2021 is here and how! The wild Pandemic year saw significant disruption in businesses, lives, livelihoods, immense turmoil, behavioural changes across the world. The Human Resource function has once again been centre of this unprecendented year, holding everything together with the characterstic empathy and regulation. Josh Bersin has been closely analysing the trends and predicts that the year 2021 will amaze us with: "Transformation at Scale" for HR & Work and the world. Here's what he predicts: -


1. Raging Wars for Talent

We’re entering the decade's most competitive “Wars for talent”. The rising job market has demand for service, transportation, and digital skills like never before.
  • Number of open jobs is almost as high as it was 12 months ago, and economic productivity is at record levels - as per a new research by EMSI and LinkedI. What this means is that for key roles and geographies, there is huge demand for people, and you will be competing for talent
    in every way.
  • The Job pool is reducing. The pandemic has changed the workforce itself. Baby boomers are retiring at a record rate, 1 with more than 3.2 million retiring this year alone. Women and non-college educated workers have also left the workforce, making it even harder to find people to fill the service, labor, and contract jobs now in high demand.
  • Jobs for 2021 will be service roles – jobs that require technical skills and experience but are primarily driven by your candidate’s ability to learn, collaborate, and relate to your company’s purpose.


2. Digital transformation - the new Way of Life.


  • There’s no more reason to debate whether people are allowed to work at home; they’re now working everywhere. Now, work comes to you rather than you going to work.
  • HR has to push forward with the simplification, integration, and design thinking of the digital work experience. Products like Microsoft Teams are sweeping across the world, enabling HR teams to create a single platform experience for employees.
  • HR tech tools in Hiring & Work are more important than ever.


3. Employee Experience is a Corporate Strategy
EX team has an expansive mission and focusing only on HR is not sufficient. EX touches on work,
career, and life journeys.
  • Now, EX initiatives are company-wide projects that include HR, IT, legal, facilities, finance, and workplace safety.
  • In 2021, you will need a cross-functional EX team that looks at employee segments, employee journeys, and the role of service delivery centers responding to employee problems and needs.


4. Communication is the Lifeline
  • Employee Listening, Hearing, and Communication is probably the biggest of lesson of 2020.
  • All over the world, CEOs and other senior leaders got on Zoom calls with hundreds to thousands of employees and opened up channels to talk, share, listen, and get feedback. We needed such frequent communications because the entire world was so uncertain.
  • “Shortening the Distance from Signal to Action,” will be the key in 2021


5. Wellbeing & Safe Workplaces
  • Citizenship, trust, and social responsibility will be a big focus in 2021. Cisco’s mission is now “Power the inclusive future for all.” Target’s mission statement is “Help all families discover the joy of everyday life.” Such inclusive, socially-oriented mission statements are a new theme in business: we are here to help society and employees, not just shareholders.
  • Giving to others, volunteering, and taking care of the environment and community is also part
    of wellbeing and will remain a growing trend.


6. Skilling & Continuous learning
  • Heavy Focus on Skills Leads to Strategic Focus on Capabilities The reskilling, upskilling, and skilling craze has continued. In 2020 we realized that we have a lot to learn about public health, hygiene, and safety.
  • There was also renewed emphasis on automation and AI, making every job in business one of “continuous learning.”
  • A focus on capabilities will help you create deeper skills, bring people together, create mentoring, and leverage the expertise within companies.


7. L&D Will Be Disrupted
  • The more people start moving around and taking on different roles, the more content and training they want and hence Talent marketplace products are taking off.
  • LRS platforms will become real. The real data engine of learning is not the LMS or the LXP; it’s the learning record store, where all the detailed learning data resides. These tools are going to become much more important in 2021, so start getting familiar with this market segment.
  • The demand for content will continue to explode and storing it will be valuable.
  • Workday, Oracle, and SAP are getting serious about learning. Workday Learning now has more than 800 customers; Oracle has built a serious learning platform in Oracle HCM; and SAP is investing heavily in a new end-to-end enterprise learning platform.


8. Talent Mobility Is Finally a Highly Strategic Focus
  • As the job market became transparent, companies got frenzied and started piling on benefits, career development opportunities, and better and better learning programs to help keep high performers around.
  • Transition from career models to facilitated mobility. Companies such as Cisco decided that moving employees around in the company should be part of their strategy. At this time, company leaders began to understand the importance of well-rounded general managers.
  • Companies like Unilever, Schneider Electric, PepsiCo, Society Generale, and SAP are thriving on internal mobility and this is a transformational new strategy.


9. HR Transformation is on the Front Burner

  • HR has become a center of innovation. We need to reorganize HR so it can develop and deliver in an agile way, become data driven, and focus laser-like on employee experiences.
  • People analytics is now one of the most in-demand capabilities, followed closely by DEI skills and experience.


10. Environment, and Sustainability Will Grow
  • Now that we’re working our way through the pandemic, people are thinking about their role in society as well. Our selfcentered culture has peaked and we’re going to move to a more collective culture around the world. Problems like income inequality, health, global climate change, and racial justice loom large on the minds of younger people. New Deloitte research shows that more than 70% of professionals under the age of 50 want to spend significantly more time giving back in their lives.
  • People have to be good citizens within your company – taking care of each other, protecting company assets, acting in an ethical way -- and also good citizens in the communities you serve.


11. DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) will Continue to be a Major Imperative

  • Listening to and acting on employee needs, giving employees an opportunity to speak up, holding HR teams accountable for DEI metrics and programs, and driving transparency and accountability into business leadership.
  • DEI as a business strategy, not an HR initiative. The SEC and Nasdaq getting involved in diversity issues. Companies like Cisco, Target, Unilever, IBM, Accenture, Lego, J&J, Merck, Capital One, Astra Zeneca, Sodexo, Hilton, and ADP are making significant headway in bringing about change. 


12. HR Will Be a Center of Innovation
  • HR is now working in a center of innovation. Every single people-related practice – from hiring to leading to performance management, succession, career models, job architecture – is an opportunity to innovate.
  • HR has to worry about people issues, economics, society, technology, and culture all at once and 2021 will open a plethora of innovation opportunities.

Josh Bersin is an internationally recognized analyst, educator, and thought leader focusing on the global talent market and the challenges impacting business workforces around the world.
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