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HR's leadership lessons to take into 2021

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HR must continue to put its people first and ensure teams stay safe and connected as we enter another unpredictable year.

2020 provided some steep learning curves for HR. The national lockdowns meant that the world of work was thrown into full remote working and HR teams had to react fast to support their teams.

Not only did employee wellbeing became top priority, but HR teams had to manage the extra work of getting to grips with the furlough scheme whilst contending with a lack of resources, time and money.

So what has HR learnt from the year that shocked that world?



HR unites people

Neil Morrison, group HR director at Severn Trent told HR magazine that the biggest lesson he learnt from 2020 is how important it is that his organisation bring people together, regardless of their background.

“We’ve seen how no two people have experienced the last year alike and how so much has been determined by our individual circumstances; whether we live alone or with others, whether we are vulnerable either physically or mentally, whether we feel in control or in the hands of others,” he said.

As leaders of people, Morrison added it’s HR’s job to bring every individual together and create a place where those differences are recognised, understood and appreciated.

“Now, more than ever, work has the power to be a cohesive force in the lives of our employees and in society as a whole, but we have to take the opportunity that we are presented with and shape it for the benefit of all.



Wellbeing is top of the agenda

Linda Mountford, northern Europe commercial HR director of Thai Union Europe and John West Foods said 2020 taught her that HR must always prioritise employee wellbeing.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “With remote working now the norm for many workplaces across the UK, we came away from 2020 knowing that prioritising employee wellbeing is still as important as ever.”

In 2021 John West will bring together its Health and Safety Committee and Wellbeing Champions for at least the first four months of the year to ensure it has a razor-sharp focus on emotional, mental, physical and financial wellbeing.

Mountford said: “We will also continue to embed our wellbeing culture into our business by developing a clear and agile strategy with input and engagement from the wider team using a top-down and bottom-up approach.”

She added HR also can’t afford to take its eye off the ball when it comes to building and developing future business capabilities.“My team will take the enterprise leadership and change transformation capability development and training that we began last year, into 2021.

“Further development of the HR capability of the business will also be key to ensuring that our HR teams can coach and deliver on our change agendas.”



Authenticity is resilience

Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR director at Tata Consultancy Services UK and Ireland said that the last year was a lesson in resilience for a lot of HR teams.

“I really understood the importance of being an authentic leader this year,” he said.

“These leaders did not pretend to know all the answers, but they were able to quickly build trust in their teams by admitting that they were just as in the dark as everyone else.”

Presented with the opportunity to reflect on his own leadership style, he added: “A lesson that I will take into 2021 with me is that it is very important to communicate realistically with your teams, particularly when you do not have all the answers or are unsure of finding a way forward.”

Click here for part two.

Further reading:

Time to hit reset, not rewind: 2021 is an opportunity to re-establish diversity and inclusion priorities priorities

Reward predictions for 2021

HR pressures due to coronavirus set to continue into 2021