After a year that no one could have predicted, our team has collaborated to provide our best predictions for the HR trends in 2021. As you’ll see, we envision trends in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, Benefits & Compensation, HR Strategy, Training & Development, and more!
The entire employee journey will be different from now on – from onboarding to performance reviews to check-ins to employee pulse checks. I anticipate that people will still be working remotely, even with a vaccine, so I don’t expect this journey to revert.
Just as I anticipate litigation over whether or not companies can mandate vaccinations, I also wonder if there won’t be the potential for bigger companies to cover the cost and distribute the vaccine for their employees to attract talent.
More organizations will continue to work remotely; therefore, it will be increasingly difficult to manage remote teams, measure productivity, carry out training, engage top talent, and tackle other efforts such as behavior coaching. As a result, I see HR being outsourced on a larger scale.
I think we’re going to arrive at a balance or a “blended work” schedule to allow employees to have more flexibility to work remotely while meeting the need for in-person communication and work. For some, the productivity, accountability, and associated costs of working remotely outweigh the benefits. Employees most likely won’t let it go without a fight, so a balance will need to be struck.
I imagine that recruiting for lower-paying roles will continue to be a challenge. Many candidates who have been out of work will need to find increased income to replace the income they lost during the pandemic. Additionally, recruiters will need to be more aware and graceful when addressing short-term survivor jobs or gaps on candidates’ resumes as a result of COVID-19.
I believe that some of the more common positions, such as Project Managers, HR Managers, etc. will be highly competitive as these were the positions cut from most organizations at the height of the pandemic, sending hundreds of candidates looking for work.
With our leadership changing, I believe larger businesses may be hit hardest with legislation requirements and taxes, potentially returning these companies to an offshore status and impacting their workforce. I think the small businessman will not be affected unless they are not a green-friendly company. Businesses big and small alike will continue to combat COVID-19, at least through the middle of the year, until the vaccine has been distributed to the masses and we can see how it will control future infections.
The purpose and meaning of PTO will look and function differently. I expect to see a rise in customized plan options for employees, vacation time separated from sick time, maybe even combining flex time with PTO. 2020 has conditioned us to be prepared for the unexpected, to be flexible, and to understand that everyone’s situation is different.
The pandemic will (hopefully) ease up in 2021, and this will allow companies to decide what they want their new norm to look like – i.e., is remote work still allowed? Is the company culture going to stay the same? Is everyone coming back to work in-person? This will allow companies to figure out who they are and how they want to move forward.
Thanks to the worldwide shut-downs due to the pandemic, consumer demand and travel have reduced considerably. As vaccine rollout and usage increases, this will result in increased consumer spending. This increased consumption will put a strain on the manufacturing industry, which is already struggling to find enough talent to meet consumer demands. This will result in a strong market dominated by candidate choices. Toward the end of the year, I would expect to start seeing increased wages occurring in manufacturing as competition for workers accelerates.
My prediction for 2021 is that we will continue to see a focus on inclusion and diversity in recruiting and in the workplace. Virtual interviewing and online skill assessments, as well as the integration of artificial intelligence tools, will also be broadly used in the process of screening candidates. This is in part because of the number of job posting resources that have built-in tools to allow employers to screen out those candidates that do not match the criteria of their position early on in the process. At the same time, candidate experience is going to be more important than ever to find the in-demand talent that employers need to recover from 2020.
I would expect to see a continuation of many of the trends that we saw in 2020 to continue into the beginning of 2021 as we are still in the thick of the pandemic. This will require HR professionals to continue to focus on issues of employee relations, morale, team building (particularly with remote teams or a hybrid of in-person and remote), and endurance as we all strive for brighter days when COVID-19 is no longer playing a pervasive role in our lives.
In addition, I envision a focus on the further development of soft skills that have become critical skills, including effective communication (both to and among employees), conflict management, and weaving diversity, inclusion, and belonging into the fabric of organizational cultures.
2021 will be more focused on the employee. That may be by providing upskilling opportunities to develop stronger and unique skill sets, as well as bolstering their workforce by retaining the talent they already have. Companies may also revamp their plans for recognizing talent for their accomplishments to meet today’s needs. Recruiting will be a big focus too.
My prediction is that we’ll have an incredibly busy year in talent acquisition should we begin to fully reopen. There will be jobs that need to be re-filled after closing down, as well as innovative roles that will be coming along with the “new normal.” However, if the economy is slow to return to normal, we will most likely continue to see small- and medium-sized businesses struggle to potentially close as we have seen in the past ten months or so.
