From finalizing open enrollment details to wrapping up performance reviews, the last few months of the year pack in lots of year-end HR tasks. But this isn’t just any normal year: It’s 2020—a year that for most companies has brought unprecedented revenue losses and a slew of new responsibilities spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means your checklist may look different than it has in years past. Sure, there are plenty of routine to-dos to tick off, but planning and strategizing for the year ahead has never been more important. Prepare for a better and brighter 2021 by getting a head start on these year-end HR tasks:

Communicate your remote work plans. With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in many parts of the country and no vaccine available at the moment, many companies are considering extending remote work through next summer. If you think this might be a possibility for your workplace, don’t keep your staff in the dark about it. Whether you need employees to stay virtual for now or intend to stagger their schedules throughout the week, “let your teams know as quickly as possible what the plans look like for 2021,” says Michelle Thompson, XMI’s vice president of HR.

Revisit your employee engagement strategy. If most of your employees have been working from home since the spring, chances are none of them expected to be out of the office this long. If you choose to keep your staff remote, how can you keep your employees engaged and your culture alive with everyone scattered? Zoom meetings may help remote employees stay in the loop with their team, but they may still feel disconnected from other departments without a structured plan. “If you haven’t already put strategies in place around engagement, it’s important to consider that,” Thompson says.

Conduct performance reviews and set goals. 2020 has thrown a wrench into many plans, but performance reviews should proceed as normal, especially if you operate on a January-to-December fiscal year schedule and are budgeting for any pay increases in 2021. Getting those reviews done now will help determine what those increases will look like, so you don’t come up short in your budget, Thompson says. Don’t neglect goal-setting either. Now more than ever, employees need to know what’s expected of them and what to focus on. Providing this structure keeps them from operating in crisis mode and helps make sure their efforts align with the overall goals of the organization.

Plan for technology and talent needs. If nothing else, the pandemic has reminded businesses of why they need the right technology and talent in place to succeed. It’s important to start prioritizing these HR initiatives now for the upcoming year and initiate conversations at the leadership level about what’s needed to execute them, Thompson says. For example, if you plan to introduce a new virtual communication tool in 2021, now is the time to evaluate the costs and any training that might be required to bring employees up to speed. With the increasing pressures and workloads of the post-COVID-world, you’ll also want to make sure employees have the resources and support they need to thrive, especially in a remote work setting.

Bring your teams together (safely). 2020 has been rough for everyone, and we could all use a little extra cheer. Maybe you can’t plan your usual holiday office party, but if you can find a way to safely bring your teams together, it could be a huge morale booster. Maybe you could host an outdoor fall festival with boxed lunches or rent a large space for a masked and socially distanced get-together? Or what about a virtual trivia night or Christmas-themed scavenger hunt? “Think about the activities you may have previously done together as a team, and how you can still do those in the new world we happen to be in today,” Thompson says.

Need a refresher on other year-end HR tasks to get a jump on? Here are a few:

  • Update employee information for W-2s.
  • Check paid time off (PTO) balances and encourage employees to put in their requests in now for time off during the holidays.
  • Create and distribute next year’s vacation calendar.
  • Review vendor contracts and set up renewal details.
  • Audit and back up personnel files, along with other HR data.
  • Review your employee handbook and flag policies that need updates or revisions.

Sound like a lot to tackle? Learn how partnering with XMI can help you get a handle on your HR tasks for 2021 by calling us at 615-248-9255 or emailing


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