3 CHROs share their greatest lessons of 2021

At the beginning of 2021, many HR leaders likely were looking forward to the pandemic winding down and the new world of work starting to get underway. However, as the year comes to a close and employers everywhere are on edge with news of a new COVID-19 variant, the start of a new normal continues to remain elusive. So, what lessons have HR leaders taken from this year of uncertainty? We spoke with three CHROs, who shared what 2021 has taught them about managing the people function in the current climate–and how they plan to take those learnings forward into next year.

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Heather Rudes

Chief HR Officer

The Bonadio Group

Crisis response/management is now a critical and necessary component of a strategic human resources division. HR leaders have learned how to quickly determine where the greatest need lies, as it relates to the firm’s people and business, and how to react effectively and appropriately to mitigate risk and uncertainty. The reaction has been focused on creating agility within the HR group and meeting the continuous demands of the pandemic’s evolution. We are now returning to responsibilities that existed previously and continue to assume new responsibilities because of COVID-19. HR leaders need to work in tandem with the senior leadership to consider reconfiguring workflows, redeploying talent or reskilling staff to help them stay relevant.

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Overall, I learned that HR departments need to build a crisis response muscle, learn quickly how to distribute authority and coordinate activity, and implement real-time data collection, listening and communication programs.

Ashley Goldsmith

Chief People Officer


I think it’s really changed how we think about talent. It forced us to step back, to look at how do just about everything. Just because we did something one way in the past doesn’t mean we need to do it that way in the future. It’s a wonderful time to challenge yourself.

Rich Stingi

Chief HR Officer

Broadridge Financial Solutions

The biggest thing we learned over the last year is that you cannot communicate enough. You have to have transparency about what you’re doing as an organization and tell people–even if you’re unsure about a solution–the thought process behind how you’re approaching a problem. The return to the office is one of those places where, even if you’re unsure of the plan, you have to be transparent and communicate regularly and frequently. I have to say there have been moments where I wanted to wait a bit [to communicate to employees] until we had more clear information but we were encouraged to go out there sooner rather than later and that turned out to be the right answer.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].