Emerging HR Roles in 2021

6 Minutes

Finally, we are at the tail end of 2020 and I think most of us are happy to wave goodbye! Th...

Finally, we are at the tail end of 2020 and I think most of us are happy to wave goodbye! The events we’ve encountered this year have meant that HR has had to quickly adapt and lead their companies through unexpected challenges and opportunities. HR have needed to be a lot more agile and think differently in terms of how they support people. So without trying to look too far into the future I thought it valuable to consider what new HR roles we will likely see in 2021 as a response to 2020.

1. Mental Health & Wellbeing Director This topic started to come into play around 10 years ago but it was never taken too seriously. It often appeared to start and stop with companies putting a gym into their office or offering a small group of people access to support, rather than looking more holistically at an offering that was accessible to all. As COVID-19 has taken hold it is clear that a person’s mental health and physical well-being are far more important than we had ever considered. Now that we aren’t seeing our employees every day how do we know how they are really getting on? Are we asking the right questions to ensure that people can cope and do we know that they have the right support at home? Do we as a business have an all-inclusive culture that helps people and enables them to speak up and share? One of our pulse surveys from earlier in the year found that before the pandemic 64% of companies globally were providing mental health support to their employees. Encouragingly, during the pandemic, this figure rose to 82% of companies providing their employees with mental health support, so I hope we are heading in the right direction with this. UK online grocer Ocado has already decided to make this role a reality. Over the next year, I anticipate companies spending more time and money on this area and I envision this sitting on par with Diversity & Inclusion. 

 2. The further specialisation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion I personally feel that 2020 has been the year that DEI took off. I appreciate it’s been an important and hot agenda item for a long time but this year DEI topics, including the Black Lives Matter movement have been in the spotlight and it really feels like company boards and CEOs are starting to get it. Some companies are even further ahead and not only have a team focused on this area but also now have a specialist DEI recruitment team. I can see this continuing across the whole business, gaining further company support and allowing the DEI function to break down into key areas of specialism such as race, ethnicity, age and disability. 

 3. The Remote Working Director Some might not see this as an HR role but with remote working here to stay it is clear that companies will be attempting to make sure that their people are not only set up to succeed but are also clear on the expectations that are put on them while working from home. This doesn’t just have to be a negative role or the “remote working police” but it could be to correct bad behaviour or routines that clearly impact an individual day to day working life. This is discussed further in People Management’s article ‘Why your business may need a director of remote work’. 

 4. The Internal Coach, Counsellor or Therapist If you have seen Billions, the character Wendy Rhodes acts as an internal coach or guidance counsellor for the team at Axe Capital in order to maximise performance. Denise Shull was one of the real-life0 inspirations for the character. Could this become a standard role within every organisation? As more and more people struggle with the blurred line between family life and remote working, will companies need someone that is tied to the organisation, who is there for the employees 24/7 and who offers that internal sanctuary where people can say what they like and not feel judged? I’m not sure we will see all of these roles implemented in the short term but I do think, after the year we have had, there will be some significant changes at certain companies and the ones more open to change will more than likely be the biggest winners. 

I would be interested to know if you have heard of any exciting emerging HR roles or are making any changes in your organisations. Let me know at se@elliottscotthr.com.