text: 3 ways 2020 forever changed the HR space; illustration of woman sitting at desk with people around her in pop up bubbles, signifying remote connection

3 Ways 2020 Forever Changed the HR Space

Sarah Greesonbach | 5 min read

In much the same way that you and I make New Year’s Resolutions, the end of Q4 and the start of Q1 is a popular time for HR executives to sit back and reflect on which trends will shape the future of work.

This year, there’s plenty to talk about. Every person and every business has felt the impact of COVID-19 and the urgent cultural issues taking place in America — and we’re set to carry the lessons we’ve learned with us into 2021. 

Unlike previous years, however, these trends represent permanent shifts in the way HR supports enterprise organizations as a whole, and they put new pressure to the tools and technology HR executives use to support organizational goals. As a result of these trends, we’ll see a new priority placed on talent management and learning and training technology, including the learning management system (LMS).

Curious about what the world of work can expect in 2021? Here are three trends we think will define HR from this year forward:

1. A Spotlight on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and policies have been urgent topics for human resources professionals for decades. But the cultural events in the United States throughout 2020 put a bright spotlight on the role of organizations in DEI. Combined with a surplus of data on the business benefits of actively pursuing underrepresented talent, there’s no avoiding the need for every organization to think through its DEI position, policies, and programs. 

For organizations gathering research on how to support this trend in 2021, here are a few ideas that will help you make it a priority: 

2. A Shift to Remote Candidate Relationship Building and Employee Onboarding

Pre-pandemic, the majority of businesses operated onsite, with only 7% of the population regularly working virtually. Key parts of the HR and recruiting processes also took place onsite, allowing HR executives to facilitate candidate relationship building and employee onboarding face-to-face, supplemented by occasional voice and video calls.

Post COVID-19, the story is completely different.

Up to 58% of knowledge workers now work virtually, and many companies have had to move their entire hiring process online. For candidate relationship building, that means a lot more phone interviews (57%), video interviews (56%), and LinkedIn research (32%), according to research from the talent relationship management platform Lever. And for employee onboarding, which Glassdoor reports can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, that means a complete reliance on technologies like learning management software (LMS) to organize and disperse critical onboarding information. 

3. A Need to Reskill and Upskill Talent for Future Roles

Recruiting and hiring new talent will always be a key focus of HR and recruiting teams in enterprise businesses. But in response to the sudden economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, enterprise organizations froze hiring to see how the economy would play out in business performance, and made plans to make the most of existing talent to retain as many people as possible. With the unemployment rate in the U.S. hitting the highest ever recorded rate of 14.7%, many enterprise organizations responded to the new economic uncertainty by putting more emphasis on reskilling and upskilling existing employees. 

Navigating the semi-permanent motto of “Do more with less,” HR executives quickly made plans to upskill existing employees on new technologies to be more efficient and reskill existing employees to tackle urgent tasks in an effort to correct the imbalance of resources across the company. Notable instances of this trend in action include reskilling flight attendants into medical aides and upskilling teacher tech skills to facilitate virtual school in K-12 – two examples that will pave the way for more reskilling and upskilling in 2021. 

Growing a Company and Building a Workforce in Uncertain Times

It might seem like 2020 and the years that follow will introduce businesses to more uncertainty than ever. But in reality, COVID-19 and other events of 2020 only highlight  the uncertainty that always exists in the business world. While the events themselves are unique, the outcome is the same: businesses must adapt to the new trends that represent the most urgent priorities businesses face in order to outperform, outmaneuver, and outcompete their competition.

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Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.