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HR Trend Report: What to Expect in 2021

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

HR Trend Report: What to Expect in 2021

While the disruptions faced by employers in 2020 caused an unparalleled amount of stress and uncertainty, there were also some bright lights. Many employees found themselves working from home, and a recent Gallup poll found many employees are more engaged with their work than ever before [1]. This isn't to say that work conditions are ideal, far from it. And while the future workplace may still be unknown, there are still innovative ways to improve work culture and connect HR leaders and HR teams with employees that are sure to make them feel valued, heard, and recognized.

Adapting to post-pandemic realities this year and most probably next year as well is likely to continue to challenge human resource professionals. But at the same time, HR is also expected to also see a lot of exciting developments. What is important now is that HR teams learn to pivot to mitigate the realities of COVID 19 in 2021 and beyond.

‍HR Trends For 2021

‍According to Google, there are several key HR trends that professionals working on human resource management should look out for in the COVID 19 landscape. The pandemic has presented unique challenges for office workers that not only inform about employee performance but can also have an impact on employee health as well.

HR professionals and business leaders need to take these HR practices into consideration when plotting out the way forward and reshaping the work environment and company culture. Having a better understanding of what to expect as well as reassessing HR priorities will also help companies attract and retain talent even during these uncertain times and an emerging gig economy.

Here are the top trends listed in the 2021 HR Trends Report. We expect to see these trends in the months ahead. We will also explain what these top HR trends mean for the HR industry, HR managers, and the workforce.

‍Remote Work ‍

Work-from-home became the new normal in 2020 and a large percentage of the workforce found themselves setting up workspaces in their houses. Employees had to pivot quickly and companies and HR departments had to find ways to provide the tools and solutions that would successfully allow former office workers to perform at home.

This work-from-home movement is here to stay in 2021 and beyond with the percentage of employees permanently working from home expected to double [2].

“The productivity metric is proving that remote work is working,” said Erik Bradley, chief engagement strategist at Enterprise Technology Research (ETR). “So, we all thought that there would be some increase in permanent remote work, but we didn't expect that to double from pre-pandemic levels.”

A recent Gartner survey revealed that over 74% of companies plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the pandemic ends [3].

Since the introduction of mass remote working last year, employers are finding ways to make it more engaging for their employees as well as looking for efficient ways to handle employee monitoring.

The key to navigating the remote labor market is to offer flexible working hours, stay connected using modern technology, allocate time for online seminars or meetings, create employee well-being touchpoints, offer more mental health benefits, consider employee assistance programs, and adopt mobile solutions to facilitate training and upskilling. Such solutions include signing employees up for online courses that can give them important digital skills.

HR leaders are responding to the remote work situation well but must consider that this is now part of the future of work. As such, finding long-term solutions to help boost this setup for their part-time and full-time workers who will remain home post-COVID is over is a must.

‍Well-Being ‍

Another one of the biggest HR trends and a shaping factor for the new normal and future workplace is employee well-being. This is more important than ever before with COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic making people truly take stock of their physical and mental health.

An increasing amount of employees now are citing ‘self-care' as a driving factor when talking about job satisfaction [4]. Self-care at work begins with recognizing that in order to perform at the highest level, people need to feel at their best both physically and mentally. This can be achieved within organizations that are employee-centric and willing to create robust employee engagement and wellness programs.

According to an HR Trends report from Prowell, the world-renowned methodology for assessing employee wellbeing, there are 7 key components of employee wellness [5] which fall into three domains: mental health, physical health, and social wellbeing. Now, more than ever, mental health is being given more importance because of the impact of isolation and the uncertainty of the COVID 19 pandemic.

With the shift to even more remote work this year, it is especially important for organizations to introduce well-being programs that address all the different domains of well-being to ensure workers feel taken care of and help retain employees. Examples include practical scheduling allowing employees a healthy work-life balance, gym memberships, engagement activities for socialization among team members, and (online) mental health programs, webinars, and counseling services.

‍Employee Experience ‍

Employee experience, one of the hottest HR trends and workplace topics in the world, is sometimes confused with well-being, but these are very separate concepts. Although employee experience directly influences what employees feel, it isn't necessarily driven by employees' feelings.

Employee Experience, often referred to as EX, can be defined as ‘companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance' [6].

