HR's leadership lessons to take into 2021: part two


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?

People are stronger together

Sally Coleman, head of HR, Bloomsbury Publishing said that 2020 showed her how great people can be at coming together, even when apart.

She told HR magazine: “It’s clear there is a shared understanding of purpose; that everyone wants to contribute to the conversation, and we all do that best when we feel comfortable - which is something the equal space of on-screen squares has helped with.”

When Bloomsbury’s offices reopen, Coleman said it has already confirmed that it will be using them in a different way, with an increased part of the week available as working from home for all.

“We hope by putting this in place we can retain the positive benefits of working from home mixed with the enjoyment of seeing each other in person, the beautiful part of London we work in and supporting our local lunchtime cafes and shops, and especially bookshops, again,” she said.

“I hope that what remains with HR in 2021 is a shared sense of what we achieved over 2020 – working together with a united sense of purpose during difficult times and responding and adapting quickly as events kept unfolding.”

The importance of inclusivity

Following political events of the past 12 months, and more discussion of how he pandemic has affected existing inequalities Marcelle Moncrieffe-Johnson, group chief people officer at London South Bank University, said that 2021 will have a renewed focus on creating an inclusive employee experience.

To do this, she said HR and employers will have to gain an understanding of the lived experience of Black and Minority Ethnic employees in the workplace, and act on it.

Moncrieffe-Johnson told HR magazine: “Employees are demanding change in equality and fairness, so that all employees can achieve their full potential.

“Smart technology has become more important than location and employee well-being has become central to productivity.”

The notion of the “new normal” she added has also opened a debate around the right to flexible working.

She added: “The ability to engage employees in areas that matter to them has been crucial in maintaining a sense of connection to the organisation.

“Remote engagement is a challenge, an opportunity, and an oxymoron!”

Focus on feedback

Matt Norman, chief people officer at DigitalOcean said that following 2020 he’ll be taking an increased focus on feedback and communication into the future.

“I want to ensure that we continue to prioritise employee health, wellness, and engagement as the pandemic goes on,” he said.

This step forward will include continuing to stress the importance of providing purposeful feedback.

Norman added: “I want to continue eliminating tedious or inefficient work wherever possible, driving meaningful change and celebrating achievements as they come.”

More in this series:

HR's leadership lessons to take into 2021