December 9, 2020

A Year of Trust: 3 Industry Professionals Share Their Predictions for 2021 

2021 HR predictions

This year was an especially challenging one for organizations around the world. The massive shift to remote work, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, put stress on hiring managers, increased reliance on the cloud, and created demand for new technologies.

As we look toward 2021, many hiring professionals and business leaders are wondering how the economic effects of the pandemic may linger — and what kinds of new surprises 2021 might have in store.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, we did hear some insightful forecasts from a few industry experts. Here’s what they had to say about the coming year:

1. Less Reaction, More Proactivity
Jen Locklear, Chief People Officer, ConnectWise

It’s safe to say that we should prepare for the unexpected as we head into 2021. Businesses and HR departments can achieve this by leaning into the ways we’ve already adapted our business models and workforces through increased flexibility, automation, employee investment, and global recruitment.

Now that many organizations have adjusted to working remotely, leaders should look into adopting flexible work hours to accommodate parents with children at home, employees caring for loved ones, and those balancing work and education.

Additionally, now that we’ve adjusted to communicating via videoconferencing and messaging apps, we’re better equipped to communicate with employees around the world and across time zones. That opens up new possibilities in global recruitment, and 2021 might be the year in which we make a real dent in the skills gap and build a more diverse workforce.

I also expect HR departments will begin to incorporate more technology into their daily operations in 2021, and those already leveraging technology will look into maximizing its capabilities. Automating elements of your application and recruitment process can help reduce the amount of time and manual labor it takes to hire good employees. That’s time and manpower you can reinvest in your company culture.

Many organizations have found success in maintaining their company cultures over the past few months through virtual happy hours and regular check-ins. Although the next few months will likely present new challenges, you can maintain resilience by continuing to foster a supportive culture that helps employees get through these difficult times and adapt to a changing business environment. The next year will be less about reacting and more about being proactive in the ways we help our employees both personally professionally.

2. A Year of Trust
Svenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global

With the pandemic-imposed conditions likely to continue into the new year, tech leadership will have to continue embracing a remote workforce. While remote work had begun to increase in popularity in recent years, the pandemic caused adoption rates to surge. Many key technology companies have already committed to shifting to permanently remote workforces. The shift to remote work does pose some added challenges for global companies with various regional sites, as they will have to adapt each site based on how local governments and populations are reacting to the pandemic.

The main difference between having an in-office workforce and having a remote workforce is trust. Leaders will have to learn to place a lot of trust in their employees to complete their work, necessarily shifting from a culture focused on attendance to one focused on outcome-driven performance measures.

As we saw in the first quarter of 2020, productivity greatly rose when the remote work boom began. Employees felt the need to overcompensate to prove that they could be trusted to perform in a remote environment. However, as the year continued, that spike in productivity decreased; the initial performance overdrive was neither sustainable nor conducive to employee mental health. Industry and company leaders will need to make their teams’ mental health a top priority through regular check-ins, amendments to KPIs, and leading by example.

The continuation of the remote work boom in 2021 will also affect how tech companies are able to attract and retain talent. Prior to the pandemic, many employees were attracted to companies because of their secondary offerings. For example, Google used to attract a lot of top talent because of its unique on-site offerings. In a largely remote world, those perks are no longer as attractive. Going forward, the tech companies that will best attract and retain employees will be those that most successfully translate their pre-pandemic on-site secondary offerings into perks and benefits that meed the needs of a virtual workforce.

3. Strike a Balance Between Home and Office
Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK

For many industries, remote work is not a new concept. However, the pandemic has clearly made remote work into the new normal for businesses around the world.

Human interaction, however, will always remain a necessity in business. That’s what gets the emotional, cultural, and innovative juices flowing. What companies need to focus on next year is getting the balance between home- and office-based work right. Optimizing this hybrid arrangement can cultivate further enthusiasm and get employees focusing on the quality of their time spent on work, rather than the quantity.

While a vaccine — and, with it, the end of the pandemic — seems finally on the horizon, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the world of work. What 2021 will look like is anyone’s guess at this point, but Locklear, Storrar, and de Vos are right: Whatever happens next year, companies are likely to find themselves plotting out new strategies for success in a largely remote, totally transformed work world.

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Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of