Four people predictions for 2021

The only constant of 2020 was change and Ross Seychell predicts more of the same. Here he offers his personal predictions to help us through another uncertain year.

If you had asked HR teams and leaders last December what they would be focusing their energies on in 2020, it’s likely a global pandemic, economic recession and a mental health crisis were not at the top of their lists. Indeed, one of the many lessons learned this year is that it can be very difficult to predict what the future holds.

Yet, amidst all of the chaos, if there’s one thing that stands out as a constant throughout the year, it’s change – and 2021 will be no different. From dealing with the biggest remote-working experiment in history, to tackling new and nuanced issues such as furlough, redundancies and an increasing reliance on technology, 2020 has continued to throw anything and everything at HR teams.

And, as we look ahead, it seems inevitable that these changes will play a critical role in influencing HR teams’ plans and strategies. Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into, here are my four people predictions for the year to come.

Greater reliance on automation and data-driven insights

Fuelled by the evolving needs of today’s businesses, technology has changed from a ‘nice to have’ to a major transformational driver of business growth. And, with the pandemic accelerating the reliance on technology, we expect this trend to continue.

It’s likely that 2021 could hold the biggest shift towards equity – as opposed to equality – in the workplace

As part of this, we expect to see a greater adoption of HR automation processes, as businesses look to make long-term investments to fuel recovery post Covid-19. Whether businesses want to free up time to focus on their people strategy, or to create a positive and seamless employee experience, by harnessing technology, data and analytics businesses can make better decisions to fuel their growth.

Reinventing the employee experience

2020 has already forced many companies to rethink their employee experience, and ongoing disruption and a more permanent shift towards hybrid and remote working mean more changes are expected to come. And with the war for talent ever increasing, reviewing this for both employees and candidates will be essential for attracting and retaining the best employees in future.

Fundamental to rethinking employee experience will be analysing it through a hybrid-first lens. Here, technology will be a gamechanger. By harnessing data and analytics, HR teams will be able to take a strategic approach when it comes to assessing all the different forms of attraction from onboarding through to offboarding in their employee experience.

A rethinking of rewards

Today’s employees and candidates want more than just cash and fun perks. Armed with ever-extending wish lists, they increasingly look for more meaningful benefits.

And with the pandemic revolutionising the way we work, if employers are to remain attractive to the new generation of tech-savvy and socially conscious employees, then they’ll have to keep up and adjust the way they recognise and reward their workers.

As part of this, we expect to see many employers shift their benefits packages to cater for a workforce that’s increasingly looking for long-term rewards over short-term gain. For instance, this could include increased help for parents and carers, flexible mental health and well-being support, home working options that offer genuine flexibility, or rewards such as stock packages and better pension plans.

A shift to equity and inclusion

No doubt this has been on the trends list for the past few years, but with this year shining a spotlight on a raft of issues around diversity and inclusion, it’s likely that 2021 could hold the biggest shift towards equity – as opposed to equality – in the workplace.

And, with the remote working revolution in full-swing, this also brings a new set of challenges for leaders and HR teams: how do they make sure people feel included and connected when they’re apart?

Here, data will be king: what does the data say about the current workforce? What’s lacking? And how are they going to address that moving forwards? From interview processes to pay and performance decisions, businesses will benefit from taking a long hard look at all stages of their employee experience. Indeed, it’s by digging into this data that managers will be able to uncover and address existing issues.

Put simply, in 2021, adapting to the new world of work will be one of HR’s greatest challenges. And whilst we can’t predict the future, we can take steps to create the one we want.

By investing in the right tools and technology, by harnessing key data and insights, and by focusing on their employee experience to meet evolving expectations, businesses can ensure they flex and adapt to whatever 2021 has in store for them.


About the author

Ross Seychell is chief people officer at Personio


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