HR Brief – 1st Quarter 2021

Flexibility and New Skills Top Employer Priorities in 2021

With the coronavirus pandemic having forced many organisations to change the way that they operate, it is important for employers to understand what their peers and competitors may be prioritising in the future. According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends study, UK employers and HR professionals are heavily prioritising flexibility and the development of new skills in order to minimise further disruption of operations. The study found that 93 per cent of HR leaders in the UK are planning to focus on the development of skills in 2021 in order to help employees adapt to a changing work environment. The most frequently cited skills that respondents placed importance upon included:

  • Collaboration skills—60 per cent
  • Inclusive, empathetic management—58 per cent
  • Adaptability/growth mindset—44 per cent

With the goal of fostering a flexible work environment, many organisations have begun to expand the use of their existing talent. According to Mercer, 40 per cent of organisations have started to share talent internally more often since the start of the pandemic and 36 per cent of respondents plan to do so in year to come. Employers should consider how employees developing new skills or becoming more flexible will be rewarded. Employees may lack the motivation to acquire new skills without feeling that they are being valued for their efforts. As such, employers should consider how they may be able to incentivise the learning process.

Mental Health and Employee Well-being Among the Main Concerns for SMEs

The past year has been full of many different challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and there are more to come. A recent survey from Hiscox asked business decisionmakers from 1,000 UK SMEs about the largest challenges that they see on the horizon.

The top response to this query was the organisation’s ability to drive revenue (38 per cent), but coming in second was concern regarding the mental health and well-being of employees (31 per cent).

In addition to its prominence across all responses, mental health and well-being topped the list of expected challenges for a number of specific sectors. These included charity, energy and utilities, engineering and manufacturing, and health care.

Hiscox also surveyed SMEs regarding what their biggest challenges in 2020 had been. While the leading priority for those in these sectors has shifted to generating revenue, those involved with information technology, retail, and teaching and education organisations responded that mental health and wellbeing had been their greatest challenge in 2020.

It is worth noting that in the health care and charity sectors, mental health and well-being were the leading responses for both looking back at 2020 and looking ahead.

Helping Remote Employees Manage Stress

Even if pandemic conditions begin to improve and COVID-19 cases recede significantly, it must be understood that mental health issues for employees will linger. With that in mind, organisations must operate with the mental health and well-being of their employees among their top priorities.

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