5 lessons from HR leaders in 2021

Following his LinkedIn Live discussion with the Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) of Chevron Corporation and Blue Shield of California, KPMG’s Mike DiClaudio outlines five key lessons from this past year that is driving the workforce strategy in 2021.   

“Workplace transformation has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with HR leaders playing a critical role in keeping employees engaged, healthy and productive, while rapidly shifting to a newly challenging work environment,” said Principal, Advisory Mike DiClaudio. “Here are some valuable lessons we learned in the past year.”

Lesson 1: Live your values.

There are higher expectations for corporate behavior due to recent worldwide events related to justice and equality. Organizations that can live their values, connect with their employees and stand up for their beliefs are more likely to win the trust of customers, partners and investors. 

  • 95 percent of HR executives say their corporate purpose and values have been central to their response to COVID-19. (Source: KPMG CHRO LinkedIn Discussion, Feb. 2021)

Lesson 2: Evolve and adapt your employee experience.

Employee experience, mental health and well-being have been focal points during COVID-19, and many companies are providing training and support to address these issues. HR leaders must continue to shape the employee experience and adapt to encompass flexible, hybrid work models, while increasing automation in an increasingly digital environment. 

  • CEOs took a range of steps to sustain corporate culture during the pandemic such as increased visibility of leaders with employees (49%), greater focus on regulatory compliance (48%), increased employee communications (46%) and additional resources for employee collaboration (44%). (Source: KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Survey)

Lesson 3: Lead with empathy.

This new work environment has made leaders rethink how they engage employees. The pandemic has cut through traditional bureaucratic barriers, leading to increased investment in strengthening human interaction. What used to be deemed a ‘soft skill’ is rapidly becoming a requirement for leaders at all levels of the organization.

  • 47 percent of HR leaders said they are personally taking steps to safeguard the experience and well-being of employees. (Source: KPMG CHRO LinkedIn Discussion, Feb. 2021)

Lesson 4: Flexibility builds long-term resilience.

To become more resilient during the pandemic, organizations have become more flexible and adaptable. Ongoing adaptability to change is necessary for organizations to swiftly develop new capabilities and alter their ways of working.

  • Four in ten workers will continue working remotely for at least the next two years. (Source: KPMG CHRO LinkedIn Discussion, Feb. 2021)

Lesson 5: New era, new role for HR.

The HR function of the future needs to be more connected, driving innovation and collaboration while bringing a new humanity to leadership.

  • 60 percent of survey respondents agree that HR must “completely reinvent and transform itself” to respond more effectively to future disruptions. (Source: KPMG CHRO LinkedIn Discussion, Feb. 2021)

To learn more about the lessons for HR executives in 2021, check out the KPMG CHRO LinkedIn Discussion survey. To arrange an interview with KPMG Principal, Advisory Mike DiClaudio, please contact Andreas Marathovouniotis.

Additional Resources

Five 2021 lessons from HR leaders
Accelerating workplace transformation: Insights from CHROs on how 2020 disruption has impacted their perspectives and is influencing their strategy for 2021.


Media Contact

Andreas Marathovouniotis

Andreas Marathovouniotis

Associate Director, Corporate Communications, KPMG US

+1 201-307-7608



Mike DiClaudio

Mike DiClaudio

Principal, Human Capital Advisory , KPMG US

+1 313-230-3120

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