What an unpredictable year it has been for everyone! Despite all the uncertainty in the world, you have been a positive constant for Astron. We thank all of our clients and Astronology® readers for your continued support.
As per Astronology® tradition, our last article of the year will be our thoughts on possible HR trends and hot topics for the incoming year. 2020 has taught us many lessons, including that nothing is guaranteed, and that community, support, & compassion are important qualities for all organizations to have. As 2020 comes to an end, we look forward to using the lessons learned this year to create a more positive 2021 and beyond.
As mentioned in our previous article, we are still dealing with a very intense election season. As the dust continues to settle and we wait for the January inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, we are anticipating some adjustments. Some areas that the President-elect has shown interest in that may affect Human Resources are the following:
- Maintaining and expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and supporting the FAMILY Act
- Supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) bill, a possible law that will make it hard to classify independent contractors and will expand the definition of “join employer”
- A reversal on a 2017 executive order that limited immigration matters such as green card limitation guest workers programs and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program
- Changes to the traditional 401(k) plan
- Raising minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026
COVID-19’s emergence resulted in a lot of organizations having to either shut down or switch to all remote operation. As a result, regular communication via video conferencing and instant messaging software has helped organizations forge camaraderie and teamwork. Use of this technology also has allowed for productivity to continue even under the least ideal circumstances. Talent management and performance management software also has played a role in helping organizations manage employees remotely. We expect these tools to continue to be prominent for most workplaces going into 2021 and beyond.
In previous years, remote work had been seen as a benefit that could be used as recruiting tool. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, remote work quickly became a necessity. While many of us are dealing with Zoom fatigue, the trend of remote work and virtual meetings will be one of the features from COVID-19 that will last long after we return to “normal.” Forbes explains in an article from April, “Even amidst a global crisis, employees are reporting greater productivity and higher job satisfaction, which is translating into enormous profitability for their employers. By permitting offsite work, the businesses then get to access even more overhead savings, like lower real estate, equipment, and supply expenses.” While this most likely will not mean all businesses will remain virtual, we will not be surprised to see workplaces adopt hybrid policies that allow the option for some form of remote work. Even the World Economic Forum noted that 98% of employees want the option to work from home at least some of the week across the rest of their careers.
While COVID-19 has changed most workplaces to be more flexible, the impact of 2020’s social issues also has paved the way for changes in 2021. Organizations have been making a more concentrated effort to increase their efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We expect this effort to continue.
Mental health and work life balance also have been key topics in 2020 and will continue into 2021. According to a Deloitte survey, 91% of employees have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. The CDC found in late June 2020 that 40% of US adults were experiencing mental health or substance abuse struggles as a result of the pandemic. Some organizations have taken the reigns in promoting mental health by investing in technology platforms to help their employees manage their challenges. We believe in 2021 we will continue to see advancement in organizations enhancing their mental health support for their employees.
Compensation and Benefits
While the economic woes of 2020 will follow us into 2021, Goldman Sachs projects that the GDP will grow. The latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that payrolls rose by 245,000, with the unemployment rate dropping to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent. While we are hoping for a positive (yet slow) economic turnaround in 2021, we do anticipate challenges. For instance, most state unemployment funds and emergency federal programs have been exhausted or are set to expire at the end of 2020. Congress is edging closer to a new package to help employees and employers for 2021. We will have to wait to see if this package will be enough.
Another COVID-19 impacted area for 2021 is employer sponsored health plans. Employers are trying to balance the cost of health care for employees while not minimizing available benefits. Some options employers are looking into include the following:
- Expanding virtual or telehealth programs
- Increasing cost-sharing for plan expenses
- Adding or expanding voluntary benefit programs
- Boosting services for managing high-cost claims, such as specialty pharmacy claims
While we all celebrate leaving 2020, we are certain the events from it will linger into 2021. What are some HR topics and trends you anticipate in 2021? Do you think the problems of 2020 will remain the same next year? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. We look forward to hearing from you!
As this is our last Astronology® article for 2020, Astron Solutions wishes all our readers a safe, healthy, and pleasant holiday season and 2021!