Four Human Capital Trends for 2021

One thing is for certain in 2021, changes around human capital are inevitable. In a competitive business environment, the key for leaders within our organizations is to embrace changes as effectively as possible.


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Working from home may be an enduring outcome from the pandemic.

Working from home may be an enduring outcome from the pandemic.

2021 will be a year like businesses have never experienced before. COVID-19 has changed work life forever. While no one has a crystal ball to accurately predict what 2021 will hold for manufacturers, we can explore the changing human capital trends that face us as we enter the new year. There is going to be an increased focus on leaders to strongly consider purpose-driven organizations centered on employees, not just profit-driven organizations, partially due to the demise of the traditional organizational design.

  1. To Hire or not to hire…that is the question. The caution in hiring will continue for some companies, while others will continue to add talent to their workforce. The recent pandemic has driven home the possibility that revenue sources can dry up overnight. No employer wants to go to a point of layoffs and, hence, some organizations will be cautious in hiring over the next few months.

    For those companies that need to add to their workforces, a cost-effective way to recruit new employees is by implementing a text message recruiting campaign. Text messages have a 98% open rate, resulting in recruiters get faster responses when they text candidates compared to telephone calls and emails. Some text recruitment platforms allow HR teams to simultaneously reach out to multiple candidates. This allows potential job candidates to get started on the application process right from their phones, improving candidate engagement. Additionally, recruitment specialists can use text messages to share relevant content about company culture or updates on the application process.
  2. Working from home is here to stay. In the next several months, there will be more focus on the remote work experience and how to make working from home part of the new norm. Companies will need to engage with a workforce that may still be uncomfortable with commutes, meetings and being back at their desk.
    Additionally, working from home may be an enduring outcome from the pandemic as companies are able to see that productivity and engagement has not suffered, resulting in cost savings from lower office expenses.

    In 2021 we are moving into the next phase: the hybrid workplace. With the hybrid workplace we are able to take several aspects into account. 1. The nature of the work. 2. The task at hand. 3. The personality of the worker. 4. The home situation of the worker. Also, multiuse offices are still available such as co-working spaces or hotel rooms closer to where people live.
  3. Increasing risk of employee detachmentAs more work is getting done away from the office, keeping employees engaged while they are working remotely requires a conscious effort. For employees, it becomes more difficult to create a clear boundary between work and private life. At the same time, the connection to work becomes looser. Bosses and colleagues are out of sight most of the time. Zoom meetings help a bit, but may not be enough.

    As it becomes clear that many professions can do their work from home, it becomes easier to hire talent outside of your local market. People can work from home and it doesn’t matter where they call home.

    The long-term effects of working more from home have to be studied, but they will certainly not all be positive. To prevent detachment, it helps to focus on some of the traditional measures: make sure people are part of a team and that they have a team leader they can trust.

  4. Leadership As We Know It Will Dramatically Change. As organizations continue to wrestle with mounting disruption, the nature of effective leadership itself has been transformed. In the age of #BLM and other awareness initiatives, outdated attitudes at the top are no longer tolerated, and leaders can find themselves, often uncomfortably, under both the employee and media spotlight.

    In today’s economic climate, employees must be prioritized without compromise. That means understanding what motivates productivity; recognizing and allowing diverse versions of work/life flexibility; and reimagining traditional work processes — for instance, adopting on-demand pay so employees can have easier access to earned wages when they need them.

    Investing in employees will also be on the rise in 2021 and beyond. Many CEOs, executives and HR teams are focused on reskilling and upskilling their workforce to fill their organizations’ needs for innovation and meet corporate goals. This push for additional learning for the workforce is compounded by a PWC survey findings that indicate the current workforce’s insufficient digital competency and the need to develop soft skills such as creativity.

The Impact of the Lack of Skills on Business Performance. Courtesy of PWC:

  • Ineffective innovation 55%
  • Rising people costs 52%
  • Quality standards and/or customer experience are affected 47%
  • Inability to pursue market opportunities 44%
  • Missed growth targets 44%

One thing is for certain in 2021, changes around human capital are inevitable. In a competitive business environment, the key as leaders within our organizations is to embrace changes as effectively as possible.

About the Author

Todd Palmer

Todd Palmer is the president of Diversified Industrial Staffing, a national skilled labor recruiting firm, based in Troy, Michigan. 
Contact tpalmer@diversifiedindustrialstaffing.com.