Looking back at the 5 big HR topics of 2021

Marlies Pellikaan

From innovating new methods of hybrid working to keeping employees engaged during time of change, 2021 has thrown up plenty of challenges for HR and management. Here, we take a look back at the topics that have dominated the year.

Looking back at the 5 big HR topics of 2021

Employee engagement: what is it and how can organizations cultivate it? 

Effectory has been an expert in engagement since the term first become popular in the 1990s. Engaging employees means helping people feel connected to their work through more than just the pay cheque. It’s also about them feeling a sense of pride and meaning in their tasks and their role. 

Engaged employees are more likely to be ambassadors for an organization. This is because they feel dedicated and motivated to perform well and work within their team and the company as a whole. 

Our ultimate guide to engagement, What is Employee Engagement?, was one of the most popular articles from the past 12 months. It’s not surprising that engagement continues to be a hot topic for HR and business more generally. Because when your organization is faced with seemingly impossible challenges, having a workforce that wants to strive for everyone to succeed is an incredibly powerful thing. 

As a topic, engagement is always developing and changing in order to keep up with the transformations that business is undergoing. Being able to track the engagement levels of employees, and finding out what can increase engagement rates, is going to be a vital exercise for more and more organizations. 

HR is crucial to business strategy 

Once the pandemic hit, businesses needed to know what was happening with their people capital, and managers had to figure out ways to keep a track of their teams while everyone was working from home. 

Dealing with this change has put HR front a center of business decisions. Metrics that used to be seen as for HR-only are now crucial insights for the C-suite. This ranges from tracking eNPS scores and gauging commitment and engagement, to qualitative insights where employees provide feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.  

In our whitepaper, Why a HR strategy that supports business growth needs employee listening, we discuss how HR, especially when armed with a comprehensive people listening strategy, can boost: 

  • The employee lifecycle  
  • Performance and Productivity  
  • Engagement rates  
  • Profit margins

How HR can lead business success

HR and employee listening are crucial to business success. Here is how employee insights can help your organization.


Effective onboarding is important for productivity 

Onboarding is the one of the most important processes any employee will go through. During it, new hires get acquainted with their role, their team, and the organization.  

An effective onboarding process results in employee truly feeling a part of an organization, and makes a positive impact in their commitment to organizational goals. 

Onboarding starts when the organization says “yes” to a candidate and stops when the new employee is fully up to speed. This process can sometimes take up to 8 months. It’s a major part of any employees’ experience at a company, and so it’s vital that companies provide efficient, effective, and productive onboarding programs. 

Thanks to the onboarding survey in our platform, Effectory has gained a lot of experience over the years about what makes an onboarding great. As we discussed earlier this year, the three elements that go into an onboarding process are: 

  • Operational 
  • Social  
  • Strategic 

In many companies, onboarding has transformed in recent months, and is increasingly taking place through either virtual or hybrid methods. This has meant that new types of operational and strategic plans have to be put in place, but it’s the social element of onboarding especially that has been a major challenge. The question is how to make sure that new, remote of hybrid-working employees feel part of a team rather isolated? 

Asking new hires about their experience in the onboarding process through an Effectory survey is a great way to get insider knowledge about how your onboarding program is being experienced. 

The future of work is (nearly) here 

From further digitization to AI and the rise of millennials in the workplace, “the future of work” has been one of the hottest topics of the year. 

HR wizard Dave Ulrich joined the World-class Workplace celebrations earlier this year to discuss this exact topic with the Effectory community. But rather than talking about tech solutions or market opportunities, he brought attention to the fact that engaged employees are what can make an organization sustainable and resilient to disruption. 

He stressed the importance of human talent in any success story, and highlighted the fact that a workplace that employees love to promote is a workplace that attracts and stimulates talent. 

Noting its similarity with Effectory’s own tagline of Listen, Learn, Lead, Ulrich introduced his three major pillars for HR-business success: 

  • Believe 
  • Become 
  • Belong 

For him, these themes are what drives truly deep engagement within an organization. Employees want to feel like their work connects me to values they believe in, they have the opportunity to grow and develop, and they have a sense of belonging with their peers and colleagues. 

With employees engaged and committed in this way, any future challenges are met proactively and overcome.  

In the video below, you can watch Dave’s keynote on our World-Class Workplace event. He starts at 1.03.59. 

Hybrid work is the new normal 

In our whitepaper on how hybrid working can be the key to your future success, we explain some of the benefits that can come from giving your employees flexibility about where they work. 

Research has shown that organizations that embrace a hybrid working model see absence rates decrease by 41%. Further research has shown that 90% of people who were working remotely during the pandemic indicated a desire to continue working from home for at least one day a week after the pandemic is over. 

Some have worried that working from home disengages employees or leads to a lack of focus. But further research reveals that 73% of business leaders say that employees are either equally or somewhat more productive working in a hybrid model compared to being at the office fulltime. 

As new COVID variants, travel restrictions, and lockdown measures return as we enter 2022, hybrid working will continue to be a major topic. Managers and HR can keep on top of the pressures their employees are facing by conducting pulse surveys that give the workforce the opportunity to provide feedback in a flexible and ongoing manner. 

Our experience teaches us that organizations that listen to their employees are the ones most likely to be future-proof. 

If you see any of these issues as being themes for your business or organization over the next few months, talk to one of Effectory’s consultants about how employee feedback can be the secret weapon in your response to them. 

Whitepaper: Hybrid working is the new normal

How are you preparing your company for the changes ahead? Tuning into the needs of your workforce will be vital to compete effectively in the post-COVID world.