Organizations have control over their employee experience and are responsible for it. A good employee experience is essential for employees, employers, and the brand to compete effectively. Cultivating a good employee experience requires a human-centric approach. This approach will allow business leaders to grasp an employee's needs and desires to feel heard and valued. If HR leaders understand their employees better they will be better equipped to create employee experience strategies.

To create a positive experience for their workforce, leaders must provide them with positive touchpoints throughout their employment lifecycle. Examples of effective EX are: creating a culture of collaboration, improving the onboarding process, conducting regular engagement surveys, providing easy access to company information, and making employees feel like they belong, to name a few.


‍Employees are increasingly purpose-driven now and are looking for jobs and work that are personally rewarding. Millennials are certainly a factor in this trend. They comprise 30% of the work population and by 2025 will represent 75% of the global workforce [7]. What they seek most from their jobs is meaningful work, flexibility, autonomy, connection, and mentoring.

While some companies have programs in place to ensure employees have a meaningful work experience, others have to create strategies to help their employees find purpose and passion in their jobs. If they do, they will undoubtedly see a boost in the productivity of their performers. This all contributes to a company's overall culture and determines what kind of values matter to the organization.

Defining a good value proposition is essential because these days, candidates are actively researching a company's values and how it aligns with their own. They expect companies to be transparent and define their purpose and follow through in making it a reality.


‍Diversity, inclusion, and equity are important keywords in today's workplace and this is one of the HR trends that is not going anywhere. New generations simply will not accept the status quo where equality isn't a workplace foundation. For long-term success, an inclusive culture must be part of the overall corporate strategy. This strategy has to address how diversity makes an organization better.

And this isn't just about a company allowing its workforce to be their authentic selves but ensuring that all opportunities and programs within the organization are equal for all. I&D addresses the gender wage gap, assistive tools and technologies for persons with disabilities, and gender sensitivity training among others.

HR professionals recognize that unconscious bias is a major obstacle in achieving progress in this area. However, HR tech can improve workplace diversity and advance inclusion initiatives by holding leadership accountable for the company's diversity goals. Technology solutions like Qualee allow leaders to pose questions to employees via surveys and empower employees to answer honestly without fear of retribution. These answers will help HR create programs and strategies with everyone's needs in mind.

‍Data-Driven ‍

Data is quickly becoming HR's most important asset. Why? Because when HR data is used to improve decisions, make employees happier, and optimize processes. Collecting and utilizing data adds value to every company.

The average human resources team is sitting on a gold mine of data: recruitment statistics, career progression records, training feedback, absenteeism figures, productivity numbers, personal development reviews, competency profiles, exit interviews, and survey results. The issue is that traditionally HR is seen as very people-orientated, and not so much about numbers and business-driving statistics.

However, HR data should be a trusted source when it comes to decision-making, evaluating business impact, improving leadership, making processes more efficient, improving the well-being of performers, and bolstering the employee experience. This year, more than ever, we expect to see data play a big role in HR strategic thinking.

To become a data-driven organization, it is imperative to put in place metrics and people analytics tools that allow HR teams to gather information, evaluate it, and deliver a comprehensive overview.

‍AI Technology

‍Artificial Intelligence will remain an integral part of HR management and business success. It allows companies to automate, streamline, and personalise a variety of facets in the HR process. Conversational AI for example can help employers with recruitment and onboarding, while AI-powered Doc Search can scan PDF documents in real-time, making their content keyword searchable via the Qualee App, saving employees a lot of time.

Artificial Intelligence can also be used to verify documents, such as the Qualee ID verification system that can authenticate over 2,000 identity documents including passports, driving licenses, national IDs, work permits, and more. Processes that would normally take days to complete, are now turned around in a matter of minutes, leading to faster and more efficient processes.

HR Leaders Need to Help Employees Succeed in the New Normal

‍These are just some of the important HR trends to keep in mind as businesses plan their way forward. It's important for HR to continuously update its processes and strategies to ensure that employees are seen, valued, and supported in their work.

HR is looking to make strides in a variety of areas over the next twelve months. With the COVID 19 pandemic ongoing, things are going to continue to change and teams must remain agile to be able to navigate these changes in 2021 and beyond.

From using AI technology to make work more efficient, promoting diversity in the workplace, and ensuring your employees have an engaging work experience, there are a variety of ways to make 2021 the best year for both your employees and your company. Let Qualee help you raise your HR department to all new heights with our employee-approved app.

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