2021 Trends in Talent

Jan 12, 2021


Last year, when we thought about hiring trends for 2020, we were brimming with optimism, given the historically low unemployment numbers and strong business conditions. Though the global pandemic has shaken up even the most essential of businesses and it’s likely the current protocols of social distancing, wearing masks and working from home will be with us several months into 2021, we believe the momentum around hiring and economic growth will return later this year. Until that time, there are several talent-related initiatives on which leaders should be focusing.

Organizational culture remains a top priority as companies continue to wrestle with how to blend their pre-pandemic norms into their new reality. This process needs to be intentional and leaders simply waiting for their organization to return to “normal” will likely find that normal may never look like it did a year ago. The work environment has likely been fundamentally changed forever with more employees planning to continue work-from-anywhere schedules, new technologies becoming permanent parts of the way we do business and many offices utilizing physical space differently. Planning for and adapting to this new way of operating is crucial. 

Once the Covid vaccine is distributed and case counts fall later this year, we expect the economy to rebound and hiring to bounce back, potentially bringing a talent shortage reminiscent of where we were at the start of 2020. We also expect turnover to increase. Leaders need to begin preparing now and use the next few months to strategically assess which eliminated positions should be re-filled, what skills or depth their team lacks, and what new initiatives or strategies will require fresh leadership to drive success. Take the following into consideration:

  • The demand for diverse talent is not just a trend. And leaders committed to building diverse and inclusive teams know that doing this takes time because it means authentically growing their personal and professional networks as well as making meaningful connections. It also means actively targeting and pursuing the candidates they most want instead of waiting to see who applies for their open positions. 
  • Most organizations conducted much of the hiring process virtually this year and many found that shift made it easier and faster to connect with potential candidates. Behavioral assessments, used to help assess candidate fit, can be especially helpful when assessing candidates virtually as they provide the hiring manager with additional data. We expect much of the virtual process to continue, even after the virus recedes.
  • As long-time executives retire and organizations activate succession plans, there is an urgent need to ensure the next generation of leaders is ready to assume their new roles. Investments in learning and development continue to grow and are one way to engage and retain high-potential leaders who might otherwise be getting restless.  
  • Hiring interim professionals is one way to quickly add additional resources to a team – even at very senior levels – and is a growing trend across the nation. Interim hires allow organizations to close talent gaps, dedicate additional resources to a high-priority project or temporarily fill a critical vacated position without the risk and costs associated with adding a permanent employee. More job candidates are reporting an interest in contract assignments, too – especially when they have the flexibility to work remotely.

Though 2020 is now behind us, it doesn’t mean an immediate end to the uncertainty we’ve navigated these past ten months. However, we believe better times are ahead and leaders who use this time to adapt and prepare will be in a stronger position to capitalize on opportunities. 

This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Business Courier website on December 31. 2020.