As we near March, we are all looking for insights as to what the future holds for HR leaders. Taken from a 15-page report, global HR analyst and Dean of the Josh Bersin Academy, Josh Bersin has detailed some key takeaways for leaders right now.

Spoiler – to succeed as a CHRO in 2021 you’ll need to be a competent economist, anthropologist, and politician!


Theres a New War for Talent
And it’s a war set to get very ‘hot’. US Labor Market stats and LinkedIn research shows that the number of open jobs is almost as high as it was 12 months ago, and economic productivity is at record levels. There is a huge demand for people and talent, but what’s complicating things is that the pandemic has changed the workforce itself. Baby boomers are retiring and women and non-college-educated workers have left the workforce. That makes it harder to find people to fill the service, labor, and contract jobs, which are now in demand.


As a result, wages will have to go up and companies will do a better job of job sharing and internal mobility and will spend energy on end-to-end talent acquisition. Younger workers (74% of the workforce is now under 50) are looking for meaningful work. If you nail this well, you’ll hire the best.


Digital Has Become a Way of Life

Digital transformation is here; accept that digital is the way people work and then collect the fewest and best tools for your needs and make them all work together.


Employee Experience Is Now a Corporate Strategy

EX initiatives—company-wide projects that encompass issues ranging such as work protocols, management support, workplace design, rewards, development, careers, and culture—are starting to be commonplace. Comprehensive employee experience requires re-thinking every minute in a workday and includes considering how to handle all types of employee feedback and developing a strategy. Employee experience includes the new workplace—a hybrid, post-COVID workplace, with a variety of spaces to collaborate and to do individual work as needed, is the future.


Employee Listening, Hearing, and Communications Go Big
In 2020, the c-suite got used to being on Zoom and to opening up other channels to talk, share, listen, and get feedback. The trend will continue; our 2020 research says communication, listening, authentic feedback, and taking action on employee issues are the most important leadership and HR practices right now. HR is also moved from annual surveys to pulse surveys to analytics platforms, and now we’re entering a new world of action platforms.


Wellbeing and Safe Workplaces Land in the Boardroom

The $45 billion corporate wellbeing market exploded in 2020. Now, there are hundreds of coaching, fitness, mindfulness, mental health, and psychological counselling tools. And just as senior executives have become more focused on empathy and employee support, so has every manager and supervisor. Coupled with this is the safe workplace strategy. Citizenship, trust, and social responsibility are a big focus, too.


Heavy Focus on Skills Leads to Strategic Focus on Capabilities

If a company does not have a learning culture that promotes individual learning, the business will suffer. We are in the golden age of AI, technology, and data, so those skills are high on the agenda, but most of the jobs of the future are in services. These jobs need power (soft) skills: listening, communicating, managing time, learning to lead, collaborate, and coach. To make the most of these opportunities, businesses need a capability taxonomy that documents the primary business capabilities. And in terms of tech, we need to move beyond buying an LXP or another tool to recommend all the skills everyone needs.


Fast L&D Tech Facts

  • The more people move around, take on different roles, the more content and training they want
  • Microsoft Teams will include a learning app in 2021, and deliver “learning in the flow of work” at scale
  • LXPs will grow up into LMSs as LXP vendors start realizing they need business rules, e-commerce, resource management, and even talent marketplace features
  • The real data engine of learning is not the LMS or the LXP; it’s the learning record store (LRS)
  • The demand for content will continue to explode. Between Skillsoft, LinkedIn, Pluralsight, Udemy, Coursera, and hundreds of others, the content market has never been so big
  • Workday, Oracle, and SAP are getting serious about learning. Cornerstone-Saba hasn’t gone away either.


Talent Mobility Is Finally a Highly Strategic Focus

Historically, most companies had well-developed career paths we could lock into. Somewhere in the early 2000s, HotJobs, LinkedIn, and Indeed meant employees could easily find a job in another company if they wanted to move up. In response, companies started piling on benefits, career development opportunities, and learning programs to keep high performers. However, managers were not incentivized to let employees move to other roles and managers often preferred to hire externals. Talent marketplace tools from Gloat, Fuel50, Workday, and new vendors like Eightfold, Hitch, PhenomPeople, Tandemploy, 360Talents, and now Oracle, PeopleFluent, SAP, will mean that in 2021 internal talent mobility may become a reality.


HR Transformation Is on the Front Burner
We need to reorganise HR so it can be more agile, data driven, and have a laser-like focus on employee experiences. The big work for HR innovators in 2021 will be to rationalize roles, cross train teams, and set up a focused team to address employee experience issues one by one. This all requires training and reskilling; people analytics is now one of the most in-demand capabilities, followed closely by skills around diversity and inequality awareness.


Citizenship, Environment, and Sustainability
Now that we’re working our way through the pandemic, people are thinking about their role in society. Deloitte research shows that more than 70% of professionals under 50 want to spend significantly more time giving back in their lives, and both the NASDAQ and the SEC are issuing rules about diversity on boards and pay equity disclosures. The urgency to drive inclusion, fairness, and transparency will only get stronger.


DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Will Continue to be a Major Imperative

Are firms moving the needle here? Not so much. Our research shows listening to and acting on employee needs, giving employees an opportunity to speak up, holding HR teams accountable for DEI metrics and programs and driving transparency and accountability into business leadership are the key factors here. Compounding the problem: HR feels on the back foot here, and most HR professionals feel uncomfortable with the topic. We need to grow here to take a true leadership position.


So-Get Set for a Big New Decade

And finally, as an HR leader, get used to the fact you’re now working not in any kind of a corporate backwater, if you ever were, but in a center of innovation, because the way we manage people is changing faster than ever. As an HR professional, you’ll also have to figure out what to do about all these things, plus be a competent economist, anthropologist, and politician.