The Ultimate Leadership Checklist For 2021
By Gena Cox, PhD - December 15, 2020
2021 is fast approaching and, regardless of where you sit in your organization, you are likely looking forward to the start of a new year. December is the month when you might be pondering new ways for connecting, new ways of working, new ideas for leading your team, or even new ways to define your organization’s culture or mission. A new year is a great chance for a reset.
To support your workplace resolutions, Perceptyx has compiled insights gleaned from our research and consulting activities in 2020. Use these recommendations to form the basis of your own leadership checklist template; you can then add other items that may reflect your specific priorities heading into the new year.
Team Leader Checklist
For managers, 2021 is all about creating environments in which team members can thrive.
- Strive to understand and support team members’ expectations. Begin the year with an employee survey that can provide a north star for your leadership impact in 2021.
- Help team members connect with one another. Whether working remotely or onsite, your team members may be feeling less connected to their colleagues than usual. Look for ways to foster team cohesion. If you plan to incorporate these team-building activities into regular meetings, be sure to allocate enough time so they are not rushed.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. As a manager, your team members may be asking questions for which you do not have the answers. You need to keep pushing your leaders to provide enough concrete guidance so you can communicate regularly and with clarity about employee concerns. These communications are critical to maintaining your credibility with those you lead.
- Practice self-care. You may have been in overdrive for all of 2020, but you cannot and should not sustain that pace. Collaborate with your peers to develop a manager self-care plan that allows each manager to have time away for the rest and rejuvenation necessary to sustain your energy in a year that is likely to be equally as challenging.
- Take a personalized approach to understanding your team members. We have learned that the impact of the pandemic may vary among employees, depending on their jobs, care-giving and parenting responsibilities, gender and race/ethnicity, and other factors. It is important to recognize these dimensions of difference and to have a way to measure these experiences throughout the year.
- Continue to put yourself in your team members’ shoes. Many of the disruptions that plagued 2020 will still be present in the months ahead. While the start of the new year will offer a psychological transition point, many team members will still be facing daunting challenges at home and at work. Continue to relate to your team with the empathy that lets them know you recognize their challenges.
HR Leader Checklist
For HR leaders, 2021 is all about new lenses and informed actions.
- Let data drive your strategy. In a period of great change, it is critical that HR strategies be data-driven. Leaders in such an environment cannot depend on assumptions and hunches to determine how to leverage their talent to support business goals.
- Craft an HR strategic plan that is specific to the unique needs of a pandemic-disrupted business. Make a list of all the topics about which you were asked to advise your organization in 2020; it’s likely it will feature many new topics, or topics that require deeper and more nuanced decision-making than before. You need to establish an early plan to help HR professionals focus, and to ensure you are aligned with the business strategy.
- Get a handle on the “new” topics about which your C-suite is likely to seek your guidance. Among these topics will be: supporting employee mental health, managing grieving employees, gender differences in employee retention, returning to work, and building social connections in the workplaces of the future.
- Elevate the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The race, ethnicity, gender, and LGBTQ+ disparities that were highlighted in 2020 will require HR solutions in 2021 and beyond. CEOs, government entities, financial exchanges, and investors are asking new questions HR leaders must be prepared to answer. Additionally, in June 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This ruling will require HR leaders to pay closer attention to the experience of LGBTQ+ employees than in previous years.
- Proactively develop an action and communication plan regarding COVID-19 mitigation. Vaccine distribution and efficacy are public health issues. Understanding employee concerns, preferences, and reactions to a vaccine and or post-vaccine protocols are HR leader and business leader issues. Measure employee opinions to ensure leader communications are proactive and adequately address the employee perspective.
- Ensure your employee recognition efforts are updated to match changes in the way work gets done in your organization. Employee recognition is a perennial driver of employee engagement. Employee engagement drives business outcomes. In a period of great change, roles and responsibilities are being redefined and employees may be working in unfamiliar circumstances. Although traditional hierarchical structures remain, many employees may be contributing to the organization in new ways and making sacrifices that might not have been necessary before. HR leaders must understand the new work landscape from many angles beyond task performance. HR leaders should understand the new way in which employees are adding value, the new ways they are demonstrating leadership, the new ways they are supporting teamwork and collaboration, and the new ways they are driving innovation. This means that recognition must also morph to match these new ways of working.
Executive Leader Checklist
For top leaders, 2021 is all about setting a new and sustainable vision and modeling care, concern, optimism, and resilience.
- Thank your employees. As you transition from 2020 to 2021, be sure to thank all employees for their contributions and sacrifices. If your workforce includes essential workers, acknowledge that their efforts have buoyed not only the company but also the nation. Express appreciation on behalf of all Americans.
- Support employees who survived a layoff. Perceptyx research has shown that “survivors” feel less empowered to make decisions regarding their health and personal life in the wake of layoffs; are 50% more likely to say they often worry about their job security; and are less likely to say that the stress levels at work are manageable than those who work for an organization where no layoffs or furloughs occurred.
- Share your future vision with clarity. Although it may not be possible to predict your 2021 business with the precision of previous years, do what you can to let employees know where you are headed. Employees will respond positively to any information that provides an anchor.
- Take action to maintain employee engagement. Perceptyx research has found that organizations having the most success maintaining engagement in 2020 asked for employee feedback about these topics: communication, response from leadership, mission-critical objectives, clarity of direction, how customers are being supported, how the organization is enabling work performance, and how managers are supporting their teams.
2021 promises a grand reset for the workplace experience. All internal stakeholders (employees, managers, HR leaders, and top leaders) have an opportunity to contribute to this evolution if they maintain a growth mindset. Leadership demands a thoughtful, data-driven, and purposeful approach that considers the lessons learned in 2020, but also acknowledges that there is still a lot to learn.