Four top people & culture priorities for NFPs in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully go down in history as a once-in-100-year event for the human race. And standing at the forefront of some of the most significant impacts affecting NFP workplaces have been HR managers and teams. 

But 2021 brings with it a suite of fresh challenges that will stretch the creativity, ingenuity and resilience of HR professionals like never before. 

The team at has pulled together the top four HR priorities we reckon NFP organisations will need to keep top of mind in 2021. 

1. Remote working

If 2020 was the year of global pandemic, it was also the year of remote working for many Australians. 

In 2021, experts predict the global shift towards remote working caused by the global pandemic is here to stay. According to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, almost a third of employees will continue to be working from home multiple days per week by the end of 2021. 

As we all get used to this new normal, HR teams will need to be at the forefront of developing new policies, contracts, management systems, training and support systems to implement long term transition to a permanent partial work from home workforce.

2. Overnight digitisation

2020 was the year many organisations discovered that the significant barriers to going digital weren’t actually too significant after all. It turns out we’ve been texting, video-calling, web mailing, and purchasing online at home for years and those skills are very transferrable. 

The incredible progress we made in 2020 isn’t going to stop in 2021 – in fact it might accelerate. Some 85% of for-profit executives say they intend to accelerate the digitisation process in the coming year – so if your organisation isn’t on board, you might get left behind. 

Whether it’s paper-based record-keeping, in-person meetings and interviews, office-based networks and servers or spreadsheet-based recruitment processes – it’s all moving into the cloud at a faster pace than ever before.

One thing that seemed to be on the way to extinction via digitisation but might be making a comeback in 2021? Paper diaries and planners.

3. Mass upskilling

Research & advisory group Gartner suggest that a staggering one third of skills present in an average job posting in 2017 won’t be needed by 2021. This monumental workplace transformation will require support from HR to address:

Technology – HR will need to work hand-in-glove with IT departments to identify and implement new technologies. This will include learning to use new platforms while simultaneously training entire organisations in how to use them.

Communications – HR will be leaders in demonstrating best practice communications in a “new normal” where teams are increasingly working remotely and disparate hours. This includes modelling inclusiveness and maintaining engagement.

Recruitment – Even with higher unemployment, the market for skilled staff is more competitive than ever, and jobseekers’ expectations of NFP employers are also increasing. Upskilling your organisation’s hiring managers is more important than ever, especially to make sure they avoid unconscious biases that keep more diverse staff out of your organisation.

4. Greater focus on wellbeing

Wellbeing has always been a key focus for the NFP sector where burnout is much more common than in other sectors. But the rise of widespread remote working – making it more difficult but also more important to “check in” on colleagues – will necessitate a new focus on staff and volunteer wellbeing in 2021.

Remote wellbeing practices – With increasing numbers of staff working remotely, managers will no longer be able to rely on informal kitchen chats and face-to-face catch-ups to gauge the wellbeing of their team. They will need support from HR to gain skills in assessing and managing the mental wellbeing of their team members remotely. Organisations will need to invest in systems or processes that can keep teams working together while they work apart.

Managers as Coaches – A traditional command and control style of management places an emphasis on observing how employees spend their time. The rise of remote work mean that managers will need to move to adopt a coaching leadership approach, to support their teams to grow and develop, and facilitate knowledge transfer from expert consultants.

If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us just how difficult it is to predict the future. No one really knows what the world will look like by the end of 2021, but we’re pretty sure these four areas will still be front of mind for most HR professionals by that point.

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