Looking to the Future – Lessons Learned from 2020

Town Hall Insights
Nordic CHRO Community

Martin Lexa

EVP HR & Corporate Communications



Amanda Manzoni




Stefan Tonnon


Insight Enterprises


The disruption of 2020’s global pandemic put HR executives to the test. Throughout the year, CHROs transformed their roles, stepping up to lead core business strategies as organisations reframed their objectives. With 2020’s challenges behind them, the Nordic CHRO community came together for a final town hall on December 17 to reflect on how their role transformed in 2020, and what is to come in the New Year. 

Lessons learned from 2020

The panellists all agreed that 2020 was the ‘Year of HR.’ The agendas they had been trying to drive for the past 10 years came into fruition, and although it took the world to be turned upside down, conversations around engagement, leadership and well-being have really been taken seriously across the board. Being put to the test like never before, CHROs rose to the occasion to transform business models overnight and to support their organisations as they moved to a remote environment. As such, many of their priorities have changed, and the participants shared just how much they had to adapt to the new environment.

HR is the backbone that enables people to work efficiently

One of our participants reflected on how they had been trying to get globally established, working-from-home/remote guidelines pre-pandemic, and how their company had to approve this almost immediately when the global crisis struck. Twelve months later, global, flexible working is now a standard. 

Participants reflected that they really saw that HR is the backbone that enables people to work efficiently, from moving workers around to managing the logistical challenges of people who had to go to work even during the pandemic. As they noted, although in March, they thought it would be a sprint, 2020 turned into an ultra-marathon. 

Another member of the community brought into the discussion how the human resources function today is starting to change and adapt with the times. They mentioned that they plan to change their department name from ‘HR’ to ’People’ and put well-being and self-care at the core of their activity. The idea behind this strategy is that their function should not be just about the resources, but about the holistic approach to people.


It is not just about recruitment; it is about looking after everyone in the organisation.


The total well-being agenda has come to the forefront of the CHRO priority list as we move into 2021. CHROs learnt that all are human beings, not human-doing, and that realisation has played an important part in the overall resilience of companies. 

Reframing the HR function alongside business strategy

CHROs always think about the future, and once we have overcome the pandemic, they are prepared for their role to change. An important highlight of the discussion was that the CHRO function can drive important changes across organisations, with key items such as digitalisation, as well as sustainability being placed at the forefront of the priority list. 

“The way CHROs will stay relevant as a function is by aligning to the business strategies of our companies,” one speaker emphasized. People had to transition from traditional, face-to-face sales to virtual. This is an important stepping stone from a digital point of view because many leaders are enhancing their capabilities as a company and shaping the customer experience through technology. 

In addition, one speaker noted that change management skills have never been more important. The human resources function today needs to be agile and has to be able to anticipate future needs. This, of course, has to always be linked back to the people strategy and to business goals. 

HR can help the company get through a crisis, but once this is gone, what will the CHRO role look like? The participants agreed that there is no doubt that the way they do business has been transformed forever after this year. In light of the pandemic, a key change from HR involved sustainability. The panellists asked pivotal questions that will undoubtedly put their organisations to the test: How can we do more without traveling so much, while still meeting the right people, but reducing our carbon footprint? 

One of the discussion participants was proud to say they have not printed one page since the pandemic started. And from that small scale, CHROs can begin to influence sustainability at a company level. 

Future people trends leading into 2021

A final key takeaway was that if HR leaders invest in culture, the company will survive and be successful because they are more resilient in the face of adversities. “We are all in the same storm, but all of us are in different boats,” one of the community members shared. 

CHROs educated business leaders that there is more to managing people than KPIs. They reflected that all leaders became more aware and more involved in the personal well-being of their colleagues, and there is a lot of value in that. This, of course, translated into the way they do business because how they communicate has changed. As a result, they expect to see a hybrid working environment going forward. In order to keep collaboration and connectedness, they have to reconfigure their offices and the way they work.  

2020 was the year when everything was put to a real test, especially the core values of organisations. As one leader noted, “There is a difference between what you say you do, but once you are put to the test, you really learn where you stand and how you are really making an impact.” Another noted that everyone champions transparency, and they learnt that this value is of the utmost importance, especially when everyone is working remotely. 

Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball, or knows what 2021 will bring. But the community members hope it will be a year of transition, they hope to see less lockdowns, and on the HR agenda, an elevated importance in supporting the organisation with people’s well-being at the heart of all business decisions. 


An Invaluable Network 

The Nordic CHRO Virtual Town Hall was attended by regional and global CHROs from leading organisations such as AstraZeneca, Danske Commodities, IKEA, Nordax Bank and Transcom Worldwide. This is the most senior gathering of HR executives, with 100 percent of participants with C-level or equivalent Head of Function job titles. 

This community is built by CHROs and for CHROs, to drive innovative ideas, share forward-looking perspectives and solve critical HR leadership challenges through peer-to-peer collaboration. 

by CHROs, for CHROs

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