March 2021: Reflecting on the past year

Mel Green & Gill Maxwell, Research Advisors

On 23 March 2021 this year the National Day of Reflection in the UK will commemorate lives lost to  COVID-19 and we will stand together with everyone who is grieving. In supporting this milestone event, we also take its spirit of remembering, supporting and connecting with people into encouraging reflection on the past year.

Focusing on our people

If 2020 taught us anything it’s that the ways in which we work, how we focus on our people and how we support wellbeing and inclusion can all change for the better, as our CEO Peter Cheese said in January. And the people profession has proved its value, being at the forefront of decision making and navigating ever changing legislation through the pandemic. Our research, guides and other content, like webinars have provided insight and practical guidance through this time, as well as considering what the vast changes brought about by coronavirus will mean for employers and the wider world of work.

The past year has brought new understanding of human needs and behaviours in the workplace. Now we have a timely opportunity for some reflection on our journey through work in the last 12 months, and how we can ensure we harness the lessons we have learnt along the way. 

Reflecting and building on a difficult year

Two of the areas that have been front and centre of mind for organisations, people professionals and employees  - wellbeing and workplace inclusion - deserve reflection.

Reflection can be a very helpful personal and professional activity, and we offer the following  questions around wellbeing and workplace inclusion to help frame your own reflection, whether you think about these questions as an individual practitioner and as an employer.

Prioritising wellbeing  

Wellbeing is at the top of organisational agendas, with many employers prioritising their employee wellbeing at an especially difficult time. It’s also important that people professionals ensure their own wellbeing too. With many experiencing sustained pressure at work over the past twelve months alongside living through a pandemic, looking after our own wellbeing is also paramount (CIPD members have access to a wellbeing helpline). Now is a good time to reflect on how to look after ourselves too.

We also know that after a year of working through a pandemic, many feel a sense of burnout and resilience is a hot topic. CIPD’s new report on strengthening resilience highlights the drivers of resilience and the role of employers and managers in building this. The onus is not on employees to ‘buck up’ and be more resilient, instead the emphasis is on managers and employers to promote a supportive environment.

Important questions to help reflect on wellbeing include:

  • What do you know now about supporting your people in their work that you didn’t a year ago?
  • What do you do better now than a year ago in supporting your people?
  • What can you do better in future to improve people’s working lives?
  • How can you connect more with people in your working community?
  • What steps can you take to look after your own wellbeing?

Making workplaces more inclusive

We’ve spoken a lot about diversity and equality in the past year. From keeping inclusion in mind in the initial throes of the pandemic to maintaining the focus on inclusion as we continue to navigate hybrid working - both are very important. In our Responsible business report, senior leaders discussed the potential for our workplaces to become more inclusive with additional flexible working options. Any hybrid working strategy needs to be evaluated through an inclusion lens.

There is a need to maintain a renewed focus on diversity and equality in organisations, especially when it comes to race (to find out more on this, see the CIPD’s new series of race inclusion reports that explore how employers and the HR community can act to eliminate racism in the workplace).

Important questions to reflect on when it comes to inclusion and diversity are:

  • What do you now know about supporting inclusion in your workplace that you didn't a year ago?
  • What do you do better now than a year ago to support inclusion in your workplace?
  • What can you do more of in the future to make your workplace more inclusive?
  • How can you develop race diversity and equality further in your workplace?

Moving forward

We can’t predict the future, but we know that the coming months and years will no doubt bring further challenges. So there is an opportunity now to build on our reflections and learning from the past 12 months and think strategically about how we adapt people management practices. This will help equip the people profession to navigate future workplace trends and create positive changes in our workplaces.

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