When predictions about what 2020 would be like came out this time last year, it’s safe to say no one got it right. The talent industry, along with everything else, was rocked by the unexpected pandemic and the impact of the changes it brought will be long lasting. So what does that mean for talent professionals trying to plan for 2021? Looking ahead at what might also be a year ruled, at least in some part, by uncertainty, there are a few trends emerging to be aware of.
Predicting 2021 talent priorities
What aspects of work and talent acquisition face changes as we head into a fresh new year?
Remote work isn’t going anywhere: Or at least not for the first quarter or two of 2021. With news of vaccines making their way to countries around the world, the end of remote work might be in sight. Even if it is, however, this global test of an alternative way to work is like a genie being released from the bottle. It will be hard to convince employees, and in many cases employers, to go back to a work model that doesn’t include a remote element of some kind, even if it’s one day a week. In fact, some companies like Twitter and Shopify have already taken things a step further and announced some permanent changes to the way they approach work, allow for some positions to stay virtual indefinitely. In the wake of this shift in mindset, it’s wise to predict that 2021 will see an increase in remote work options in jobs that didn’t previously have that flexibility and the rise of hybrid teams made up of team members rotating between in-person and remote work.
Virtual recruiting is the new normal: Let’s hope you like video interviews because virtual recruitment is here to stay. We were always moving towards a more automated, tech-driven hiring space but the pandemic certainly accelerated this area of talent management. Yes, in-person hiring will return when it’s safe to do so but now that hiring managers and recruiters are growing more used to online interviews we’ll likely see a hybrid approach develop. Video interviews can be great for remote candidates if you want to expand your talent pool or for initial screening interviews as they can be accomplished quickly without taking up too much of a candidate’s or hiring manager’s time. Final or more senior interviews will likely return to the office but the time and effort saved through virtual recruiting will be hard to walk away from when the pandemic ends.
Data-driven hiring strategies are gaining popularity: Hand in hand with virtual recruitment is a new focus on data-driven hiring. When you can’t meet your candidates in person, you need to turn to other ways of assessing their potential. You also need to have a solid understanding of your entire hiring process in order to keep it as effective as possible in a remote world. This has led to an increased focus being placed on data this year. Companies which never tracked metrics before are beginning to pay more attention to their time to hire, quality of hire, and cost to hire, all of which can help vastly improve the hiring process. On the candidate side of things, we’re seeing increased use of testing tools such as assessments or work-based tests to uncover more insight into a potential hire before an offer is made. It’s more difficult to rely on gut instinct when vetting someone through a screen and data provides an objective way to support more accurate hiring decisions.
Virtual learning works: How we learn and train has shifted through the pandemic with trainers being unable to physically reach their clients. While there are benefits to training in-person, virtual classrooms are proving that with the right approach, lasting knowledge can be imparted in an online environment. We’re also seeing a new focus on the importance of employee development and continued growth. With new tech tools flooding the market to help teams connect and new skills being required to work effectively in a remote world, providing employees with the right kind of training is vital to keeping teams on track. While in-person L&D will definitely be back after the pandemic ends, the ease and accessibility of online learning won’t be forgotten. Many training companies now have virtual modules or e-learning seminars that will still be offered beyond 2020, especially as hybrid teams, or geographically diverse teams, will continue to require online training tools moving forward.
Employee well-being is a top HR concern: The importance of maintaining employee well-being has never been more clear than in the past year. Workers have had to struggle with job uncertainty, rising stress levels, and remote burnout that all chip away at an employee’s resiliency and wellness. Many companies stepped up to adjust their benefits or find new ways to promote healthy living to their employees. Some companies traded in gym memberships for home exercise equipment, for example. Other employers have updated benefits that can’t be used in a remote world and provided wellness support such as online counseling or virtual training on how to maintain a work-life balance at home. Now that we can clearly see how our bottom line is impacted by employee burnout and stress, this focus on keeping our workforces healthy and happy will increase in priority for HR in 2021.
Employer branding is having a resurgence: Employer branding used to be more of a buzzword than a true recruitment tool. We all understood the importance of an online presence and knew that candidates were researching potential employers online, of course, but it was often a task tossed between marketing and HR with little formal strategy backing it up. We’re now living in a different era where companies you wouldn’t have thought would take a stronger stand online have. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, released a plan to improve diversity within the company in response to the BLM movement. Delta’s CEO shared updates of what was happening with employees on unpaid leave throughout the pandemic so they wouldn’t be forgotten. Other companies have been equally vocal online about how they’ve adjusted their operations to help their workers or others in their community this year. All of these stories will live forever on social media and become a piece of the next stage of employer branding which will be about empathy as much as it will corporate culture. Candidates will want to know how companies handled the pandemic when they apply. Savvy employers are getting ahead of the competition by using their pandemic response as a strength when trying to attract new talent.
More change is on it’s way
Let’s hope this year’s predictions have more longevity than those made about 2020. Much of the next year will likely be navigating a return to normal, or rather what will be our new adjusted normal. Remote work will become more accessible as jobs offer more hybrid options for work. The way we recruit, connect with candidates, and train employees will also continue to evolve in a virtual world as we streamline our processes and introduce new ways to automate old tasks. And we’ll see HR prioritize employee wellness to increase retention in the workplace and employer branding to attract new talent. Remote workers have had to show a remarkable level of adaptability this year which will continue to help teams moving forward. The future might not be certain but one thing we can count on is the world we return to will look different than the one we left in early 2020. Let’s use this opportunity to embrace the transformations that have come out of a turbulent year so we can start 2021 on the right foot.