The new year is just around the corner and we are all reflecting back on the past year with a positive hope for an even better next year. The year 2020 brought a lot of change into the way organizations are evolving the workplace, and we’re looking ahead to the workplace trends in 2021 we should prepare for.
Some of the leading trends we have seen consistently on different lists have been flexible work-from-home policies that support families, an increase in fully remote roles, and the global job market experiencing a 71 percent increase in diversity roles over the past 5 years.
Self-care and mental health support have emerged as two of the top benefits employees are desiring from their employers.
In this article, JumpSearch’s managing partners Michelle and Eric walk through the biggest industry trends of the past year and next in a question-and-answer style format that shares insight into how we are preparing for next year.
What top trends in the workplace are you working with your clients on currently?
E: 2020 forced many organizations to shift into flexible work environments with work-from-home options and changed how the office environment operates. Leadership made changes in the way people communicated to make sure the teams stayed connected, such as adding Slack for the organization. It is a great tool for people to connect, and we saw some of our clients use it in very creative ways to replace the natural collisions that happen in the traditional office environment. Those collisions – whether they’re in the physical office or in the digital platform- are so important in making people feel like they can connect and ultimately belong to something larger than themselves
One thing we noticed about the leadership teams we admire and work is their desire to ensure their team members feel supported through these hard times. There was a more aggressive approach to surveying team members and polling sentiment to identify the challenges individuals were facing and resources teams needed to managing change, balance, and effectiveness. There were concrete actions organizations took to support team member’s work/life balance, such as “No Meeting Fridays”, to keep productivity and engagement at a positive level. People are more understanding of work-at-home because it has become “the norm” for the majority of us.
M: One important trend we witnessed this year is that recruiting can happen from anywhere. The agile and forward-thinking organizations adjusted quickly to the new work environment, making it easier for them to recruit and hire quality talent. It has really expanded the opportunities for both companies and candidates. It will be interesting to see how candidates position themselves while interviewing for new opportunities and lobby for remote work.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges facing leadership in 2021?
E: One of the biggest challenges for leaders is going to be keeping connected with their team members, if they are not accustomed to that already. Leaders need to go out of their way to create connections and listen to their team members. This is the opportunity we all have to expand the surface area of how we connect with others. Use tools like Slack to replace “the water cooler” or “coffee run” conversations that used to happen in the office. Creating opportunities for team members to connect can be built into the culture of an organization to encourage retention.
M: I do think leaders will be challenged with retaining employees. Leaders need to work to get their team members connected to their purpose in their work and connected in the culture. If the leadership team has not invested time and resources building a culture that transfers over to remote work, they will have trouble retaining their talent.
E: We have met with a lot of candidates that have said they are missing a sense of connected-ness and unifying culture from their current work environments, which is prompting them to seek new opportunities. Leaders need to look at their organizations through the lens of their team members and nurture the culture forward to what the need is.
M: Most of the leadership teams we have worked with were already highly-communicative. When they transitioned to this new way of working, they communicated clear expectations and processes for their team members’ work time and are very successful in protecting the work-at-home life. They thought through the work time, no meeting blocks, and other methods to make sure people were set up with a good workspace. With clarity around people’s workdays through shared calendars, positive work environments did not try to obscure what an actual day in real life looked like: blocking out time to pick up kids, to walk the dog in the middle of the day, and “no meeting” afternoons for creative problem solving or research – people are more understanding of each other.
Though the novel coronavirus forced 40 percent of team members to work from home in 2020, many companies are considering a hybrid work environment for 2021 when it is safe to return to the office. In addition to the financial and recruiting benefits of remote work, there are other factors that leadership must consider, such as team member engagement, IT infrastructure and creative production.
What suggestions would you give to companies that are considering balancing remote work with a return to the office?
E: People are struggling with the work/life balance while working from home. What has become the normand a tool that was rarely used is much more prevalent now. We are understanding when a kid pops up in the office background and the pup is barking from the other room – we are all managing the same distractions while trying to do our best work. One of our clients that normally had the majority of their employee base in their office headquarters but utilized remote work, has really stepped up their virtual team building in creative ways. The happy hours, luncheons, office hobby groups have not missed a beat and just moved to Google Meets and Slack channels.
The past year required everyone to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing external environment that nearly no one could predict what would happen next. It became clear that an essential skill that should be developed by all professionals is the ability to navigate change, and could be a crucial skill that leaders look for in their team members.
What new career advice would you give to professionals to carry into the new year?
E: People were more apt to look for opportunities, but still held a nervousness about what was happening around them in their organizations and the market. They were apt to take a phone call, but hesitant to take an opportunity and make a move once an offer was extended.
M: There was a lot of movement in the past year and recruiting has picked back up in the last half of 2020. There were a lot of individuals that lost careers and are still looking for new positions. There is a lot of competition in the job market right now.
M: Candidates need to do what their competition is not. Tailoring your resume to match the opportunity you’re interested in is only the beginning. Be diligent in researching the company, and reach out to the hiring manager or another connection in the company with a personalized note. You have to be willing to do something different to stand out.
E: People need to get good at managing their careers. Develop a skill in marketing your personal and professional brand. Define what your value proposition is as a candidate and be crystal clear in communicating how you add value to organizations and teams. Think strategically about your career, doing your work with intention. Paint a longer-term picture of what you want out of your career and what your objective is. The roles you take on, the projects you complete and the organizations you work for are puzzle pieces you place together to build your masterpiece that is your career. It gives a lot more meaning to your everyday work when you have a vision of what you want your career to become.
M: The candidates that are thriving right now are people who are quick to learn and adapt, and open to learning new skills. Do not be too attached to one or two jobs; being versatile in your experiences and projects makes you marketable. If you are too focused or too narrow in one expertise, you may be limiting yourself in opportunities.
E: People who are open minded and forward-thinking benefit from the ability to flex and adapt to different opportunities. Some general characteristics we look out for in candidates are individuals that look out for and try different approaches to solve problems.
What do you think won’t change in the new year?
M: It is always hard to find good people, that will always be challenging. The methods to find and market to candidates have changed, but I think one method that will not change is human connection: it will always be important. The human connection in recruiting the best talent will always be a part of the process that is needed. The human element can not be replaced by any level of technology, when people are what really matter and are the most important part of building a high-performing team.
E: Humans need to connect with other humans. That is a fundamental human need that will never change. In our industry, recruiting software is trying to use AI technology to replace some functions that people do – it can be very impersonal. Some of the process can be automated, but when the entire process is automated, you lose that sight of who the human is on the other end of the resume. The human connection will always be needed to be there.
E: People make decisions emotionally. They try to find the data that backs up the emotions, but the real decision is discovered in the connection with the human being. It is important that we keep finding ways to personally connect and build relationships. Collecting unique connections builds high performing teams; recruiting should not be automated if you want to do it right.
What are you most looking forward to in your work in 2021?
M: We are excited to work with companies in a totally different landscape that is always changing. We are learning about it the same time we are experiencing it, which sparks the need to problem solve, adapt and execute quickly. We like to learn how things change, so we can adapt and get better.
E: It’s a constant evolution as we grow, but we are focusing on refining and defining our value proposition. We are broadening our client base geographically, and scaling our ability to execute as we grow. The year 2020 has been an amazing year- in both positive and non-positive ways- and we realized opportunities and are positioning to take advantage of them in 2021.
M: We are genuinely excited about the work we do. Building teams and connecting people with work opportunities is what we are passionate about, and we love being a growth catalyst for and a part of the companies we work with. We are looking forward to continuing to do that on an even larger scale.
Connect with Eric and Michelle here if you are looking to hire or to get hired.