2020 took every business by surprise and sent us all reeling before the end of the first quarter. The rest of the year was marked by quick responses, workaround solutions, and unplanned shifts in the way we work and do business.
While 2020 was a year of reacting, your company will need to be proactive about moving forward into 2021. Businesses that plan strategically during uncertainty are the ones that survive and thrive in those times.
At IDI, we’ve had to do our share of reacting this year, but we’ve also made proactive decisions at every opportunity. It’s one of the reasons the company actually grew during the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And we’re continuing to take a proactive stance as we move forward — even though there is a lot ahead of us that we can’t predict.
Every business will need to develop its own proactive strategies for heading into 2021, but here are seven areas to keep your eye on.
1) New People You’ll Never Meet
The coronavirus has altered the way companies think about hiring and training their employees. Not only are organizations operating remotely, they also have new health and safety issues to consider for those employees who do work on-site.
Interviews are usually remote, as well, which eliminates the benefit of direct and immediate interactions with candidates. At the same time, remote work may open up your talent search to a wider pool of applicants, giving you more opportunities to hire the best fit for the position.
As you enter the next year, consider how your hiring practices will need to adapt:
- Should you open job listings to a wider geographic area?
- What interview questions will you need to add/omit/modify?
- How will your hiring priorities need to change?
- Without in-person interviews, what types of cues should you look for to assess core value and culture fit?
Onboarding will need to adapt to the new reality of worklife, too. At IDI, we developed an online onboarding system that has had tremendous results. We’ve hired several employees during the pandemic, and we have been able to get them all up and running as quickly as on-site employees before COVID-19. I wrote about our virtual onboarding system before — check out that article for the details.
2) Corporate Culture When You Aren’t Together
The pandemic has shaken up corporate culture everywhere. Working from home is isolating teams, changing dress codes, creating new work habits, and altering coworkers’ relationships. For organizations that still have on-site employees, the workplace may feel like a ghost town — one with plexiglass barriers and arrows on the floor.
Despite these impacts, you can still foster a positive and engaging company culture — one that reflects your organization’s unique core values and personality. Perhaps now more than ever, your employees need to be a part of a company that takes culture seriously and proactively shapes the work experience.
“Resilience” was the keyword for companies that needed to survive 2020. “Engagement” is the theme for organizations that will thrive in 2021. And a purposeful culture will be at the center of employee engagement.
3) Beyond Racism
COVID-19 wasn’t the only disruption in 2020. Racial justice has been a major issue as well, and employees are now expecting their employers to be proactively addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Many businesses are turning to their HCM partners to help find opportunities and to establish a DEI plan for moving forward. In 2020, employers increased their searches on racial and cultural demographics of their workforce by 74%, and increased searches for gender-based demographics by 42%. More and more companies are looking for consulting partners to help them improve DEI in their organizations — it’s a trend that is likely to continue in the next year.
IDI has been actively investing in gender and racial inclusion for years, and we’re continuing to push ourselves to do better. We recognize that it’s not enough to be non-racist, and we’re committed to being anti-racist (and anti-sexist!). When recruiting, we do our part to promote understanding and provide opportunity as we intentionally strive to make IDI a diverse and inclusive place for all people to work and thrive.
More than that, we don’t want to just be part of a moment in history. We want to help drive a movement in history. Starting in 2020, for every employee bonus, IDI has been donating a matching amount to Black Girls Code.
4) Results, Not Hours
Working from home sounds a lot simpler than it is. In reality, employees have also taken on the new roles of teacher, IT support, playmate, and Johnny-on-the-spot. Work interruptions are common, and family life now coexists with worklife.
Your employees are probably working outside of the traditional 8-5 schedule, even if they’re paid hourly. You also have a lot less control over their actual worked hours — they may be putting in less than 40 hours or working overtime and not reporting it.
Since remote work is probably here to stay — at least in some form — now is a good time to rethink the way you measure the value of work. Rather than emphasizing hours and location, it might make more sense to promote activity and contributions. Of course, you still need to be compliant with FLSA overtime rules, but your policies about overtime may need to adjust.
This kind of a shift could raise questions about how you’ll measure performance. Be prepared to address these concerns, but focus on helping your people to be engaged and productive. Invest in your people, and evaluate them based on their contributions, not just the hours they clock in or the boxes they check.
5) New Tools for Automation and Virtualization
In the new way of doing work, automation and virtual tools will be even more important than ever before. The more you can eliminate onerous, manual activities, the better prepared your organization will be to grow in 2021 (and beyond). Automation and virtualization will be key to maintaining productivity and efficiency, especially as employees continue to work from home.
If you have unique pay policies for incentive pay, special rules for salaried employees, production pay, or a complex job rate assignment, you’re probably spending a lot of your week manually processing payroll. But what if you could run payroll with the push of a button? Now might be the ideal time to look into automating your payroll systems.
6) Avoid Compliance Chaos
Moving employees offsite means you suddenly have less control over your data and your processes. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to make sure your sensitive information is protected and your processes are being followed. Make updates to your compliance system before your next audit.
7) Listen to Every Voice
Planning strategically for 2021 will require creative input from people who know how your business is being run at all levels. Consult directors and managers throughout your company, not just your leadership team. Solicit feedback, comments, and ideas from all of your employees.
Not only will you get a more holistic understanding of your company, you’ll communicate the value you place on everyone in the organization. When you need to make new changes, you’ll have greater buy-in from your employees, because they’ll know they’ve been heard and had input into the direction of your company.
That makes for a lot smoother sailing in a year that could take us into rough waters.
IDI Is Your Partner for 2021
As we begin a new year, organizations everywhere will need to shift from reactive mode to proactive business planning. As you evaluate ways to optimize HR and payroll, we hope you’ll consider IDI as a trusted resource. Whether or not you’re a client of ours, we’re here to help you navigate the payroll complexities that you’re facing. We have decades of experience at our disposal, and our team of experts is here to help you make smart decisions with confidence.