At Work

6 Workforce Trends to Watch in 2021

No one could have predicted the way 2020’s events would upend workplace traditions. In a matter of months, scores of employees worked from home—many for the first time. Whole operations went into virtual mode, while the word Zoom became a verb.

Now, the world has settled, at least a little. Nevertheless, 2021 brings with it the possibility of several workforce trends. While some of the trends have Covid-19 origins, others have percolated for years. As a professional, you’ll want to stay abreast of these leanings to avoid getting left behind.

1. Going global for talent sourcing will become more prevalent.

Telecommuting has opened the door for many companies to think beyond geography when hiring. In fact, the next time you need to source for talent, you may want to put out a global call. As long as your company has the infrastructure to remain virtual, you can interview and onboard people from anywhere.

Of course, you’ll need to be thoughtful to bring in talent from around the world. Time zones, cultural norms, and even language can make integrating team members challenging. Yet the upsides to recruiting from anywhere far outweigh the pitfalls. Just be certain you have a plan upfront so your global recruitment efforts are streamlined, not stumbling.

2. Turning to freelancers may save a bundle on payroll.

Think you might have an open position to fill? Are your staffers telling you they need another colleague to expand the team’s bandwidth? Before you hire a full-timer, consider potentially outsourcing your needs to independent contractors. Many talented folks actively seek freelance jobs. As freelancers, they take on new clients and projects up to capacity. And you get the benefits.

What are the advantages to hiring contractors? For one, you get to skip payroll taxes. Plus, you don’t have to offer perks like health insurance or an EAP. If a freelancer doesn’t work out, you can end your contract relatively painlessly. Oh, and you’ll get to pick and choose from experts in a variety of fields. Need an IT person today and a graphic designer tomorrow? No problem. Additionally, you only pay for deliverables or a set amount of time—no surprises.  

3. Moving toward hybrid working arrangements should help lower costly turnover.

Employees will always move in and out of working situations. However, employers want to limit turnover as much as possible because it’s expensive. Replacing a key worker can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the person’s role. Additionally, a constantly changing workplace environment can lead to lower morale and less collective engagement over time.

One method to tamp down on turnover’s churn and burn effect is by offering flexible, hybrid-focused working arrangements. Plenty of companies have announced commitments to allow employees to work from home regularly or take time off as needed. Being adaptable helps keep talented people from jumping ship, which has a measurable effect on profits. It can also have a positive effect in regards to workplace gender equality. Studies indicate that women, especially working mothers, have borne the brunt of Covid. Giving all workers more freedom to plan their schedules shows respect for someone’s talent and time.

4. Providing a secure workplace will remain essential.

Even as vaccine rollouts begin to take shape around the country, employees expect their employers to take safety seriously. As a result, employers have begun to implement processes and solutions to minimize risk of germ spread. These include improving the frequency of sanitization protocols, providing PPE to all workers, and installing plexiglass barriers.

Over time, some of the security measures may become less critical. However, people will be concerned about wellbeing for the long haul. Consequently, employers can anticipate that they will need to spend 2021 proving they care about their workers. And caring starts with making sure all workers are provided with safe working zones.

5. Upskilling current and new employees may be necessary.

Not everyone hired for a job has the immediate skills to jump into the fray. In fact, 84% of new hires are without necessary training to perform their roles. Why? Sometimes, a great candidate possesses quite a few of the most important elements needed to succeed. But they need additional skills to be true assets to the team. Nonetheless, the employer offers them a role rather than risks losing them to a competitor.

This reality puts the onus on employers to present employees with the chance to upskill. And upskilling can take many forms. Some employers may arrange for self-directed courses online, where talent can earn certifications. Other employers may pay for their workers to receive formal education through accredited organizations, trade schools, or universities. By putting money toward advancement of their people, companies can improve the know-how of their overall workforce.

6. Centralizing data could become vital.

When employers moved remote in early 2020, many coworkers realized they had little to no access to important information. The reason was simple: Too much internal data had been historically siloed. Therefore, it was unavailable to people unless they came into the office, which wasn’t feasible for many employees. 

Though no one wants to experience another round of pandemic lockdowns, every business needs to be ready—just in case. One way around the problem of getting workers information is by instituting a cloud-based, centralized data system. From open source platforms like Google spreadsheets to proprietary software, centralized platforms are available. You’ll need to take the time to transfer all your data to the new portal, true. However, once you centralize your collective knowledge, you should see a huge spike in efficiency.

So far, no one’s found a crystal ball to indicate what lies ahead in 2021. Yet you can be sure that the workplace won’t look like it did in late 2019. Staying ahead of changes will help your organization attract, onboard, and retain the stellar workforce you need for industry disruption.

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