2021 HR Guide to New Ways of Working – Top Workforce Strategies, Predictions and Trends

There’s no denying that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Thanks to the coronavirus, the world has literally been turned upside-down. Lock downs, social distancing, mask wearing, nasal swabs, rushed experimental vaccination; yes, it’s safe to say that the world has really gone topsy-turvy, and all of these changes have impacted virtually every aspect of life, both at home and at work.

In the world of business, employers have had to come up with creative ways to allow their employees to interact and work together in order to meet the super-stringent regulations that have been established by the politicians in order to re-open their businesses.

As such, the coronavirus has also presented definite challenges for HR professionals, as they have played a key role in coming up with ways to “safely” re-open the organizations that they work for and to present those strategies to their employers and then make sure that employees are adapting the new “corona-friendly” strategies. In such an unprecedented situation, the primary task of HR professionals has been to establish continuity so that businesses can remain operational.

Looking forward to 2021 (and possibly beyond, if the term “new normal” that keeps being uttered does, indeed turn out to be true), what type of challenges will HR face? Here’s a look at some of the top trends that human resources sectors can expect moving forward.

Adoption of New Ways of Working

Following the initial lockdowns, there was an increased demand for HR professionals to come up with new ways of working, and ensuring that those methods were adopted by the employees of a workplace setting. That can continue to be expected throughout 2021. Some of the new methods of working include:

Working Remotely

At the onset of coronavirus, the number of employees working remotely increased to 65 percent. Compared to the 11 percent who were working remotely pre-corona, that’s a marked increase. Models indicate that once the crisis has ended, many of those who shifted to remote working will continue to do so. In fact, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of employees will work remotely, which is about three times greater than the percentage who were working from home or elsewhere before the world turned upside-down.


As so many employees have had to shift to working remotely, coupled with the fact that so many children were also forced to distance learning, a large percentage of the workforce demand flexibility. Parents need to be able to juggle assisting their children with navigating throughout online learning and providing them with supplemental instruction, while also ensuring that the basic needs of their children are being met, and still being able to meet the demands of their jobs. As such, HR professionals have needed to come up with ways in which employees can work in a flexible manner, and this will be expected in 2021, as well. This includes options that will allow employees to work anytime and anywhere, including flexible shift schedules, collaborating technologies, and updating guidelines regarding performance management.

Increased Demand for Reskilling

“Reskilling” has become a big buzz word since the pandemic hit, and as the situation continues to press on, it has really become a common part of the vernacular among professionals in the HR sector. Reskilling essentially refers to companies prioritizing equity and enablement programs that will allow for greater access to jobs, as well as long-term employment of employees and skill availability among employers. In order to achieve these goals, companies have been and will continue to focus on not only reskilling, but also upskilling, their employees. Doing so will allow them to prevent mass layoffs and keep as much as their workforce employed. Furthermore, companies may need to adjust work design and architecture in order to develop new requirements regarding skills that will combine the fully-remote and hybrid (combination of remote and in-person) work space.

Re-imagining the Employee Experience

Organizations of all shapes and sizes and across all sectors are focusing on establishing a new experience for their employees in 2021. This “re-imagining” of the employee experience not only addresses coronavirus concerns, but also addresses the inclusion and equity concerns that arose in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. This experience focuses on putting their employees’ center stage, which includes focusing on culture design that recognizes that different people have different experiences, and ensuring that all employees can have an equal and positive experience.

Employees will transition into new roles and will deal with new methods of collaborating with one another. Employers and employees will also collaborate with one another in order to gain more trust and ensure that collaboration is a primary element of the work environment. Collaboration will become even more vital than ever before, as physical interactions have and will continue to reduce, as many employees will continue to work remotely, with large percentages working remotely on a permanent basis.

Developing New Methods of “Onboarding” and “Offboarding”  Staff

Coronavirus has forced both employers and employees to think about their positions in new ways. Moving forward, human resource professionals will need to focus on building a strong, yet stable remote work culture that incorporates every stage of the process of hiring new employees. This will be done by accessing larger pools of prospective employees. Employees will also have access to more options when it comes to selecting their profession.

Remote work has a significant and lasting impact on the way businesses do business, which means that human resources professionals will need to further refine their strategies for accessing and growing talent and business. This includes onboarding talent and online assessments, as well as aligning the roles of employees and their positions, which will be the ultimate crux for the growth of business.

