Kerry Chandler: The pandemic was a catalyst for so many of us to reflect on what matters most in this life and how best to marry our purpose with our day-to-day work. I spend a lot of time thinking about how companies can ensure their cultures reflect (and best support) their people—that sense of “I am valued for who I am AND what I do”—as that alignment is so critical to a company’s ability to secure and keep best-in-class talent. For HR executives, figuring out how to help link the two is magical and an enormous opportunity.

HRE: The role of HR changed dramatically last year and continues to evolve with the pandemic and other shifts in the world. What are the most important skill sets that HR leaders of tomorrow will need to fulfill those roles?

Rhonda Morris: If the events of last year have revealed anything, it’s that leaders and organizations can make tough decisions quickly and pivot when needed. The workforce now has a different baseline of expectations from employers. HR leaders will need to be empathetic, flexible, have exceptional influencing and listening skills coupled with an ability to quickly adapt with robust decision quality. These attributes will keep employees engaged and motivated. At Chevron, we’re increasingly focused on the energy transition and recruiting people to help solve energy’s greatest challenges. Our future workforce may come from different sources than where we have traditionally found them.

HRE: How much has shifted in the past 18-plus months regarding the role of technology? Is that still developing? Are you collaborating with new partners on technology? What have you learned?

Michael O’Hare: If [this time has] taught us anything, it is the need to pivot to more cloud-based technologies that are nimble and easy to use. We are seeing an evolution away from big box systems that provide an end-to-end solution that will solve for all needs. Instead, we have seen a rise of emerging technologies coming from emerging markets, such as mobile-enabled interview apps, internal job marketplace solutions and just-in-time learning offerings. As a result, companies need to look to an increased number of partners that will provide quicker, better and more agile applications that can plug into the core HRIS.

It is critical that we think of our employees the same way we think of our consumers: end-users who are looking for simple, easy-to-use, mobile-enabled solutions that they can access anywhere, at any time. The world we are operating in is very dynamic and, as HR, our role is to ensure that our people systems are an integrated part of our overall company technology strategy, to ensure they are evolving at a minimum at the same pace as our business growth.

HREWhat has surprised you the most about how workplaces have adapted to the sweeping changes that have taken place since March 2020—from remote and hybrid work to urgency around DEI progress to pressures around employee mental health, physical safety and so much more?

Ellyn Shook: Two things–speed and collaboration, which aren’t mutually exclusive! The speed at which organizations have innovated and scaled solutions is extraordinary—to lift their people and accelerate digital transformations that turned laggards into leaders. And while collaboration was good pre-COVID, it’s now at a whole new level—breaking down barriers within and across organizations in remarkable ways to accelerate sustainable change.

HRE: What are your biggest concerns as an HR leader today, both in your organization and industry, and in the profession at large? Why are these items at the top of your list heading into the end of 2021 and looking ahead to 2022?

Perry Stuckey: Allow me to highlight two significant concerns that I see on the global landscape that are critical for us to address and will be around beyond 2022. These issues are important for all global corporate leaders and are extremely important for my organization as well. First, there is a labor shortage that’s causing a significant war for talent. We need to do more as leaders to expand and equip the labor market of the future. The second concern is the shift occurring in worker expectations and demand for greater flexibility, which is a result of the pandemic. This shift requires companies to be more progressive in their approach related to how and where work gets done. This is creating a different expectation and an increasing demand for companies to strike the right balance, which benefits employees, customers, shareholders and communities globally. Long-term business success is directly linked to long-term people success, and this requires having a value proposition that employees believe in and that encourages them to choose your company every day as the one at which they want to build a long-term career. The companies that make the appropriate adjustments in a tight labor market and provide flexibility for their employees, with the intentional focus on ensuring employees are net better off while driving innovation and delivering on their growth strategy, will be more successful.

Elizabeth Clarke is executive editor of Human Resource Executive. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida and then spent more than 25 years as a reporter and editor in South Florida before joining HRE. Elizabeth lives with her family in Palm Beach County. She can be reached at navigate the ever-changing modern workplace.