The top 5 HR trends you should be tracking right now

The last few years brought a storm of change to the HR industry. Artificial Intelligence. The gig economy. And more recently, a global pandemic has altered our reality and redefined workflows. 

While Covid-19 has forced us to make many temporary adjustments to the way we live and work, not every new development is short-lived. There has been an influx of new trends that are here to stay.

These innovations have pushed us to view different areas of the HR function from a new perspective. And they have made us wonder: What’s in store for the future? What are the developments that will transform HR for good? Which trends will shape the new reality of work?

Read on for answers. In this post, we take a look at the top HR trends in 2021 for frontline business and HR leaders to take into account as they prepare for what’s to come. 

Designing work for frontline employees’ well-being 

The line between work and home life has been blurring for some time, but the pandemic has all but erased it for many employees. In response, HR leaders have shifted from promoting work-life balance to pushing well-being into the work itself.

As per the 2020 Hartford’s Future of Benefits Study, workers are now demanding benefits like hospital indemnity insurance, additional paid time off, and employee assistance programs.

Infographic showing data about the future of benefits in HR and current trends.

Companies, on their part, are focusing on online experiences that improve employees’ health. These include virtual team-building events, yoga and fitness sessions, and mindfulness classes, and so on. 

So organizations that thrive beyond 2021 are going to be those that integrate health-related initiatives into the design of work. This will be done at the individual, team, and organizational levels to create an environment in which employees are at peak health. 

Reskilling to unlock frontline worker potential 

During Covid, many organizations struggled to retain employees because of financial problems, sick leave, or losing workers to the virus. So managers called on remaining employees to expand their roles and fill the gaps left by their coworkers. And like the Spartans, employees rose to the challenge. 

Employees rose to the challenges of the pandemic.

Workers’ resourcefulness and agency in these hard times have shown that they can learn and contribute in unexpected ways. And in doing so, they have positioned their organizations to thrive in the long term.

So employee reskilling is another important trend to watch out for. According to a recent Udemy survey, the demand for building employee skills grew by 38% in 2020. The consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) illustrates this trend. It invested $3 billion in the learning and development of employees who have stayed with the business for at least 3 years. This suggests that reskilling is a lean and sustainable way to strengthen your workforce. 

Building ‘Superteams’ 

Organizations have been using ‘teaming’ (setting up a temporary team of people who aren’t familiar with each other) as a survival strategy to counter the impact of Covid-19. Many leaders have now begun to realize teaming as an opportunity to form “superteams.” 

Coined by Thomas Malone, the term ‘superteam’ refers to the pairing of people with technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, to rethink workflows and get faster outcomes. 

The strategy of turning teams into superteams is still in its infancy, as many companies still see technology from a limited viewpoint — more as a tool than a team member. 

According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report, only 16% of executive-level leaders said that they plan to transform work by combining humans and machines.

But the trend is expected to accelerate, with organizations shifting to this new mindset and strategy in a strong position to realize the untapped potential it offers to drive growth and handle uncertainty. 

Rethinking governance of workforce strategies 

Covid-19 has opened our eyes to the fact that using data on your workforce’s current state to determine employee strategies is not enough. Relying solely on the metrics showing the workforce’s present situation is risky because it limits a company’s potential to survive drastic changes. This applies to all strategies, from staffing levels to employee retention

Some organizations are shifting their approach from strategizing for likely, minor events to planning for the unexpected. 17% of HR executives say that their companies plan to focus on the occurrence of unlikely, high-impact events, as opposed to 6% before the pandemic. 

Companies that want to handle change with confidence must address questions that force them to look into the future. It’s forward-looking insights that will help businesses accomplish new milestones. 

Shifting from managing employees to re-architecting work 

Covid-19 has positioned HR as a prominent part of surviving a crisis. And the good news is that HR has lived up to this new standard, gaining more credibility as a result. 

A survey by Deloitte has shown that both HR and business leaders are now more certain of HR’s ability to tackle future challenges. 

Infographic showing data from Deloitte about confidence in HR Executives
Infographic showing data from Deloitte about confidence in HR Executives

This creates an opportunity for HR departments to leverage their new position and transform their role from that of managing employees to re-architecting work. 

HR leaders can make the most of this by taking charge of reimagining both the workforce and workplace to ensure future success.

The survey also found that 61% of business and HR executives are planning to reimagine work in the next one to three years. This would mean:

  • Prioritizing outcomes over outputs 
  • Focusing on building superteams that combine human and technological capabilities
  • Managing the cultural and leadership changes that arise from the new approach to work

As a result, HR trends and goals will align better with business objectives. And HR will need to work closely with other departments to shape the new architecture of work. 

Conclusion

These HR trends show the future holds both big opportunities and tough challenges for HR and business leaders. All this is pushing HR professionals to search for and leverage innovative technologies to improve employee productivity and engagement.  

In the near future, AI-based predictive and automation technologies are likely to improve all the areas under the HR function, including talent acquisition, workforce analytics, and reskilling of employees.

So use these trends to anticipate new developments in the human resource field, and to inform your business processes moving forward. It will give you a solid foundation to not just survive but thrive in the face of upcoming changes.