Shifting Past Generations

In previous years, businesses of have put a lot of emphasis on the characteristics that delineate generations; for example, millennials and gen X, Y, and Z have been assessed, decoded, poked, prodded, and extensively speculated. However, as it turns out, despite all of the constant assessments, it’s been determined that there is no proof of any differences regarding work ethic between generations. As a matter of fact, researchers are constantly finding that the differences regarding individual’s points-of-vide about work and life really aren’t as large as they were initially believed to be. It’s actually been found that what individuals hope to gain from their work life (their purpose, the type of environment they work in, their growth, and their overall experience), really doesn’t differ much at all from one generation to the next.

With that said, during 2021, it can be expected that there will be an increased focus on what is referred to as “perennial” a term that was coined by Gina Pell, and refers to a collection of “people of all ages, stripes, and types who go beyond stereotypes and make connections with each other and the world around them”. As such HR professionals will work on developing talent strategies that will look past the differences of groups and rather, they will collect insights regarding the interests, values, and aspirations of individual employees. This will allow those in the HR sector to personalize how they manage employees and allow for a more cohesive, positive, and employee-centered work experience.

Data Analytics and Automation Will Continue to Increase

As a function, human resources will continue to establish automation throughout the employee life cycle. Over the course of the years, human resources has certainly become a lot more agile than it used to be just a few decades ago in regard to how the sector uses data in order to analyze the experiences of employees in order to assist them with making better decisions for all.

Moving forward into 2021 and beyond, it is likely that there will be even more focus on managing and organizing this data, and as such, there will be an even higher import to data governance. As employees continue to work remotely, and as companies continue to establish new goals, there will be an increased need to assist workers in their daily operations.

HR professionals will need to be able to respond to any disruptions that may occur in the most flexible way possible, and they will be able to do so by using automation to the fullest extent possible. Doing so will allow them to balance the needs of employees, as well as the needs of the company, thus allowing them to build a more resilient and sustainable future in the workplace environment.

Increased Focus on Financing Programs and Cost Flexibility

Designing flexible programs, financing, and the allocation of capital that were used during the onset of the pandemic will become institutionalized this year. For example, companies will continue to maintain or improve the health benefits of their employees moving forward and will focus on promoting positive well-being and resiliency. Companies will also continue to look for and identify new and creative ways to finance and allocate capital in order to secure affordability in the long-term.

Furthermore, retirement benefit programs will be reinstated in 2021. In 2020, the funding of these programs was significantly reduced in many companies, as they were cash-strapped as a result of lockdowns. In 2021, many organizations will reinstate retirement benefit programs; however, they will look for new and creative ways to finance and allocate these programs.

More (and Easier) Shared Services

In today’s business world, the HR professionals of most organizations focus on self-service. This usually manifests in one of two ways:

  1. HR departments that still utilize paperwork should look to digitizing it
  2. Any HR work that is repetitive should become automated

By including both digitization and automation in the HR sector, professionals will be able to maximize their efficiency. For instance, if a large-scale chain retail store maintains paper records of their employees, and the turnover rate of their employees is relatively high, by digitizing their employee records, they’ll not only be able to eliminate the hassle that’s associated with filing, accessing, and maintaining all of that paperwork, but they will also be able to reduce costs.

By making the switch to effortless shared services, HR professionals can provide employees with a better experience, can improve their own work experience, and can also help to boost the success of the organizations that they work for.

Allowing for Personalization

During 2020, there was a big shift to focusing on personalization among many companies in the work environment. Throughout 2021, we can expect to continue to see an increased focus on personalization. Whether working from home or at the office, HR professionals should encourage employees to arrange their work spaces in ways that best meet their personal needs; not only in ways that reflect their tastes and styles, but that also allow them to work more comfortably and more efficiently. For example, employees may want to work outside of the standard office hours – early in the morning or late in the evening – while some may prefer to remain on that regular 9-5 work schedule.

In regard to the actual work that employees do, they’ll also need to make some adjustments to that, too. This is where job crafting comes into play, or the process of improving the jobs of employees in ways that benefit both the employee and the company they work for. This technique allows employees to enhance their position in five key ways:

  • Tasks
  • Skills
  • Purpose
  • Relations
  • Wellbeing

Job crafting allows employees to take ownership of their role in the workforce, which not only makes them feel more important and independent, but it also help to increase their productivity and their job satisfaction. Throughout 2021 and beyond, HR professionals should expect to continue focusing on this strategy.

Wrapping It Up

Like virtually every other sector on the face of the planet, human resources has certainly had to make some serious adjustments. This sector will have to continue to do so moving forward into 2021 and beyond, as well. The above-mentioned trends are what HR professionals can expect to see throughout the duration of this year.