Four Trends From SHRM With Staying Power

Four Trends From SHRM With Staying Power

By Tricia O'Connor

SHRM 2021 was a powerhouse event this year, and it couldn’t have come at a more influential time. 

Make no mistake about it, talent acquisition and people management has changed forever. There is no going back from the pandemic, only finding new ways to move organizations forward. And that’s exactly what the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference and expo in Las Vegas provided.

Here are some of the biggest trends our EBI team pulled from SHRM and how they’ll continue to impact HR teams even beyond the pandemic.

1. Influential Role of HR

The coronavirus crisis, political polarization, and social unrest have thrust HR teams into uncharted territory. The role of HR professionals has never been more demanding. Whether you’re a large-scale powerhouse HR department or a small and mighty team of one, you are largely responsible for keeping organizations operational, caring for the wellbeing of employees, and catalyzing changes to the workplace.

HR departments throughout various industries have displayed this adaptability through a systemic reimagining of their organization in its current environment. You’ve deftly examined the overall processes in place before pandemic disruptions and facilitated dialogues with leadership to find out what elements could be kept, what needed revising, and what was outdated. In a matter of weeks, HR specialists became corporate Marie Kondo’s, discarding outdated processes and unnecessary steps while streamlining roles, responsibilities, and functions and building new safety guidelines.

In doing so, HR teams have made the leap from being a supporting player to, some might argue, the most influential department in an organization. You can count on HR to influence the C-suite from now on as these teams have proven they can handle a crisis while still future-proofing their companies. 

2. COVID-19 Testing

Businesses are realizing the pandemic has changed employees’ minds about their wellbeing. Employees no longer want to work for companies that do not prioritize their physical health and safety. How to go about that, though, is still being debated.

While the details of President Biden’s vaccine mandate are not quite finalized, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to issue guidance in the coming weeks. This comes on the heels of guidance issued in June from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that confirmed employers can require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the workplace. Almost immediately, unvaccinated employees with no intention to receive the shot filed large lawsuits against their employers.

A less risky and perhaps equally viable alternative is to supply employees with COVID-19 testing kits. An instant antigen COVID-19 test can confirm if the coronavirus is detected from a nasal swab. Apple and Amtrak are taking a similar approach with their employees. Companies who show they care about an employee’s wellbeing may be better able to recruit top talent without resorting to tactical short-term solutions like signing bonuses, said one panel at SHRM.

3. Working From Anywhere

There’s no use fighting it anymore – the simple fact is remote work is here to stay. Your workplace has changed forever. So should your hiring expectations. There are two specific things employers, though, may need to adjust now and beyond the pandemic.

One, substance abuse rates and deaths are skyrocketing. More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, a 30% increase from the previous year. And a report from Quest Diagnostics shows 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to drink alcohol during working hours while working from home.

Instant or rapid drug tests can help employers keep their employees safe, even while working from home. Introducing remote drug testing into your workplace drug testing policy may be a smart move. An instant saliva test provides accurate results in minutes at the point of collection and is more private and convenient for applicants or employees. Oral fluid testing can be done instantly through video observation, making it ideal for remote positions. Remote drug testing also saves employers money because there is no need for applicants to use a clinic to conduct the collection. Eliminating a clinic cost can save employers $20-$25 per collection.

Two, you may want to review your Form I-9 procedures and make sure you are compliant with remote hiring rules. Every couple of months since COVID-19 hit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has extended a relaxed set of rules for completing the mandatory Form I-9. New guidance applies only to those employees who were hired on or after April 1, 2021 and who are working in a remote setting due to COVID-19 precautions. In this situation, employers are allowed to check documents virtually until the employee is no longer working remotely or when the provision ends on December 31st, 2021. Employers only have three days for in-person document inspection once the temporary guidance ends. It makes sense to come up with a plan now, rather than putting it off until the expiration. If you are hiring in person for on-site work, you must inspect all documents in person. There are no exceptions.

And about those lingering productivity questions? You know, the assumption that people who work from home are less productive than their in-office counterparts? Johnny Campbell, co-founder and CEO of Social Talent, debunked that myth in his SHRM presentation. Campbell cited a recent study that showed 32 percent of supervisors found their employees to be more productive working from home, compared with 23 percent who said they were less productive. The remaining respondents indicated workers’ productivity was about the same.

4. Hiring for the New Workforce

Generation Z was predicted to comprise 24% of the workforce by 2020. By 2025, Gen Z—the most racially and ethnically diverse generation—will account for nearly 30 percent of workers, said Chelsea C. Williams, founder and career strategist at College Code, during her SHRM presentation.

And in many cases, this generation has very clear standards for the type of culture and corporate value system they’re willing to work for. For one, Gen Z craves a culture of belonging and wants to work for companies that don’t pay lip service to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but commit to making long-term change and bolstering representation.

This means creating talent acquisition and employee retention strategies meaningfully designed for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In her SHRM presentation, Williams broke down these topics into three separate concepts:

  • Diversity represents all the characteristics of a person.
  • Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all groups, and actively seeking to identify and remove barriers for marginalized groups
  • Inclusion is creating a workplace that is safe, engaging, and welcoming for everyone

One of the largest untapped talent fields HR teams can begin to recruit are people with neurodiversity, sometimes referred to as cognitive diversity. Roughly 6.5 million people in the U.S. have autism, intellectual, or developmental differences, but employment rates for neurodiverse people remain staggeringly low.

Gen Z is also not willing to settle. They are the first population to grow up with smartphones, texting, apps, and social media. They absorb heaps of information every day because it’s been readily available at their fingertips. The result is an entire population that learns fast, naturally multitasks, and feels comfortable with technology. And they want to be rewarded for it.

To survive beyond the pandemic, it will be increasingly important for companies to demonstrate and communicate how job candidates will thrive at their organization. Now that this new workforce can work from anywhere, they won’t stay in a stagnating role for long.

Smarter, Safer Screening Beyond the Pandemic

As 2021 slowly draws to a close, we’ll keep a close eye on how HR teams continue to respond and evolve to the pandemic. You can count on EBI to be a resource for background screening, drug testing, and modern workforce recruiting information. We are the most awarded background screening firm in the industry, after all.

And believe it or not, SHRM 2022 is just around the corner – this time in New Orleans. We’re already excited to see you in June! In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Learn More About Sterling