Saying 2020 is a year we will remember is an understatement. So much has changed since March of this year. 2020 is a tail of 3 very different business scenarios: 1) those who are having an outstanding year financially, 2) those who have struggled significantly and may have taken drastic measures to survive, including significant layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, etc. and 3) those who are on life support currently, or even worse, they are planning on shutting their doors or putting their business up for sale.

We have been forced to go into crisis mode, react quickly and work smarter on every level. Now that we are in the 4th quarter, it is a great time to consider what we need to do to get ready for 2021. We have every reason to remain strategic and develop a plan to help us turn this corner and move forward. Remember, every great business has to continue to think strategically and look forward – this is the job of the business owner, CEO and their leadership team.As you make your plans, keep in mind that your employees are looking for their leaders to lead them and keep as much status quo as possible. That is the premise of the 5 critical areas outlined below.

5 Critical Focus Areas from an HR or People Perspective for 2021:

  1. Performance Management. Make sure you do your performance reviews as you normally do. Most companies do year-end reviews (great if they are more frequent) or conduct the meetings in January. Even if your business has had anything but a normal year you need to have the discipline to conduct reviews. Not only will this give you time to discuss employee performance for 2020, but also focus on career development and have an open conversation with your employees.
  2. Create a Strategic Workforce or Talent Plan for 2021. You may have made significant changes in your business to right size it for either growth or decline this year. Now is the time to step back and make sure you have the right people in the right seats. You may need to consider making significant changes in your workforce due to COVID if you went through major growth or retrenching.
  3. Talent Retention Strategy. Regardless of how your business is doing right now, whether you are growing or stagnant, you need to take care of your “A” players. They are the starters on your football team. They are the drivers of your company’s future and need to be kept happy to stay with your company. Do whatever is needed to keep them from being poached by an outside company. Many companies are actively hiring again this quarter and seeking the best employees.
  4. Focus on Your Culture. Many companies are not yet 100% back in the office. Some have made strides to get most employees back, while others are not making plans to return to the office until 2021. This fact has a huge impact on your culture. How do you maintain the culture you worked so hard to create when you only see your employees virtually? You can only do so many Zoom happy hours and virtual lunches. Leaders need to figure out how to maintain the culture when working remotely. Also, consider that going forward part of your workforce working remotely may be the new normal. It is important to remember that in the best of times, companies have about one-third of their workforce actively engaged in their work. The other way to look at that of course is that two-thirds of your workforce is either disengaged, or actively disengaged. Keeping culture at the forefront can significantly increase engagement.
  5. Compensation Plan. Even though this year may have been challenging financially for your business, you need to make sure you look at targeted salary increases and bonuses going into next year. There is nothing written in stone that you have to give everyone a salary increase and/or bonus. You need to be strategic in your approach here if your business has really suffered. The compensation component goes hand in hand with your talent retention strategy. Go back and reread what #3 says again, you need to take care of your A players.

The overall key theme here is that companies need to have the discipline to do what they do every year. With so many things up in the air, we must create our own sense of normalcy and consistency. We owe it to our employees to focus on company culture and look at strategic hiring needs going into 2021. Most importantly, we must take care of employees and maintain open communication. At the end of day, being thoughtful about the key people processes will pay off for your business for years to come and help employees see stability and a future going forward with the organization. We are all counting on 2021 being a year to remember for many positive reasons as we look at creating added momentum in the U.S. and Global economy.