‘Strategic’ will be the word of the year in 2021

As part of our look ahead, Bobbi Kloss of Benefit Advisors Network advises leaders to strategize for what we know 2021 will bring and for the unexpected.
By: | December 2, 2020 • 3 min read
(Photo by Getty Images)

This month, HRE is helping HR leaders prepare for the year ahead with a series featuring insights from industry experts, thought leaders and others about what we can learn from 2020 and the challenges coming in 2021. Read the series here.

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This year has brought HR a host of unprecedented issues to navigate: employee safety concerns, engagement in a newly remote world, legal considerations and even the reshaping of the HR role itself. With all of that change just in the last few months, many HR leaders are looking to 2021 with a bit of trepidation: What’s next?

Bobbi Kloss, director of human capital management services for the Benefit Advisors Network, says HR leaders should be approaching the coming new year with a focus on strategy. Among everything 2020 taught HR leaders, she says, is how key it is to be prepared for everything that could come. Kloss recently spoke with HRE about what she thinks 2021 will bring for HR.

HRE: What was HR’s shining moment in 2020? Conversely, where were mistakes made?

Bobbi Kloss, director of human capital management services for the Benefit Advisors Network

Kloss: HR’s shining moment for 2020 was to be able to simultaneously manage the direction of the workforce to remote work, implement safety protocols within the office and manage the policies for quickly emerging laws to address the needs of the workforce for both employee and continuing business operations.

Individual HR mistakes included failure to be strategically prepared for an event, such as a pandemic, to occur. Just as the federal government is to have a plan for nationwide disasters, we have experienced enough workforce dynamics (outside events that disrupt business continuity)—such as major shifts in the economy, natural disasters, government administration changes, etc.—in our lifetime that have impacted business to know that we should have a plan in place.

Employers learned in 2020 the need for the business culture to represent a communication plan of clear and consistent messaging to employees. Recognizing that employees look to leadership for authoritative direction, HR is able to craft messaging to support an inclusive culture.

HRE: What should be HR leaders’ first priority for 2021?

Kloss: “Strategic” is the key word for 2021.

Be prepared for what lies over the horizon. Become knowledgeable on President-elect Biden’s administration policies and work with the C-suite to have a plan in place to align with the business goals and objectives for the short- and long-term (one, three and five years).

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Also important for HR leaders is to learn from the lessons of 2020 as to what worked and what needs to be improved. This might include reviewing policies, processes and technologies to create efficiencies that continue to improve upon the culture of the company and positively impact the company’s bottom line.

HRE: Compare HR’s role in large organizations today with a year ago. Will that continue to evolve in 2021?

Kloss: Maintaining relevancy for HR’s place at the C-suite table will continue to evolve. With a focus on the bottom line, the ability to outsource to improve efficiencies and reduce costs is a trend for many organizations across their business units. HR is becoming one of the most outsourced positions.

Overcoming this challenge in HR means that, as human resource professionals, the value brought will be in becoming strategically focused and showing the ROI of the position. This means being aware of the strategic solutions brought to the table and tying these business objectives to the bottom line.

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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 hreletters@lrp.com.