2020 HR practices are here to stay

Agility and resilience – if there are two things that the pandemic has taught us, is that we, individuals and organisations, need to be agile and resilient. The pandemic has been a test on all of us and those of who were able to rapidly adapt are now at a stage where they are ready to face the months to come (of the pandemic and beyond).

We are only two weeks into 2021 and while the vaccine has given us hope, organisations seem to be well-aware that 2021 is not going to be much different to 2020. As we closed 2020 and started the new year, I had the opportunity to speak to a few business owners and HR professionals on what their plans are for 2021, and beyond. While I have already written about most of these at the beginning of summer 2020, it was interesting to see that the organisations’ priorities seem to be common throughout:

1. Remote working and hybrid model of working

Working remotely became quite the norm. Organisations that have implemented this approach have no intention of returning to pre-pandemic times. It has worked; a success, but only for those organisations that were prepared in terms of technology and other resources. It was a greater success for those organisations that had trust in their employees. Such organisations are also taking the next step of introducing flexibility – focusing on the outputs, rather than when the employees should work.

2. Mental health support

The pandemic has taken a toll on many of us. The sudden change in our life, particularly on a social level, meant that employees became lonely and more detached. Employers have realized how critical mental health is. Initiatives and support will continue to be provided, even remotely, to employees as they continue to struggle with worry, stress and loneliness.

It is also clear that we are no longer just talking about employee experience, but we are now also talking about employee’s life experience. We have also seen the introduction (or re-enforcement) of one-to-one check-ins and feedback meetings.

3. Training and development

Investment in training halted for a few months in 2020. Our initial response to the pandemic highlighted the need of certain skills, that if were present at the start of the pandemic, would have meant a smoother transition for businesses. The need for the development of critical thinking skills and competencies is evident throughout.

The approach to developing people is also changing. We have seen an increase in one-to-one coaching. While it is possible that this is because of the insecurity of meeting in groups, another main reason is because coaching allows a greater visibility and understanding of the skills gap and is more effective (on a one-to-one basis) to reduce the gap.

Leadership development has become ever-so important. A strong leadership (and trust in leadership) proved to be critical for times such as these.

4. Recruitment

Recruitment is also changing. As it becomes clearer that many jobs can be done from everywhere, it becomes easier to recruit people. The job market will continue to become more competitive and more international. The job market will likely also see an increase in the gig economy.

We have also moved towards virtual recruitment as well as virtual onboarding.


For a number of us, we have just finished the adjustment period. Post-pandemic HR is going to be even more interesting – a breath of fresh air. While no one knows the timeframe of this pandemic, we cannot say how things will continue to change. Nevertheless, the new realities listed above seem to be here to stay.


About the author

Maria Bartolo Zahra is Managing Director and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over sixteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.