My prediction is that you will see a lot more FLEXIBILITY with staff. Whether it is flexible schedules, flexible work locations, or flexible job share-type arrangements, I feel employers will continue to be much more giving with staff in allowing for untraditional policy and practice in getting the work done.
Employers will have to become more creative to engage a hybrid workforce across both remote and in-person environments. Employees like the flexibility of working remotely, but many also miss the collaboration and energy of being in the office. This means organizations will likely need to offer a variety of options to employees, with options such as one remote day per week or a rotating schedule of days in-person and remote. There will need to be a paradigm shift to help employees feel comfortable using technology to effectively collaborate when they are remote, as the ability to “shout over the cube” may be lost. Collaboration will be key to keeping teams working cohesively as a unit, especially if teams split up between in-person and remote environments. Organizations may find that they need to adjust key performance indicators to include “remote engagement” activities, such as mentoring, virtual events, standing huddles, newsletters, video updates, etc.
We’ll see a continued expansion of AI tools and virtual interviewing platforms in Talent Acquisition. As more employers continue to extend remote work mandates, they will turn to these tools to screen candidates for critical roles in their organizations. While these tools evolve quickly and can be effective, beware – they have the potential to negatively impact employer brand and candidate experience if they’re not attended to with a close eye. The organizations that can maintain a high level of candidate experience while implementing these tools will have the most success at hiring top tier talent.
There will be even more conversation around mental health, including more frequent check-ins amongst team members. Much of 2020 was spent recognizing the strain individuals were under and connecting those individuals to new remote resources. I anticipate 2021 will bring about deeper conversations about how to better protect our mental health and find ways to build stress relief into our day. This might reveal itself in requests for a new benefit structure, an increase in the PTO used rather than banked, or even a blended work schedule to allow for both remote and in-person interaction.
In 2021, we will naturally be seeking out human connections and ways to overcome the conflicts and connect with others on a deeper, more purposeful level. This theme of “human connection” will become stronger throughout the year as we are transitioning into a new stage of the pandemic with effective treatments and vaccines. HR and business leaders will be focused on ways to make it easier for people to behave the way they want to, with respect and understanding of others, by offering continued learning and development of individuals, teams, and entire organizations.
Relevant topics such as communication strategies, decision-making processes, DEI&B, growth mindset/resilience/change, critical thinking, ethics, relationship building, and supporting self-evaluation tools will be hot topics requested by employees in an era of continuous improvement and learning.
I anticipate long discussions (and potentially some disruptions) in the workplace over the COVID vaccine. Some employers might want to mandate them or some employees may become engaged over the controversy as to whether to vaccinate or not (and judging those with opposing views).
I expect remote work to stay on a permanent basis. I believe many companies will migrate to having more remote workers on a permanent basis than we’ve seen in years past, leading to a greater need for strengthening communication skills, employee engagement initiatives, and teambuilding.
Finally, I expect vacations and PTO usage will spike. From a morale standpoint, this will be a great challenge for businesses to tackle. However, employers will have to manage the spike in PTO requests and keep their businesses productive. Great for the hospitality industry – a challenge for everyone else!
I anticipate that we’ll see a shift in union representation. Expect the National Labor Relations Board to shift in tune with the new administration, with more relaxed regulations that make it easier for unions to organize employees. Also, as some employers choose to require COVID vaccinations, it’s possible that unions may begin to file unfair labor practices against these employers or express their employees’ concerns with being forced to get the vaccinations. This makes it even more important for employers to ensure that they’re keeping things fair, consistent, and that they remain tuned in to the needs/wants of their employees.
Another potential trend we may see is a change in pay practices for remote workers. Employers with remote workers will be asked to demonstrate that these employees meet exemption criteria and, if not, that they are being paid according to the FLSA guidelines. Right now, there may be a greater number of employees who are working from home on an hourly basis, which may provide opportunity for oversight and miscategorized employees.
If everyone has to stay working remotely for longer than anticipated, employee morale will have to be closely monitored. When people have to adjust to going back into the office, whether they love it or hate it, they’re most likely going to have a period of adjustment as well. Many may find that the adjustment is uncomfortable, as employees are used to a certain amount of freedom, and so going back to work and that kind of structure might create friction.
Need help tackling your HR Strategy for 2021? Let our team of HR experts assist in building your plans for the new year. Please visit our HR Strategy page, or simply contact us – we’d love to hear from you.