Q&A with HR Tech Influencer: Jen Benz

Work this year probably will be 'messy, confusing and challenging' but also inspiring and rewarding, she writes.
By: | January 27, 2021 • 2 min read

The role of HR leaders has never been more important, as organizations struggle to keep up with near-daily changes to the world of work ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic and other global challenges, including the recent tumultuous presidential transition. With such a tall order for HR leaders, it’s beneficial to look to industry experts for their experience and guidance. Last year, HRE and the HR Tech Conference unveiled the second edition of the Top 100 HR Tech Influencers, comprised of HR, business and technology leaders whose insights are needed now more than ever.

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Influencer Jen Benz, author, speaker and communications leader at Segal Benz, says leadership and communication are among the most important themes for HR leaders heading into 2021. Benz recently spoke with HRE about these and other trends on the horizon, including these five trends that are dominating many of her recent conversations.

  • New expectations for leadershipEmployees, as well as shareholders and the public, are going to continue to expect to hear directly from their leaders. Leadership is expected to create interpersonal connections and provide clear and transparent communication.
  • Building for connection. Replicating in-person interactions with your employees during a time of disruptions and stress will require intention and a lot of manager training.
  • Continuous feedback. Organizations will use many tools to continuously ask people about their experiences and modify strategies based on that insight.
  • Wellbeing is part of everything. We see how critical wellbeing is to every organization’s success. We need to ensure people are taking time to get away, unplug and mentally refresh during a time when life and work are blurred.
  • Technology moving even faster. Organizations are making a permanent shift to a digital-first strategy, and expectations for technology have never been higher.

Related: HR technology news from HRE

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HRE: What will work look like in 2021 and what is that based on?

Jen Benz

Benz: Work in 2021 is likely to be messy, confusing and challenging while also inspiring and rewarding. People are worn out from the pandemic and ongoing stress, so organizations are going to have to support their people in new ways. The roll-out of the vaccine and opening of schools is going to be hard to navigate. And, expectations are incredibly high for organizations to take meaningful, significant actions in regard to diversity, equity and inclusion and to address racial disparities in health and wealth.

At the same time, we have seen recognition that work and life are intricately linked and employee wellbeing is vital to every organization. We’ll see the modernization of work in some exciting ways and a lot of movement toward creating more human, sustainable workplaces. For HR leaders, it is a tremendous opportunity to create impact and help set the future course for our organizations.

HRE: How can HR leaders best evaluate the rapid influx of post-pandemic tools flooding the market?

Benz: As in the past, HR leaders need to be cautious of being distracted by the promise of new tools before identifying their needs clearly. Organizations that start with articulating a strategy and defining requirements will be more successful than those who rush to adopt a new tool.

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HRE: How do you think the remote work switch will affect employee expectations for workplace technology?

Benz: Remote work was adopted so quickly and so successfully by organizations that it created incredibly high expectations for the speed of change and adoption of new tools. Employees will expect work technologies to match the ease and simplicity of consumer technology. There will be less tolerance for internal silos and disconnected processes.