2021 trends and predictions, with analyst Josh Bersin

This year, just about everything that HR people do was significantly affected, with very little time to prepare and a constant need to communicate with employees and understand their issues.

Josh Bersin, global industry analyst

HR has always been at the heart of business and critical to its success, but in a year like 2020, they’ve been among the real heroes who have emerged. CHROs are now taking a clear seat at the leadership table, with their insight, advice, and decision-making essential to business continuity and to supporting the workforce.

For a deeper look at the “state of the union” for HR and learning at the end of 2020, along with a review of 2021 trends, Strivr CEO Derek Belch chatted with analyst Josh Bersin in our recent webinar. They talked about the evolved employee experience, the new definition of “going to work,” and the importance of power skills and diversity training. 

Here’s a recap of what we heard.

The current state of HR: an evolved employee experience

In the last year, the employee experience has changed radically, as many office workers have adjusted to remote work, and those on the floor at physical stores and plants have taken on new operational protocols in the time of a pandemic. 

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HR leaders have had to tune in closely not just to how employees perform under pressure, but how they’re feeling in terms of their mental health, physical health, and even things like their home internet speed. 

A lot of companies are using diagnostic tools such as surveys to achieve this. While a lot of organizations have traditionally performed annual employee surveys, now they’re happening far more frequently. Bersin shared the example of Hyatt, which sends an employee survey daily to take feedback on the experience employees are having both in the workplace and remotely. 

Companies are also realizing they have to update policies that normalize “going into the office” for everything. While at first remote work seemed like a temporary fix, now, leaders are realizing that we’re clearly evolving toward a permanent hybrid model of work. Continuing into 2021 and beyond, people will be in the office, sometimes, for some things, but not always. 

We won’t call it “working from home,” either, because now employees have learned they can work from anywhere they have an internet connection. No longer do they go to work; work comes to them.

Bersin’s workforce predictions for 2021

What else should we expect from HR, learning, and development in 2021? Bersin leaves us with a few highlights.

The mainstreaming of digital transformation

“Next year is the year when digital transformation will seem normal, and people will be more comfortable with it,” Bersin says. “It will no longer feel like a project sponsored by a consulting firm, but instead will be about humanizing it and sanding off the edges, because this year, everybody basically did digital transformation at record speed.”

More relevant digital tools

Along the same lines, Bersin predicts a rapid adaptation from the tech market to support our increasingly remote and hybrid ways of working. Many big companies are already exploring Virtual Reality for training both the essential and remote workforce. 

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A growing economy

“The economy feels like a horse pacing the barn, just itching to get out and get going,” Bersin analogizes.

In other words, with such positive transformation occurring in companies over the last nine months, he expects a jumpstart on hiring and unemployment to start ticking down again.

The importance of “power skills”

2020 has shone a light on the priority of teaching employees stronger soft skills — though Bersin prefers to say power skills. Included in the list of power skills are attributes such as patience, empathy, listening, caring, and forgiveness. In particular, power skills are critical to getting through tough conversations with employees and with customers. 

These are really important skills, and every single company I talk to is focused on coaching and training its leaders to improve in these areas.

Josh Bersin

Diversity training

Equally critical in the learning sphere is a focus on training for diversity and inclusion. We’ve seen the role of diversity manager grow in importance, and existence, year over year. Yet, Bersin acknowledges that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not simple HR fixes but major cultural changes that require purposeful, ongoing training initiatives. 2021 will certainly see continued focus in this area.

More attention on L&D in general

Bersin says, “We’re beginning to realize that creating great capabilities in the company isn’t simply about buying a piece of software and turning it on. It’s a hands-on, consultative responsibility.” The role of L&D as central to this effort, as L&D leaders look to tools such as Immersive Learning to create both onsite and remote opportunities to instill company culture and teach valuable skills.

The skills of the future

As we transition from the current state of HR and L&D into all the rich possibility 2021 holds, Bersin expects the employee experience to continue to evolve in the direction of flexible work, more sophisticated digital tools, and increased opportunities for learning. 

At Strivr, we are building the skills of the future with an Immersive Learning platform. Explore the resources below to see how, or chat with a Strivr expert.