A Year in Review: How Human Resources Evolved in 2021
December 24, 2021

The past few years have been transformative, to say the least. Across all industries, the workplace has evolved due to a multitude of challenges. For human resources professionals, there has certainly not been a shortage of work to do. Before looking forward to 2022, it can be helpful to reflect on how human resources evolved in 2021.

remote work

Employees want to continue to work from home

When the COVID-19 vaccine became available to the public, it was anticipated that life would go back to some semblance of normalcy. This concept became only partially true. Despite the hope that life would return to normal, the impact of the pandemic may have changed the workplace permanently (among many other things).

Initially, many questions arose once vaccination rates increased. Should employees return to the office? When do we return to the office and how do we do it? Can we require vaccinations? What comes next? As we have undoubtedly learned, the situation became a bit more complicated than these seemingly simple questions.

When employees were asked to return to in-person work environments, there was a great push back. It sparked what had been dubbed as “the Great Resignation,” a movement that resulted in many employees leaving their jobs. While the transition back to the office may have been the initial reasoning behind the movement, it certainly wasn’t the only one.

To adjust for the sudden decrease in team members, some human resources professionals were left to scramble for ways to ensure employee satisfaction and retention rates remained intact. For some, the answer was to give employees what they requested, whether it was improved benefits, hybrid work schedules, etc. Others may have had to double down on their decision and prioritize talent acquisition efforts. For the lucky few, this issue did not arise at all.

Regardless of how the Great Resignation affected your team, one lesson became increasingly clear…

Unsatisfied employees are more likely to speak up

Employees, millennials especially, are beginning to speak up more for what they want out of their professional lives. Depending on who you ask, this change has been long overdue. As a human resources professional, it is likely that you may agree with many of the grievances of your employees as you likely have a heightened sensitivity towards their wellbeing. Some common issues involve unfair wages, lack of work-life balance, poor benefits, poor working conditions, and more.

As previously mentioned, the Great Resignation may have started with a desire to work from home. However, there was a growing multitude of contributing factors that pushed dissatisfied employees to quit their jobs. Again, depending on who you ask, some may even argue that the labor shortage is less about there not being enough eligible workers and more about the fact that the jobs currently available do not meet employee needs.

rescinded job offer

Based on the events we saw unfold in 2020 and 2021, employees are no longer going to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, which is a good thing. Communication between employee and employer can make a world of difference across your company. It can impact staff productivity levels, employee retention and satisfaction rates, talent recruitment efforts, and more.

If you want to enter 2022 on the right foot, I recommend starting with listening to your employees. If they aren’t communicating with you, do not take that to mean they aren’t communicating amongst each other or to others. Read this article on helping your employees feel heard to get started.

Mental health is increasingly important to talent

Though there are a variety of factors that contribute to high employee satisfaction rates, perhaps the most important is the mental health of your employees. Burnout has been a serious issue for many since the beginning of the pandemic. One of the issues many employees have been increasingly vocal about is how their job impacts their mental health.

Stress levels and anxiety are quite high among many employees. The combination of all of these factors already mentioned has taken a toll on most in the workforce. Perhaps one reason employees have grown so vocal is because they have been pushed to a breaking point. Our old way of working has not done anyone any favors within the sphere of mental health.

For starters, it is no longer a subject that many keep to themselves nor is it a subject that employees separate from their job. The old standard was to keep your personal life and your work life completely separate. But when work life and home life happen simultaneously (or when you’re living through unprecedented times as we currently do), this expectation is almost ridiculous.

In order for your current employees to want to stay or for any job seeker to want employment at your company, they need to be assured that the job will not negatively impact their mental health.

the great resignation

All of these changes can be summed up in one simple notion: employees expect more from their employers. And they rightfully should. For many of us, the majority of our time is spent working. After all, the average employee spends about 40 hours of their time each week working. It no longer is logical to assume employees are going to work for less than they need or spend that much of their time miserable. If that sounds harsh, your company may be contributing to some of the current problems in the workforce.

A wonderful aspect of the new year is that it is the starting point for new beginnings. If 2021 was a tough year for your team, BrandResumes’ HR Corner is a great resource for ensuring 2022 kicks off to a much better start. Subscribe and continue to check in for more articles to help begin your new year the right way.


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By Emily Provost

Emily is BrandResumes' Content Specialist and is an Associate Resume Writer. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Publishing Studies with double minors in Marketing and Journalism from Hofstra University. She has had editorial experience working as an editor for various publications from Hofstra and worked as a writing tutor for undergraduate students.

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