Evolution in human resources (HR) is nothing new, as technologies, laws, and social movements have always influenced the way professionals work. But 2020 is a different story: COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests that arose after the death of George Floyd have fueled different conversations and topics in HR departments—topics that will shape the way workplaces function in 2021 and beyond.
Change is good. Change is necessary. A recent Gallup report revealed, "85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work." This disheartening report showcases the need for HR to grow and evolve. It's imperative organizations figure out what's keeping their employees disengaged and uninterested. Each HR department will have its own answer as to why, but it's important for every company to take a real hard look at what needs tweaking.
One great way to analyze the complexities of your workforce is to conduct an employee engagement survey. Sure, we can give you a list of the hottest HR trends for 2021, but it's significant to go beyond this list. Talk to your employees and potential candidates to figure out what they need to feel engaged, fulfilled, and motivated. Here's a good place to start:
10 HR Trends for 2021
1. Remote work
Although many organizations had already begun to shift to more remote work in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting city-wide lockdowns have made flexible work a necessity. The surge to working from home has been an adjustment for companies and employees alike, but many people enjoy the flexibility and lack of commute that remote work affords them. However, remote work can introduce challenges that organizations may need to overcome, such as Epresenteeism, less team cohesion and collaboration, and technology shortfalls. Moving forward, HR departments that have relied on face-to-face recruiting and onboarding will need to find solutions to work effectively as more organizations embrace remote work after the pandemic.
You'll want to double down on making sure employees feel connected, even if it's virtually. Try incorporating events you would have in-person and transition them to the virtual world. Let's say you had office happy hours every other Thursday. Do the happy hours via Zoom now. Furthermore, set your employees up for success by offering them a budget for a work-from-home office setup. Here at Canvas to help employees have a comfortable “work from home” environment, we offer a $500 reimbursement to get employees the tools they need and a $75/week reimbursement for meals.
2. Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion strategies have been a hot topic in HR circles for a while, and 2020 has turned up the heat on this discussion. Employees increasingly want to work for companies that make diversity and inclusion a part of their standard operating procedures, so forward-thinking organizations will need to prioritize recruiting and retaining people from a variety of backgrounds. Studies show that having a diverse and inclusive culture increases company revenue, innovation, and productivity, so the time dedicated to incorporating these principles into an organization is time well spent.
Not sure where to start with your diversity and inclusion strategy? Check out our latest Diversity Hiring Ebook: Bold Strategies for Equitable Hiring Across Every Candidate Touchpoint.
Even the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is changing. According to Fast Company, DE&I individuals are now becoming more incorporated teams. And the focus is less on attaining perfection, and more on making progress. Set DE&I goals, measure data as early as you can and track progress along the way.
3. Mental health
As employees deal with more pressure than ever before—from navigating a global health crisis to juggling caregiving with work to navigating a more virtual work environment—the conversation around mental health has entered the foreground. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of adults in the United States have reported experiencing mental health problems since the pandemic began. As a result, employers must commit to giving workers the mental health resources they need—from access to affordable care to understanding and empathy from management.
Create a culture of check-ins and a place where managers are demonstrating and modeling healthy behavior themselves. Your company can also offer training on mental health for managers and employees. It could also be helpful to reexamine your policies and procedures. Are you creating a flexible working environment for employees to take time off to receive mental health help if needed? Look at your company hours, paid time off policies and try to find a balance between working hard and overworking your workforce.
4. Overall wellness
Much like the focus on mental health is increasing in the workplace, so too are people expecting employers to be concerned about their overall physical wellness. Organizations can create wellness programs to support employees’ physical health, which can positively impact employees’ job satisfaction and engagement. Recruiters can also use their dedication to employee wellness as a selling point when looking for new hires. For example, our friends over at Gusto wanted to provide students with opportunities to alleviate stress and fatigue. They created "Mindfulness in a Remote World" and took participants through a journey of Setting Daily Mindful Intentions, Finding a Mindful Balance in Work and Life, and Staying Connected Mindfully. This was a great way for future candidates to get to know Gusto's culture and increase their employer branding and engagement.
