(Article originally authored by HR/Advantage Advisory, Powered by Clark Hill)

The US workforce has encountered unprecedented changes over the past few months. Forecasts from the fourth quarter of 2019 on business trends for 2020 became irrelevant by the time the pandemic arrived a few months later.

Recently, several HR experts from the Forbes Human Resource Council gathered to discuss the trends they expect to see in the second half of the year.

1.) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Although not new, the current climate of racial injustice and inequality has brought the topic to the forefront.  Employers will need to use fresh ideas and strategies that are relevant to the here and now. Some examples provided by TalentLyft include celebrating diverse holidays, establishing mentorships for underrepresented groups and using inclusive language when communicating – e.g., people versus ladies and gentleman and they versus him/her in handbooks.

2.) Improvement of the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture – Employers are more aware than ever before of their employees’ personal needs and well-being. They must understand what motivates employees to be productive and re-imagine traditional work processes. Flexible work schedules, telecommuting town hall meetings and frequent remote one-on-one meetings with managers and co-workers will continue.

3.) Technology Improvements – With the drastic shift of employees to a remote work environment, better collaboration tools, remote connectivity platforms (i.e., VPNs) and stronger IT infrastructures will be more important than ever. Additionally, enhanced employee training will be essential so that employees are better equipped to transition both in and out of office effectively with little to no disruptions.

4.) Changes in Benefits – COVID-19 could force fundamental changes in how employers and employees share in the cost and value of benefits. According to a recent SHRM publication, some of the most common changes employers are considering include: expanding virtual/telehealth programs (32%), enhancing mental health support (25%), increasing cost-sharing expenses like deductibles, premiums and copays (20%) and adding voluntary benefits (16.5%).

5.) Caution in Hiring – The pandemic has caused many organization to quickly shift gears. Some companies were forced to close their doors for good, while others have found it necessary to lay off employees to keep their doors open. Employers will continue to be very cautious in their hiring practices over the next several months.

6.) Growing Importance of Working From Home – Companies will continue to allow employees to work from home as uncertainty regarding the resurgence of the coronavirus and the creation of a vaccine continues.

Additionally, working from home may be an enduring outcome from the pandemic as companies are able to see that productivity and engagement has not suffered and they are able to realize cost savings from lower office expenses.

Sources: Forbes, “13 Human Resources Trends Expected in H2 2020” SHRM, “Planning 2021 Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era” TalentLyft, “10 Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Ideas You Can Implement Today”

HR/AA consultants are available to work with you on a project and/or interim basis to assist you with understanding, implementing and administering best practices related to the current COVID-19 challenges we are facing.