Employee Experience
5 min read

The top 4 skills HR teams need in 2021


Lyssa Test

Writer, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As we begin to re-enter a state of normalcy, employees want to see action. Workplace equity, hybrid work, and work-life-integration are just a few of the trends shaping the new employee experience, and businesses must plan their people strategy accordingly to keep up. 

In 2020, HR teams were forced to react to the many unexpected changes that popped up throughout the year. Now, 2021 presents an opportunity for businesses to be proactive and get ahead of changing employee expectations. To help you do just that, here are the 4 skills you need to address real-world issues in your workplace and stay ahead of the curve on employee experience in 2021 and beyond: 

1. Listen to your employees

No one knows your employee experience like your employees. After all, they live it every day. But, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to life at your organization as no two employees will have the same experience. When it comes to improving your team’s work-life balance, you need to call on new, diverse voices to provide additional perspectives to listen to and learn from. 

“It takes a self-aware leader to acknowledge they don’t have all the answers, and it takes empathy to listen to others and find ways to support them,” said Jenn Yee, former Senior Director, Learning & Organizational Development at HelloFresh. “During uncertain times, we are leaning into these EI principles to build trust and resilience at HelloFresh.”

How can your organization listen to its employees? Employee engagement surveys let your entire team tell you exactly how they feel about working at your company. Platforms like Culture Amp use powerful technology and people analytics to simplify survey administration, give you insight into the key areas of your employee experience, and identify areas of opportunity and growth within your organization. 


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2. Commit to DEI

While diversity and inclusion has always been a pressing workplace issue, it has taken a more prominent role in conversations around the future of work, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement. Today’s employees want to know how their employer is taking action to prioritize internal diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. People want to work for employers who make the world a better and more equitable place, and companies are taking notice. 

“In 2020, employers learned to ‘see’ the many dimensions of their employees. Whether it was through the parenting realities that were apparent on Zoom or the different lived experiences highlighted by the death of George Floyd, employers have a chance to begin 2021 with this deeper understanding,” said Paria Rajai, CEO and Founder of diversity and inclusion consultancy, ModelExpand. “Research shows us that acknowledging and addressing the different dimensions can help create an engaged workforce. 2021 is a chance to take the learnings of 2020 and create a new work environment that recognizes values, and authentically creates space for employees in their entirety.”

D&I pulse surveys can be an insightful way to collect anonymous feedback on your employee experience, especially from underrepresented groups. That can help you measure inclusivity and inform where to direct your D&I efforts, so you can build a workplace in which everyone can thrive.

3. Lead with vulnerability

A silver-lining of 2020 is that we all worked together to navigate it. While managers had to lead their teams through uncertainty, they also dealt with stress, anxiety, and frustration in their personal lives. But by dropping their personal walls, admitting they didn’t have all the answers, and sharing their own experiences with direct reports, many managers welcomed vulnerability into the leadership style, which encouraged their employees to open up, share their experiences, and not be afraid to ask for help.

“As a leader, it’s extremely important to be aware of what your people are going through, understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of company messaging, and provide transparent communication. Empathizing with your employees is important in reassuring them that there aren’t necessarily holes in the ship, but the larger economy is going through a massive upheaval and transition,” urged Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at creative agency VaynerMedia. Leading with vulnerability and empathy empowers managers to be more aware of what their employees need, allowing them to be better coaches and leaders. 

4. Prioritize emotional intelligence

While hard skills like computer coding and data analytics have been in high demand in recent years, many senior leaders are investing more heavily in developing employees’ softer skills. Soft skills, like communication, collaboration, and creativity, are in higher demand than ever before, and for good reason. Studies show that managers with high emotional intelligence are better leaders and can have a larger impact on business profitability and productivity. 

This became so apparent in 2020 as managers had to lead with empathy and vulnerability to overcome uncertainty. “Even before the uncertainty of coronavirus, employers were struggling with stress, burnout, and engagement – all symptoms that can be supported and alleviated with a focus on emotional intelligence as a core part of your organization’s culture,” said Sarah Hunt, a Certified Teacher at the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI). 

Managers already have too much on their plates, adding on a lengthy e-learning class to their to-do list probably isn’t a realistic option. But, carving out just a few minutes a day to learn can teach people leaders the skills they need to succeed. Culture Amp’s Skills Coach teaches managers new skills via daily micro-learning, delivered through Slack or email. These daily coaching exercises are built on behavioral science to drive real change and create lasting habits, so your managers have the knowledge they need to support their teams. 

Preparing for the future

The modern workplace is always changing, but this last year has accelerated the adoption of new trends at an unprecedented rate. HR teams need to stay ahead of these trends and work proactively to prepare their organizations for whatever comes our way in the next year.


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