After 2020, we’re all eager for a fresh start. We’re hoping for fewer disruptions and surprises – and given all we’ve learned this year, we’re certainly more prepared for unprecedented obstacles!

Employees and management alike are more attuned to what may lay ahead – looming restrictions or the move between remote and in-office working, for example. Changes like these have now become the norm. Now, these constant changes are no longer the greatest obstacle for businesses, as they were this year. The biggest obstacle is keeping employees engaged, committed and productive. 

Employees may be longing for stability – like we all are. But what’s believed to be most important to them in 2021 (particularly for top talent), is opportunities for growth. This year employees were called to minimise impact and do whatever it took, in many cases, to help save businesses – sometimes having to work extended hours without compensation, or being available even when on leave. Next year we see a trend towards employees looking for growth opportunities again and being more ‘self-serving’, for lack of a better word.

When it comes to employee engagement, employee loyalty and productivity, HR leaders and managers need to show up for their people, show interest in their needs and deliver on them as best they can. If not, employee engagement, retention and productivity will be an issue for businesses in 2021. 

Preparing teams for 2021 is not just about protecting business success in the new year – but providing your people with the tools they need to grow, commit and perform – (which inadvertently helps the business to thrive!)

Reflect on the lessons learned in 2020

This year brought many unforeseen changes and challenges. Remote working was one of them, and although it wasn’t the worst of the changes it certainly was a significant one. It was significant for businesses because it disrupted typical processes and ways of communicating, amongst many other important business functions. And it was a significant change for employees who had to quickly adjust and merge work and home life, amongst other things. Because so much changed (and so quickly) many challenges emerged. It’s important for you and your teams to reflect on these (the challenges that were overcome and those that still need to be overcome). Remind your people of the solutions that were found in 2020 and the most desirable responses should these obstacles show up again. Remind them of how best to go about addressing concerns and don’t forget to remind them of your support and availability. 

Get feedback from employees and teams

Find out what your people need and then work on delivering it. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a trend towards growth opportunities this year as most employees put the needs of their workplaces before their own, and are now more concerned about their growth and development in 2021. This is what’s believed, but your people may have other needs and it’s important you find out what those are. Maybe they too want to grow – but even knowing this is not enough. What does growth and opportunity look like for your people? Is it additional training and skills development? Is it more responsibilities? Is it an increase in pay or additional benefits? You need to know what your people need, and what they feel, to be able to deliver – and this is the key to improving employee engagement, retention, communication and commitment. 

Equip managers with data and tools necessary to meet employee needs

If you’re committed to improving employee engagement, retention and productivity, you need to equip your managers at the local level. Team leaders and managers don’t always know what their people need, and often find it difficult to identify employee needs. Lack of time, skill, or even poor communication can get in the way, but to avoid these obstacles provide your managers with ‘tools’, like an employee engagement survey for example, so that they have hard data to work with. This way, communication is solved, managers don’t need to figure things out for themselves, as results speak for themselves, and surveys are typically quick and exceptionally rewarding.

Listen to your people, show up for them and begin nurturing engagement, communication and productivity again.