Four Biggest Challenges for HR in 2021 for Mid-Sized Businesses 



Last year, HR professionals faced issues never before imagined. Now, although the pandemic remains a very real danger, there is a positive end in sight and we look forward to returning to some level of normalcy in the coming months.


However, for the near term, as HR teams look ahead to 2021, many of the challenges are continuations of ones from 2020. HR leaders are charged with helping the company navigate through to the “next normal.” To do that, HR leaders must address the challenges their own teams are facing. 


Challenge #1: Keeping burnt out HR workers engaged

Organizational leaders have been concerned about employee burnout for years, but in 2020, stress levels skyrocketed as HR helped employees deal with a pandemic and its physical, psychological, emotional and economic fallout, along with rising recognition of systemic inequities in the country and companies. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of HR professionals said they were emotionally exhausted last year, and 2021 has not yet provided significant relief. 


These issues were overlaid on any ongoing business objectives. Almost 55% of HR teams still have an overwhelming amount of projects and programs leftover from last year to handle. 


Teams must maximize productivity and efficiency to unburden HR employees. By looking for opportunities to adopt automation and provide more self-service for non-HR teams, HR employees will have more time to approach problems strategically and not just focus on addressing emergencies, which will help them stay engaged. 


Challenge #2:  Recruiting the right candidates

The fallout from the pandemic has been catastrophic in many sectors of the economy, with unemployment rates reaching a high in the spring 2020 of 14.7%. Fortunately, that rate has decreased, but it still means that talented candidates are out of jobs. 


While that is an opportunity for organizations looking to hire, it also means that when companies have job openings, HR teams need to find efficient ways of assessing the many candidates to find the best fit. Most companies will also need to do this with a tighter budget. 


Having a clear understanding of what people and what skills are needed is vital. Companies need access to updated projected versus actual headcount and planned versus available budget. 


When the right candidate comes along, companies need to move them quickly but thoroughly through the interview process. So they don’t miss out on high-value candidates, companies should use technology tools in their talent and acquisition process to accelerate recruitment.


Challenge #3: Improving diversity and inclusion

Calls for equality and inclusion have been staples of events in the last few years, and in 2020, the demands became louder than ever, and the world began to listen. As citizens began looking at their communities and themselves for action, employees began to look at their employers for the same. 


With the heightened focus on diversity and inclusion, corporate D&I programs have taken on an increasingly important aspect of culture-building and employee engagement efforts. Companies emphasize data-driven insights to address the gender, racial and ethnic makeup of the organization, and how people are recruited, hired, promoted, and retained. These insights should be used to address equity for underrepresented groups who may experience unconscious or intentional bias in their career development and progression. 


Challenge # 4: Addressing permanent or extended work from home

Although some businesses are returning to in-office work (and some never left the frontline), many organizations have decided to extend work from home or make it a permanent option. When many businesses went to remote work during the early days of the pandemic, HR teams worked with IT, accounting, and other departments to ensure employees had the equipment and systems to do their jobs. 

HR also made sure to address any discrepancies in income taxes or accounting subjects created by geography or municipalities.


As new employees are hired, HR will need to continue to onboard them to ensure the equipment and processes are in place. This smooth transition is especially important to make certain that remote employees can quickly get up to speed and feel part of the organization.


HR teams must find new ways to help new and experienced employees feel part of the team. During the beginning of the pandemic, many leaders increased communication with their team with check-ins, and virtual events. Leaders should continue this intentional interaction. In addition to check-ins, more frequent performance reviews, access to training and development, and regular virtual events will be vital in weaving employees into the organization’s fabric.


HR’s plate will be full in 2021. Technology like SyncHR’s HCM can help ease the administrative load while providing the data and insights needed to address these critical issues effectively. 

SyncHR powers the tech teams that power the world. If you’re interested in seeing how we help our customers modernize their HR, click here to schedule a short 20-minute demo 



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Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela is a freelance marketing writer who specializes in Human Resources and HR technology. With 16 years of HR and writing experience, combined with a journalism degree and an MBA, Pamela delivers compelling content that engages the audience and effectively conveys the marketing message.

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