarding documents in a customizable new-hire packet which is sent to the new employee before their start date. The new hire simply needs to log into Eddy and sign their documents, and then a copy of the documents will be stored securely in the new-hire’s employee profile.
Beyond document signing, you’ll need to develop a way to “set up” an employee’s virtual desk or at least give them the tools they’ll need to succeed. If you’re working with an office worker, this typically means getting them a laptop, a monitor, and other hardware to do their job properly. In a remote scenario, you’ll need to pre-configure the laptop with all the software the employee will need to do their job. Either send a team member to drop the equipment off at the new hire’s house, or ship it to them by mail.
Along with shipping or delivering the necessary equipment for the job, you might also include some company swag to help your new hire feel welcome. A shirt, hoodie, mug, or hat goes a long way in helping someone feel like they are a part of the team. Handwritten notes from team members are also an easy way to make a positive impression.
Finally, once the new hire is up and running, help them make friends and build relationships throughout the company. They will obviously get to know their direct manager and their team members, but you don’t want to limit them to just a few friends. Offer to introduce them to other people, have them participate in cross-functional meetings, introduce them in front of the company during a Town Hall meeting, and give them opportunities for mentorship and training.
Company Culture with a Distributed Workforce
Although technology has made many parts of the remote work easier, it cannot and does not replace the company culture you built while working together in an office. Some things, no matter how hard we’d like to try and replicate them, just cannot be done virtually.
At Eddy, we’ve missed some of these traditions while working from home. Something we love to do as a company is have one of our salespeople ring a massive gong each time they bring on a new customer. The gong sits in the middle of our office, and when it’s hit, the sound is unmistakable no matter where you are. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a virtual gong that rings with the same effect. But we’ve done our best to maintain the company culture of celebrating a sale in new and different ways.
Likewise, it’s critical that your HR department thinks deeply about how to maintain the company’s culture when some or all of your employees no longer interact on a regular basis. Even if your company has or is planning to return to the office, it’s likely that some percentage of employees will want to continue working from home. In this case, it’ll be important to build traditions and cultural experiences that are inclusive of all your employees, and not just the ones in the office.
So what are some things that you can do to maintain your culture in a virtual environment?
First, make every employee feel like they matter. The best way to do this is to present your employees’ options so that they can choose the scenario that suits them.
For example, when your company returns to the office, there will undoubtedly be some employees who would prefer to stay home. Why mandate a return to the office if an employee has a different preference? Be flexible and let the employee make their own choice. If they’ve proven that they can work effectively in a remote setting, then don’t take that away from them. By putting the employee first and giving them options, they’ll feel a deeper loyalty to your company and that loyalty increases the strength of your culture.
Second, keep communication consistent. Remote workers sometimes go days without hearing from anyone in the company. These gaps in social interaction can be disheartening for some and even depressing for others. Make sure that your employees are not only communicating regularly with their teams and managers, but that they also have opportunities to talk with people outside of their department. Creating virtual meetups or hangouts is a great way to get cross-functional groups together.
Third, emphasize the importance of mental and physical health. A company that burns out employees by overwork or overburdens employees with stress and pressure is not one that values their culture. Remember that 2020 has taken a mental and physical toll on everyone. Not only have employees dealt with the effects of a pandemic, but the civil unrest, protests, riots, natural disasters, and the upcoming election has been exhausting to deal with. Create a culture where time-off is encouraged, mental health help is available, and the title of “person” is more important than that of “employee.”
Running an HR department is hard. Eddy is designed to make your life easier!
There was a time where it was normal and expected to leave things like politics, religion, and other personal beliefs out of the workplace. It was understood that these subjects, along with others, could spark dissension and arguments and would therefore be better checked at the door.
Well, 2020 has been anything but normal, and as we are in perhaps the hottest, most divisive political climate of the last 50 years, it’s been hard to keep politics and business separate.
Coinbase’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, recently published a blog post reaffirming a commitment to keep political discussions out of the office and effectively ban them from his company. This sentiment, which may have been met with yawns only just a decade ago, is now being hotly debated and heavily criticized. Even Twitter founder Jack Dorsey piled on with criticism, saying that, “there are real issues that real people who use these services every day experience. Why would we not acknowledge and connect [these political issues] with our mission?”
