Reflecting on 2021

As 2021 draws to a close, Katherine Watkins, Head of HR Consultancy for Insurance HR Solutions (IHRS) looks back on the last 12 months of yet another unprecedented year for businesses and their staff.

How have you seen the last 12 months change businesses?

It has been nearly two years of a world which many will have never seen before. The pandemic has been life changing and has meant a significant change in direction of travel for many companies. You don’t need to be a statistician or maths genius to see how things have changed and the effects the pandemic has had.

The changes that came in at the start of the pandemic (tracking Covid cases amongst workforces; localised Covid funds set up by companies for struggling staff and their families; working from home; furlough, to mention but a few) are still in place for many. Some I suspect are here for good, such as working from home and new flexible working styles.

In places, HR has seen positive change come out of the pandemic for business. Managing styles have changed; the conversation on wellbeing has become more prevalent and the understanding of staff needs and desires has become more acute. That must be a good thing long term. In some areas we sadly see some leaders refusing to change but thankfully they are few and far between.

How has the internal culture of companies changed in the last year?

Companies have had to change – there’s no argument on that point. The concept of transparency has become a regular term we hear and that we advise our clients on. How companies look after their staff has become an external part of their business’s success.  I saw a while back it’s become a transparency revolution!  Some clients are still waiting for the revolution to hit them to be fair!

How has the ‘war for talent’ changed over the year just gone?

I’m less sure it has really changed that much. Many will recall that every other year there seems to be the ‘war for talent’ discussion fuelled by the media because of events in the world or in their sector. What has changed is the amount of people who move…or don’t move. We’d usually see a glut of people leave after bonus time but that was down on previous years. Moving to a new job in a pandemic is hard, let’s not kid ourselves.

The biggest change I see from job boards and job descriptions is the line on ‘location of role’. Most use the word hybrid (I’m not sure some recruiters really know what that means!). Some businesses are staunchly saying the role is five days a week in the office. Some may tut at that, but it doesn’t seem to stop people applying. We see people still applying but deciding to challenge the location part at interview stage.

What does the HR landscape look like for the 2022?

I hope better all round! I don’t predict much change to be honest. I suspect we will see more ‘Plans’ being rolled out in the early part of 2022 from the government, which will mean the continued need for agility across businesses.

The likes of flexible working as it relates to the pandemic, we sense will be around for the first two quarters of next year. Thereafter, it is more likely to become a standard part of work and employment – helped by the possibility of new legalisation that is being considered in our legal system.

There will undoubtably be a ramp up of wellbeing initiatives in companies, as the lasting effects of the pandemic will be with us for some time. Companies can no longer ignore what wellbeing means to staff and the positive impact it can have if handled well. Initiatives such as greater employee benefits; more corporate social responsibility moves (things like charitable days off for staff); better in house benefits for staff in the office (be it free food/drinks; Friday treats that kind of thing). We also predict there will be more training provided to staff – be it soft skills training or greater technical training, the pandemic has changed that landscape and removed much of the face-to-face training so many were used to.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

How long have you got?! I’m looking forward to continuing to support our clients in their evolving progress since the pandemic and move from strength to strength.

It will be good for managers of people to be given more training to handle remote and hybrid workers and truly embrace the positives it can bring their businesses. Our clients have seen in the main that they can thrive during adversity and I look forward to seeing them develop even more next year and remain positive.

As a team we will be providing clients and the insurance market with more collateral that they can implement straight away. We want to take as much pressure off leaders as possible so they can concentrate on growing the business. We will be offering out wellbeing packages that are ‘ready to go’; recruitment training programmes delivered by our team of HR experts, tailored to their firms needs; greater breadth of Employee Benefits as we partner with our benefit colleagues to find the best deals; and we will be tailoring our support to fit their budgets for 2022.

About the author

Katherine is a member of the senior management team at RWA. She has over 20 years’ international experience working in HR, across various sectors, including financial services, insurance and regulated environments. Over the years, she has collaborated with some exceptionally talented HR professionals, with whom she has joined forces on special projects. Her network of HR professionals provides advice and training to companies and other HR teams.

In her role with RWA, Katherine heads up RWA’s Human Resources Consultancy and provides objective support to firms on employment law and HR issues. She uses her extensive skills and knowledge to work with firms to help them develop strong and resilient HR strategies and establish healthy organisational cultures.

Katherine holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Northampton and a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Strategies from London Metropolitan University. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD).

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