This is why HR needs to create ‘moments that matter’

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.


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?

Employee experience will continue to be key in 2021, says Debra Martinez, CHRO of Alera Group, an insurance and financial services firm. Especially as many employees continue to work from home next year through the pandemic, HR leaders should be particularly attuned to their individual situations and craft personalized experiences along their employee journey, she says. Martinez recently spoke with HRE about how HR can craft a sustainable talent strategy for 2021.

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

Debra Martinez, CHRO of Alera Group

Martinez: Use of AI in talent acquisition and analytics, agility in supporting remote working for the continuation of operations and services, and building talent for the future workforce are high points of 2020. HR leaders’ ability to leverage technology quicker is an area in need of improvement.

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

Martinez: In 2021, HR leaders should prioritize developing talent, employee wellness including social, physical, finance and emotional pillars, as well as employee engagement with remote working as the “new norm,” and inclusion and diversity.

HRE: How will HR’s role continue to evolve in 2021?

Martinez: [The focus will continue to shift to] creating the “employee experience” with moments that matter.

Moments that matter are listening with empathy for employees’ experiences on a specific topic or event that makes their employment experience memorable. For example, the company recognizing a milestone birthday with a luncheon celebration or the company celebrating an employee’s arrival of a new child by sending a personalized baby blanket to their home. The critical listening helps companies better understand what is really important to the employee instead of the company deciding what is important to its employees. Done well, this enhances the level of engagement, retention and performance. The moments that matter can happen anywhere in the employee’s journey–daily, weekly, annually. It’s a critical component to creating the employee experience.

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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