Another way to help the overall wellness of your employees is to create an employee assistance program (EAP). According to the Office of Personnel Management, "an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems." Having a resource that employees can turn to can make all the difference. Remember to normalize mental health and wellness and create an environment of inclusion and a place where your workforce can bring up and discuss this topic.
5. Data-driven HR strategies
As the workforce evolves, HR departments are increasingly using data as part of their decision-making process. The more organizations keep track of metrics like turnover rate and absenteeism, the better they can strategize their staffing needs and uncover solutions to tricky problems. In addition, HR professionals can use data to not only understand the tools their employees need to be productive but to make a strong business case to decision-makers about the importance of those tools if they have data to prove it.
You're going to want to also use data when it comes to your recruiting strategy. And remember, get the data from the very beginning. Your company should be tracking the rate to hire, the diversity of your candidate pool, and employee acceptance rate to name a few. The difficult part is actually tracking this information. Thankfully, at Canvas, we can track this data with ease. With Canvas’s Enriched Candidate Data, you’ll get over 75 self-reported data points on all applicants to get a much more nuanced and well-rounded picture of your candidates.
6. Appealing to younger workers
The workplace has become more multigenerational than ever before, with baby boomers to Generation Z employees all under the same organizational roof. As a result, HR professionals now must understand the needs of the younger people in the workforce—which, in many cases, are so important to them that they’re willing to leave a job in order to have those needs met. For example, according to research from Deloitte, the top reasons millennials left their jobs in 2019 include lack of advancement opportunities, poor work/life balance in a company, inadequate financial compensation, boredom, and feeling unappreciated.
7. Professional development for employees
More and more, people are emphasizing the ability to advance at a company. HR professionals are providing professional development opportunities to retain top talent, as strong performers want to grow in their careers and develop the knowledge and skills that allow them to do so. People will either do that with their current employer or they’ll do it elsewhere—that’s why leading HR professionals will recognize that the investment made in professional development activities is an investment made in the strength of the organization itself.
8. Employee experience & retention rate
Employees can count at least one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic: the ability to reimagine their relationship to their career and what is important to them when choosing a place to work. In response, companies have needed to place more focus on the employee experience in order to keep their talent engaged and fulfilled. In 2021, it’s going to become critical for organizations to discover their employees’ motivations and rethink how their workplace operates to ensure they can deliver.
It starts with your onboarding. Think of your onboarding as the foundation of a house. You need a solid foundation to hold everything in place. Employees should have their 30, 60, and 90 days mapped out from the get-go. They should get a good sense of culture by meeting with various individuals from different departments, so they start feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion. Next up is figuring out how to keep employees engaged with mentorship and learning programs. How can you mentor your employees to enhance their skills and work toward their goals?
Let's not forget the elephant in the room—compensation. When it comes down to it, employees want to be paid well. When employees feel they can receive a higher salary at another company, they start looking. For the HR department, you'll want to consider the cost of employee turnover. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates "the average replacement cost of a salaried employee to be six to nine months’ salary. For an employee earning $60,000 per year, that totals approximately $30,000 to $45,000 in recruiting and training costs."
9. Mobile-friendly recruitment
The majority of people in the workforce have a mobile device, and for many of them, it is the primary or only way that they access the Internet. As a result, companies must make their recruiting process as mobile-friendly as possible. Companies can start by having a site that is easy to read on devices and allows mobile users to seamlessly apply for open positions. In addition, by incorporating texting into the recruiting process, HR professionals can increase their chances of attracting the right talent. In fact, according to data from global technology firm CDW, recruiting text messages have an 87% response rate, with candidates answering messages within about three minutes. Recruiting text messages also have an open rate that is five times higher than that of email messages.
10. Speaking on social issues
Employees want to work for companies that care about the social issues that are important to them—and they want their employers to take a stand about those issues publicly. As matters of racial injustice, economic inequities, and gender inequality become a bigger part of the public dialogue, prospective employees are going to expect companies to add their voice to the conversation.
It is undeniable that 2020 has been a challenging year for organizations around the world, but HR professionals have always been able to adapt and develop recruitment strategies that respond to current workforce needs. By looking at these ten hot topics in HR and understanding how such trends relate to their individual organizations, recruiters can continue to make their businesses look attractive to quality potential hires, while keeping their current talent engaged and fulfilled.