Employers Look Back At 2021's HR Best Practices
Many HR teams are used to working in the background. But 2021 changed that, forcing HR to roll with the punches, pull diverse groups together and emerge as the MVPs of the second pandemic year. Here are some HR best practices learned in the past year, including some that may help us head into 2022.
What are the HR best practices we learned in 2021?
“We are all the same, regardless of religion, culture, customs, whether we are poor or rich. The virus simply does not choose. It connected us in a way, it showed us that we should all stick together. During this chaos, while many of us were in a panic, it showed us the weight of humanity. It reminded us of who we are.”
Liyan Rosa Porras, Recruitment Marketing Specialist, Staff Domain Inc.
More to life
Aubrey Faustino, a Talent Sourcing Manager at professional services firm Microsourcing, will remember 2021 as a year of realizations.
“[I realized that] Humanity is the core foundation of any leadership. That leader or not, a person's life does not solely revolve around work, and as a leader, you must acknowledge [that],” she says. “Having this mindset helped me become more kind, not only to my subordinates but to myself. … Sure, a stellar career can pay the bills, but no career should be worth compromising your health.”
Isolating but not alone: mental health and morale
It’s not just physical health, however: in 2021 we learned to take mental health seriously too. As the Philippines entered its second year of isolation, economic hardship, natural disasters and waiting for vaccines, work-sponsored psychological counseling lost any (misplaced) stigma it might have had, becoming an emotional lifeline for struggling team members.
With return-to-office plans pushed back yet again–and the challenges it has posed—many HR teams are improving efforts to boost employee morale.
“We need to do regular check-ups, create a virtual space where the team can talk about things apart from work and their homes. Virtual sharing is very helpful. You'll be surprised how other team members can inspire you with what they shared. It also helps support mental health,” says Michelle Sacramento, a Senior Sourcing and Branding Supervisor at Ubiquity, a BPO talent sourcing partner.
“No such thing as overcommunication.” “With the shift in team dynamics, traditional communication lines have altered,” notes Microsourcing’s Aubrey Faustino. Meeting objectives can be tricky. “[In this situation], it’s best to make conscious efforts – from leader to subordinate, and vice versa – to communicate effectively.”
Furthermore, strong communication skills should be complemented with key HR leadership skills such as agility, critical thinking, and empathy.
Tough conversations: softening the blow
One area where clarity counts is bad news. With closures and layoffs sadly expected to continue in 2022, practitioners counseled care, empathy and preparation.
“Be upfront and honest, with a human touch,” suggests Ravel Cruz, TA Sourcing Team Lead at HC Consumer Finance Corp., better known as HomeCredit.
“We provide a series of offboarding programs to assist exiting employees, [plus] referrals and endorsements to help them find a new job. This has been [our] practice since early 2020, when we laid off several employees due to the pandemic.”
“We must be more careful with our word choices,” says Ubiquity’s Michelle Sacramento. “Be visible, to send out an objective message without being misconstrued. Be prepared for documentation, and be able to explain objectively should further clarifications arise.”
In 2021, The Great Resignation likewise saw the exodus of employees across the world. Learn more about what HR managers have to say about managing mass resignations–and what you can do to better retain your talent and how you can maximize the hiring process to help build employee loyalty long after you’ve onboarded them.
The new shape of the workday
“[Now,] work doesn't necessarily mean working on-site, eight hours for 5-6 days a week. Business owners should see it as an advantage.” -- Dianne Lois Tecson, HR Generalist, Divergence HR Consulting Group
HFH: Hiring from Home If 2020 was the year of WFH, 2021 was the year we learned to hire from home.
“[We realized that] we can actually do our entire recruitment process virtually and paperless,” said Ubiquity’s Michelle Sacramento.
“Applicants prefer a virtual hiring process now, especially for white collar jobs… This is something we will still [retain] even if the community quarantine restrictions have been lifted,” adds Rachelle Alfaro, an HR staffer at real estate firm Borland Development Corp.. Besides being safer and more time-efficient, all-virtual hiring also allows HR to focus on strategy and reading people, rather than procedures and paperwork.
COVID is still a concern. Most interviewers expect pandemic-related challenges to remain front and center for 2022. These include ever-changing regulations, COVID leave, and keeping your team vaccinated and tested.
“Always have contingency plans. Anything can happen,” says Lyra Delfin, an HR Assistant at Messe-Handel Corp. “Lockdown status does not really affect us, [as] we have an IATF rapid pass and provide essential goods. But now our challenge is that some potential candidates are not okay to do RT-PCR tests, even if the cost can be liquidated.”
Safety and health protocols and social distancing will still be necessary, even as some companies have downsized their office space. Take it upon yourself to stay updated on changing guidelines, and give employees plenty of channels to ask questions.
As Ubiquity’s Michelle Sacramento puts it, “Make an effort to educate, not just hand out something to read.”
Stay vigilant about protecting your workplace. Learn more about DOLE’s guidelines for occupational safety and health.
Competition from a surprising source: (WF)Home But health regulations aren’t the only thing keeping HR teams on their toes. There’s also the good old-fashioned competition for good people.
“Even in the midst of the pandemic, a lot of talents are still actively exploring new and better opportunities,” according to Divergence HR Consultancy’s Dianne Lois Tecson.
Sometimes that opportunity is salary or advancement. Now though, it’s often location and work flexibility.
“Employees became well adjusted to WFH, and it is already starting to be [a] factor in job acceptance,” observes Michelle Sacramento. “A lot of companies with a full time virtual set-up have emerged since 2020.”
Not all workplaces can go fully remote. Some, like essential goods provider Messe-Handel, even provide optional onsite housing. But WFH will have a lasting effect even on offices that cannot continue doing it.
“Adjusting back to the workplace will be tough on some employees,” says Liyan Porras, a recruitment marketing specialist at Staff Domain, Inc., a BPO company. “The best practice should be respecting employees' time, and the need for flexibility in their schedule will be more important now than ever before.”
“Better employee opportunities, such as a flexible work set-up [will be an issue in 2022],” admits Giselle Ignacio, HR head at QPAX Traffic Solutions.
If your industry has some leeway to go virtual, however, be prepared to re-examine roles, benefits packages and working arrangements to stay competitive.
“We updated [our company’s] employee value proposition to help us attract more candidates … Unlike before, there will be fewer candidates willing to be relocated, and blue-collar jobs will be more likely hard to fill due to gaps in technology literacy,” notes Rachelle Alfaro, an HR staff member at real estate firm Borland Development Corp.
The way we work has been forever changed, and there are bound to be new challenges as economies continue to recover. That is why HR’s roles will keep on growing and changing in 2022.
Your expertise is key to ensuring that policies (and attitudes) align with this new reality, and are implemented with talent retention, employee well-being, and business continuity in mind.
“Goals can be met by being smart about our processes,” says Microsourcing’s Aubrey Faustino. “If and when we go back, [my] best practice [will be] championing an effective and healthy working dynamic for my team.”
HR came through the rough waters of 2021 with flying colors. As our teams and companies look to us for continuity and stability, let’s welcome the opportunity to steer the ship.