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We are nearing the end of 2020. For the most of us it has been a challenging year and it is time to look ahead towards 2021. A lot has changed and a lot will keep changing, so what will be the most important trends?
The world trembled under the terror of COVID-19. This new virus impacted our entire society and way of life. Still, not all is negative. This pushed us towards reconsidering our way of working and earning money. We have to rethink work which eventually might lead to a healthier balance within our lives (read more on how I believe this virus has impacted our way of working here). So what are the trends that this new push will give us? How will it impact everything around that which we consider work?
1. Remotely or Returning
Let’s start with the biggest question of all: will we remain to work remotely? Well, yes, more or less. Working remotely has proven itself to be beneficial for a multitude of reasons, so I believe that it is here to stay. However, there are also reasons to believe that people will want to come back to the office. If this pandemic has proven anything, it is that we as people crave social interaction. For some sort of reason we do not get the same social interaction by using an intermediary (pc, phone or other) as we have when we communicate directly. What we forgot prior to the pandemic is that our work is not only work, but also a large part of our social life. We roughly spend a quarter of our lives at work, so it is only natural that it becomes intertwined with our social life, and with good reason. To re-establish this part of our social life, I believe that most people will opt to go some days of the week to the others and work the rest from home. The days at the office will be mostly concerned with social interaction and the work from home will concern itself mostly with ‘getting things done’.
2. Influence of AI and data driven decision making
Here we go, this is what everybody is talking about (for the last 50 years): Artificial Intelligence. You most likely already have read a multitude of articles how ‘AI will revolutionize everything next year’. Well, again, the truth is a bit less exciting. AI will continue to play a role for some companies and will get introduced into countless more, but to hail it as ‘the’ trend for 2021, would be giving it too much credit. To be honest, AI will not revolutionize every company, but it will have an impact for some companies so we will highlight it really quick. AI will be more and more implemented to discover patterns within companies and to improve these. Here, we can think of patterns within finances, production, marketing etcetera. What’s more is that a wider range of decisions will be made based upon data. Hierarchical models will change as data will decide. Read more on how AI will impact HR and AI in general here.
As the virus has isolated us and driven us back to our homes, more and more companies will try to create strong teams to keep performance up. As the social pressure of work floor has made place for the comfort of our living rooms, it is harder to control employees, their loyalty and their performance. Building strong teams who are willing to go above and beyond for each other has never been more important, especially because our teams will meet less and less. This is why I expect that there will be more emphasis on team building activities. The few times that teams meet will be more focussed on creating meaningful connections, either digitally or face to face. More inspiration on digital team-building meetings can be found here.
4. Employee wellbeing
As we will focus more on teams, we will also focus more on the individual actors within those teams. Besides the more general trend towards a focus on employee wellbeing, this pandemic also has its impact on the mental wellbeing of your employees. Employers in general understand that the unique strengths from companies is supported by the unique qualities of their employees. Therefore more and more employers understand the importance of nurturing those qualities and employees. Where we still thought in the beginning of the 20th century that employees are easily replaced, we now understand the beginning of the 21st century that they are the unique selling point of our company. I think this trend will continue and will even be sped up by this pandemic.
5. Inclusion and diversity
At the turn of the century we have seen the rise within universities and on social media of movements like “Black Lifes Matter” and “Antifa”. Personally, I believe these movements are a prelude to a, once again, more general movement towards inclusion, diversion and equality. This is a movement that more and more companies will, justifiably, embrace as well. Both external and internal pressures (your own employees will also be influenced by the movement) will push companies to public inclusion- and diversity programmes. This will start at larger companies and will eventually trickle down to smaller companies as well.
6. Learning and growth
One of the trends which will also continue in 2021, is the development of our employees. I believe that more and more employers will invest more money to develop their teams and professionals, which is a healthy trend. If employees get the feeling that there is room for growth and development, this will create loyalty. Furthermore, you can mould your employees towards those ‘hard-to-find’ positions which are hard to find for HR-departments. So this is a double-edged sword which works in the advantage of employee and employer. This will cause a closer connection between employer and employee and a more sustainable form of employment, which aligns better with individual ambitions and causes less stress to find new superstars.
7. Introduction and expansion of VR & AR
An interesting trend which will be sped up by the COVID-19 virus, is the implementation and expansion of VR & AR within HR. As it will be harder to invite people to the office to assess them and to let them assess the office. In this sense new solutions will be sought in the form of technologies, such as VR (virtual reality) & AR (augmented reality), which can simulate real-life situations and sessions to assess candidates and to let candidates assess how it is to work in the vacancy. As we will have to deal with social distancing for the foreseeable future, these alternative are only sped up by the COVID-19 virus.
8. Improved candidate experience
Another trend which will continue is the improvement of candidate experience. This already has been going on for a couple of years now, but in 2021 the candidate experience remains to be important for a lot of companies. Companies have already realized that a good candidate experience boost your brand name and a bad candidate experience can hurt it. So improving the candidate experience via a variety of measures remains to be important. Often these are small adjustments in your HR processes with major outcomes for your marketing department (and even future hires). Do you want to find out on how you can improve your candidate experience? Click here.
9. Importance of soft skills
With people withdrawing to their homes and staying there, because more and more are getting used to working from home, soft skills will start to become increasingly important for teams and individual employees. It is fairly obvious that skills like ‘well organized’, ‘good working ethos/motivation’, ‘reliable’, ‘flexible’ and ‘good communicator’, are very important when teams are distant from each other and when people are working from home. These soft skills and more, will play a more crucial role for both employers and employees when cooperation remains remote.
10. Reconsideration of IT, infra and processes
Another side effect of working more from home, is that the amount of devices which is being used and the amount of different locations where people work is increased enormously. Although this means flexibility to both employer and employee, it also, in many instances, means a security nightmare. The explosion of different internet connections, devices, networks has playfully been accepted by most companies. However, now that we are slowly realizing that this is not just a temporary trend, but a way of working which is here to stay, I also believe that there will be a new trend towards an emphasis on IT, infra and related security processes. This to ensure that we can work smoothly wherever we want, with whatever we want and however we want.
2021 will, in many respects, be a logical follow up from 2020 in terms of trends. A lot will still being influenced by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the only difference being that employers will understand that this new way of working is here to stay. Therefore I believe that employers will more and more work towards long-term sustainable solutions which fit this new style of working.