HR, Talent Management and L&D Trends for 2021

We know, we know – 2021 is well on its way and we are only now sharing our take on the 2021 HR, Talent Management and L&D Trends. We did however need time to sift through the myriad of predictions out there to get an integrated view of what seems to be the top trends in our industry for 2021. What we found were nothing new – most of the trends predicted for 2021 by the various authors, bloggers, consulting firms and practitioners that we reviewed, have been noticed as trends before. What may however be different is that many of the predicted trends are already established in practice and are maturing, whilst a few others are gaining traction and are growing fast. So here are the five trends that we identified as most common in all the material that we have reviewed (not in order of importance):

  • A greater focus on Employee Wellness and Health and Safety in the workplace. Employee Wellness has always been a focus for leading organisations, but the Covid-19 Pandemic with all the ramifications for the workplace (remote working, virtual team work and so on) and the associated stress caused by all the changes, highlighted the importance of providing support to staff to ensure mental and physical health. It also threw the spotlight on the need for personal resilience and the importance of resilient organisations. Health and Safety has been legislated more than a hundred years ago and in several industries employee safety has always received immense attention. The Covid-19 Pandemic has however added another dimension to this focus.
  • The employee experience and personalisation. Optimising the employee experience has been a strategic focus for best-in-class organisations since about 2015 and has gone beyond optimising the administrative experience and now focuses on personalising the employee experience in terms of every aspect at work. Optimising the employee experience has therefore become a multi-disciplinary effort, involving every function in the organisation from strategy to facilities. In 2021 the virtual employee experience will likely receive more attention.
  • Capability development and learning in the flow of work. David Morris wrote that the term capability describes the ability to perform a specific set of actions or achieve a specified set of outcomes. For many years organisations mainly focused on competency development, but authors like Jim Williams and Steve Rosenbaum in their book Learning Paths (published in 2004) stressed the importance of developing capabilities (they called it proficiencies). It seems that organisations are now shifting more to the development of capabilities and in this effort are utilising Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to a greater extent. With more people working remotely, interactive strategies for virtual learning also becomes more important. The use of Artificial Intelligence to personalise the learning experience is also receiving more attention. Learning in the flow-of-work as coined by Josh Bersin and Deloitte is a concept that has been around since the early 2000’s when IBM started with what was called embedded learning and several organisations are now starting to operationalise this concept.
  • Big data and analytics. Although some organisations have made strides in utilising Big Data and the subsequent analysis, many organisations still have to do a lot more to be able to use data to truly understand each aspect of the workforce and to gain optimal insights from the data at their disposal.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Josh Bersin in his 2021 HR Predictions report stated that most organisations have implemented DEI strategies are top of mind for most senior leaders but that progress is not a fast as anticipated. Bersin explains that amongst the many reasons for this, there also seems to be a low level of DEI skills and expertise amongst HR professionals. In 2021 this will be addressed.

There were many other interesting trends that we did not highlight here, as our focus was on the top five most common trends across all the material that we reviewed. As always Deloitte’s and Josh Bersin’s predictions for HR and Talent  Management remain insightful and we encourage you to read those reports. We wish you all the best with taking on the unique challenges of 2021 that will form the basis of some of the trends in 2022!

Carli Uys

Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt