With 2020 in hindsight, we are seeing trends that started with COVID-19 and the racial justice movement that will continue to impact the workplace. Since you’ve seen them in action already, they will not surprise you, but companies that center these workplace trends in 2021 will be well-positioned to navigate a fluctuating economy, retain top talent, and keep their employees safe and engaged.
We anticipate a focus, or a continued focus, on:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Focusing on DEI initiatives was always the right thing to do, but 2020 proved that it was crucial to attracting talent, answering customer demands, and retaining current employees. The facts show organizations with strong DEI programs are more likely to have engaged teams and higher-than-average profits. Companies with a reputation for DEI also attract more candidates; in fact, 67% of job seekers considered a company’s diversity to be an important factor in evaluating an opportunity.
And, in a recent survey we conducted, 68% of our clients said DEI was an extremely important or very important focus for 2021. Some of the top resources our clients plan to use: paid trainings and consultants, racial justice book clubs, employee resource groups (ERGs), inclusion surveys, and facilitated conversations.
Candidates are telling us that they’re burnt out from a tough year and feeling overburdened by personal responsibilities. The main refrain we’re hearing is that they will start actively seeking new roles as soon as things start to stabilize, and are biding their time because of the amount of uncertainty and exhaustion they are experiencing.
And yes, although unemployment numbers remain high, they are not universally representative of all industries and roles. For roles in industries outside of those cratered by COVID-19, the competition for the best talent is as fierce – or fiercer—than it was before the pandemic. The best way to retain employees? Keep them engaged with regular check-ins, leverage benefits to support mental health and wellness, encourage taking PTO, celebrate in creative ways, and continue with raises and bonuses to the extent possible.
Returning to the Office
Working remotely won’t disappear, but with vaccines in play, the end of COVID-19 could be in sight. Businesses dreaming of bustling offices should prepare to navigate a tricky reentry with ever-changing guidance. Their attention should be on: employee and customer safety, timing of reintroduction of different roles, whether to require employees to get vaccines when available, and making the office environment a more attractive option than remote work.
Focus on Technology
This year’s rise of the home office showed us what we could accomplish as a team while working remotely, but also exposed the weaknesses in many of our technologies. Anticipate increased expectations from employees for a streamlined remote experience. Some top places to improve remote collaboration and work: improved security, training and development via learning management systems (LMS), employee self-service (ESS) tools, video conferencing, and paperless onboarding.
And the biggest trend of all? Taking the lessons we’ve learned in 2020 to create a better, more inclusive workplace for everyone.