GTP21: Most common HR concerns from SME leaders as a result of Covid-19 and key advice

HR Dept Solihull

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2021 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2021 this involves 8 free online workshops taking place throughout March, and a virtual Growth Through People conference on 30th March. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Aston University, BMet College and the University of Birmingham’s Work Inclusivity Research Centre - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

It’s fair to say that SMEs have faced and adapted to some big challenges as a consequence of COVID-19. Being able to adapt is a key strength of SMEs but also of HR who have without a doubt stepped up to support SMES by helping them to navigate the choppy waters that have been the Furlough Scheme, remote working, redundancy and TUPE transfers to name but a few.  We’ve had to react quickly, and interpret sometimes vague legislation whilst exercising lots of judgement in previously unchartered waters.  

It has been exhausting for all of us but also exhilarating because we now know what we’re capable of when we work together, and we are more ready than ever to continue to support SMEs through the next stages of the pandemic and beyond.

At the HR Dept we represent over 6000 SMEs across the UK and whilst SME concerns at a macro level used to be broadly the same each year, namely: recruitment; retention; legal compliance and employee productivity, things are different this year.

Remember the hours of productivity that used to be lost through long commutes to work and business meetings?  Remember having to find office space and create ‘agile workstations’ to accommodate new recruits? Remember the endless filing cabinets?  We can say goodbye to much of this.

The combination of the Pandemic, The Black Lives Matter Movement and Brexit has completely up-ended SME priorities for 2021 and beyond, pushing things that were previously of a lesser priority right up to the top of the agenda.

So, here are what we consider to be the top three HR priorities for SMEs for 2021 together with the HR solutions.

Issues 2021

HR solutions



Recruitment and Succession



·         Recruiting after Brexit

·         Apprenticeships & Kickstart

·         Diversity & Inclusion

·         Development & Succession





New Ways of Working





·         Redefining our Businesses

·         Organisational Structure

·         Working from Home

·         Physical Environment

·         Managing Change



Mental Health and Wellbeing 


·         Stress Management

·         Mental Health Awareness

·         Remote/Home and Flexible Working

·         Communication

Although the media headlines often present a depressing picture about UK SMEs, a recent study by Yell in December 2020 found that 70% of SMEs within the West Midlands were optimistic about facing 2021.

This is great news but if SMEs want to increase their chances of success, they will need some professional HR advice and support that goes far beyond the basic HR administration practices to get things done.   The real value of working with HR professionals is not only in terms of their knowledge of employment legislation and employee relations but from their deep understanding your company, and its strategic aims and how they tailor the advice to ensure you deliver your business priorities in a timely and legally compliant way.

Erica Burke
HR Dept Solihull

M: 07425 449077
T: 0121 217 8038