By: Ber Leary on December 16th, 2020

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5 Hiring Trends That Will Shape the New Normal of 2021

Talent Acquisition

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, people spoke about the idea of a “New Normal” without ever really defining what it means. Everyone knew that the pandemic had changed things forever, and that we would all have to learn new ways of working and communicating. This idea of the New Normal acted as kind of a placeholder, representing all those processes that we would figure out in the future.  

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And now, the future is here. 2021 is going to be the year that defines the New Normal and establishes protocols for the rest of the decade. We’ll find new ways of supporting our teams and helping them reach their goals.  

There are still many unanswered questions, especially about hiring. 2021 is going to be a year when some long-developing trends start to come to fruition. But the most important trend is going to be the aftermath of Covid-19. To understand how that will change things, we must first look back and see what’s changed.  

How Covid-19 has changed hiring 

The pandemic directly caused the greatest employment crisis since the Great Depression. In the space of a few months, the national joblessness rate jumped to 14%, before settling down to the current rate of around 7%. While low-income workers were hit hardest, people across all industries faced uncertainty and disruption, with one in four American households saw someone lose their job.  

Most employers responded well to Covid, but not every employee had a great experience. An estimated one in three workers is considering a change of job for a number of factors, including unhappiness with paycuts, concerns about employer viability, or because they want to do work that’s more socially impactful.  

Meanwhile, everyone had to find new ways to communicate and collaborate. Shelter-in-place orders in April forced 51% of people to switch to remote working, and a third of workers expect to stay fully remote for the foreseeable future. Hiring processes have also moved online, with many companies now interviewing and onboarding over video chat.  

2020 was a year we’ll never forget. And it’s from this background that the New Normal will begin to emerge.  


5 trends that will shape hiring in 2021 

Other important developments continued throughout 2020, such as the increased reliance on technology and an urgent public conversation about belonging and inclusion. Together, all of these trends will impact 2021 and the New Normal.  

1) The Great Rehiring and a mixed job market 

2021 will hopefully see a sustained economic recovery, with unemployment figures returning to normal. This will mean a massive recruitment effort as companies seek to rebuild, an effort which some have dubbed The Great Rehiring. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re about to shift to an employer’s market.  

Harvard Business Review has pointed out that things will be a lot more complicated than the recovery after 2008’s recession. Some industries, such as IT and finance, are still very much a candidate’s market, with skilled workers more in-demand than ever. Other sectors, such as hospitality, will see many candidates competing for a limited number of positions. Employers will have to keep a close eye on employment market conditions when looking to hire.  

2) Increased importance of diversity in hiring 

Following 2020’s necessary and painful national conversation about race, 2021 will see a greater focus on diversity and inclusion in the recruitment process. This is driven from the top, as diversity and inclusion stats will now appear on the Fortune 500 list for each organization.  

Diversity will become a vital part of each company’s employer brand. Candidates will look at the available information before they apply and ask questions like: Is this company committed to equality? Do they have a fair and transparent hiring process? Is there visible diversity at a senior level? Are they genuinely committed to tackling difficult social issues? In the wake of Covid-19, people are more likely than ever to seek out employers who are fair, ethical, and socially responsible.  

3) Greater adoption of AI and data analytics 

Automation plays an increasingly important role in the hiring process. Applicant Tracking Systems eliminate many of the chores, while also gathering essential data about the way you recruit. This data will help HR teams to deliver People Analytics, which allows tracking of candidate performance through the entire process, right up to onboarding and beyond.  

That said, automation does have a downside. Algorithms can help to entrench bad hiring processes, and even exacerbate inherent bias in recruitment. This is why companies still need talented HR professionals to oversee such systems and ensure that the best candidates are getting through 

4) Hiring for new office structures 

Many people won’t be making a full-time return to the office. Remote working will continue throughout 2021. Many teams will permanently switch to a hybrid model, with a mix of on-site and at-home workers. Recruiters will have to seek out candidates who are suited to the appropriate environment.  

Meanwhile, the offices themselves may change. One idea that’s been catching on for a while is the hub-and-spoke office, and Covid is driving this concept further. In this model, each office has a hub, which is a central location for major meetings. There are also several smaller offices, or spokes, that allow people to work closer to home. Models such as hybrid teams or hub-and-spoke could support recruitment across state lines – or even internationally.  

5) Total rewards will matter more than ever 

Salary won’t be everything in 2021, especially for people competing in a candidate’s market. Employees will go beyond salary and look at other things on offer, such as:  

  • Benefits, such as health insurance and paid sick leave 
  • Wellbeing, including support for dealing with the stress of the pandemic 
  • Development, with an eye on leadership development 
  • Recognition, a culture that celebrates achievement 

These are the elements of the total rewards package, and getting this right could help you land the perfect candidate.  

In some ways, hiring won’t change at all in 2021. Recruiters will still have to fight it out for the best candidates, and being able to move quickly and decisively will help you secure the services of the right person. To do this, you need to understand everything that’s changed, and anticipate the changing needs of employees in the New Normal.  

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