Of course, others see political discussion in the workplace as nothing more than a distraction, and that businesses should not champion the causes of political figures, but rather be more focused on delighting their customers.
Ultimately as a company, you will have to decide what is and is not allowed in terms of political discussion in your office. You’ll also need to decide if, as a company, you’ll take public stances on political issues.
However, there are certain things that you should absolutely do in order to mitigate potential damages that could arise from too much political frenzy in the workplace.
For example, discrimination based on politics cannot be tolerated. Managers need to hire and promote the best people regardless of their political affiliation. Any bias towards a member of a political party should result in a warning or even termination.
Additionally, if you do allow for political discussion in the office, there should be some ground rules that are public and accessible to everyone. Any conversation that turns vicious, offensive, or even abusive cannot be tolerated. Punishment should be strict for violators of these rules. Civil discourse can be welcomed and encouraged, but the workplace cannot become an arena where employees fear retaliation, rebuke, or rudeness just because they have a differing political view.
Renewed Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
As we mentioned previously, 2020 hasn’t only become famous (or infamous) because of the global pandemic. Issues on race, diversity, and inclusion have been center stage and top of mind as we see protests for justice and equality on nearly every news channel.
As the effects of systemic racism are being uncovered, our companies should be at the forefront of the movement towards more diverse and inclusive companies. HR leaders need to champion this cause and make concerted efforts to move the needle.
So what can you do?
The first step is to take a comprehensive look at your current workforce. What do the demographics look like? How do the demographics in your company compare to the demographics of the city you operate in? Are there certain departments or teams that have less diverse representation than others? Take an inventory of how you’re doing today so that you can benchmark your progress as you plan for a better future.
The second step is to analyze your hiring processes. When you begin searching for candidates, is the job description you share written to be inclusive in order to attract a more diverse set of applicants? Do your hiring managers avoid bias in the screening process by hiding names while scanning through resumes? Do you give underrepresented minorities chances to interview? Are you proactively reaching out to underrepresented minorities in your network or in their communities when a job becomes available? There are so many small, simple, but important ways to ensure your hiring process is fair and inclusive.
The third step is to eliminate anything in your company’s culture that is purposefully exclusive or uninviting to a group of people. Sometimes these things can be hard to recognize and even harder to eliminate. A great way to understand what in your culture might be offensive or uninclusive to a certain group is to get opinions from your employees. Ask the women in the office if they feel excluded from a particular event or tradition. Ask the people of color in the office if they feel uncomfortable with any of the current practices. Get a diverse set of opinions so that you create a culture that is welcoming to diversity.
The fourth step is to ensure that your compensation plans are fair and equitable. We cannot continue to pay women less than men for the same work. We cannot continue to pay black and Hispanic workers less than white workers for the same work. Racial and gender wage gaps absolutely must be eliminated and the place to start that change is within your own company. Take the time to review the compensation of each of your employees. Compare compensation against others with similar titles and similar years of experience. When you find wage gaps, be quick to resolve them. Do whatever it takes to get your employees on an equal playing field.
2020 has changed a lot of things, and it’s definitely changed the way we think about HR. Human Resources continues to remain one of the most vital departments within a company because it is the glue that holds everything together and keeps the company running when times get tough. Adaptable, flexible HR managers and professionals will continue to adjust and improve their companies, despite how difficult the changes might be.
Remember that many of the changes we’ve seen in HR are not going to go away. As the world evolves, so does business. For this reason, it is important that you really spend the time and effort necessary to ensure the changes you’re making are the right ones.
Evaluate your software tools and make sure you’re using technology that is right for your company. Review your remote onboarding process and do what you can to make it even better than your in-person onboarding. Think deeply about the ways you can maintain and improve your company culture, even when no one is in the office. Make rules and set boundaries when it comes to difficult conversation topics like politics. Ensure that your company is a safe-haven for those with diverse backgrounds. Treat everyone with fairness, equality, and respect.
Some companies will not recover from the disaster that is 2020, but others will come away stronger than ever. Do what you can to make sure your HR department adjusts to these changes so that your business won’t be left behind.