Many of us probably stepped into 2021 feeling like we were making a fresh new start: that things absolutely had to be better than the chaos of 2020. And for some of us, it may have been!
But the year is a month and a half old by now, and maybe you're feeling the weight settling back on your shoulders. It's still much the same old grind, with the same old problems still hanging around and the added complications of COVID-19 just refusing to go away.
So perhaps it's time to take a lesson from the Chinese zodiac, this Lunar New Year. According to the philosophy of the Chinese zodiac, each year is influenced by two astrological signs, an animal and an element, which are said to affect the people who are born in that year and the events that take place. 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox: a combination of astrological signs associated with bearing the weight of responsibility and steady, diligent perseverance. And those are probably the exact qualities we need to get through the year.
Consistency will rule the year
The year of the Ox is said to be a time for conscientious effort and determined consistency: a year during which people need to simply buckle down and get things done. Taking short cuts or trying for the easy way out may not work too well, or may even backfire—certainly, everyone had a good look at how that can happen last year, as countries that skimped on COVID-19 precautions saw the worst of the pandemic! This Ox year is a time to take that lesson to heart and continue to be diligent with our health and safety measures.
The Ox year can also be a time for sticking to what works and not experimenting too much or making major changes to one's routine. For some organizations, that might mean sticking to the solutions that worked last year—such as remote or flexible work and digitalization—and not being too quick to revert to the old approach. For others, it might be a matter of being extra cautious about business expansion plans.
But beware of being too conservative!
It's possible to have too much of a good thing, and the downside of the Ox is his tendency towards bull-headedness. On top of this, the element of Metal is associated with rigidity, sometimes to the point of narrow-mindedness; that quality of determination combined with the Ox's tenacity can push projects to success, or it can get everyone stuck in a rut. This year, organizations and individuals may finally see success in their pet projects...or they may become over-invested in situations to their detriment. It will be good to maintain a bit of flexibility this year.
What's more, the Metal Ox is notoriously bad at compromise. 2021 may well be filled with disproportionately large conflicts over comparatively small matters, which is all the more likely considering that the stress of COVID-19 has led to mental health being labelled a major risk this year. HR professionals might want to prepare to negotiate assorted workplace conflicts in the coming months.
Put your head down and keep plowing through!
The weight on HR's shoulders hasn't eased much since the pandemic started, with employee needs and expectations changing drastically over the months of remote work. People-first policies—developing, implementing, executing, and upholding them—are now central to organizations' talent strategies. And of course there is the ongoing problem of the pandemic to navigate.
HR will definitely need plenty of stamina, tenacity, and sheer bull-headed hard work to keep going in 2021. But that's not a new thing: HR professionals and leaders successfully coped through 2020's chaos and now have that experience under the belt. 2021 may be no pushover, but neither are the professionals handling the people side of the business
On a final interesting note, the element of Metal is said to influence the lungs and respiratory system, and those who are inclined to look for symbolism might see a coincidence with COVID-19! Of course, the elements of the zodiac are a philosophical principle rather than a law of nature, and their relevance to modern events is no more or less than what one wishes to ascribe.