Josh Bersin Academy Senior Faculty Predictions for HR in 2021

January 19th, 2021

In December, we asked the Josh Bersin Academy Senior Faculty members to share their predictions for HR in 2021. 2020 was tumultuous; we could all use a bit of extra insight and shared wisdom headed into this new year. We hope that their reflections on what the year in HR will look like, in addition to those Josh Bersin has shared, provide you with some guidance and insight. You’ll be hearing more from the Senior Faculty in 2021, but we’d love to hear your other questions for them. In the meantime, members can get in touch in the Josh Bersin Academy Community page where we’ve posted this article.

Josh Alwitt Independent Coach and Consultant “In Q1 especially, peoples’ resilience will be tested even beyond the demands of 2020. Leaders will need to step up further to build resilience for themselves personally, and for their team members, and HR will need to support them. Forward-thinking organizations will use leading indicators to recognize burnout and prioritize leadership development and team building activities to help employees survive and even flourish. Empathy is a great start but not enough.”

Alex Badenoch Group Executive Transformation, Communications & People at Telstra “So many businesses and norms were disrupted during 2020 that it’s presented HR with some of the greatest opportunities and challenges most of us will ever see in our careers. In 2021, HR has the opportunity to lead, design, and deliver a fundamental shift in organizations, [defining everything] from how we work and where we work to the skills we will need to succeed. So in the year ahead, it is up to each of us to be willing and able to show the courage to lead innovation and help both organizations and people thrive in a world that is ready for a change in thinking.”

Balaji Ganapathy Head of Workforce Effectiveness, Tata Consultancy Services “As companies wholeheartedly embrace the shift to a hybrid remote model of work, a new paradigm is emerging for social contracts anchored in employee experience, wellbeing, and engagement. As talent clouds democratize access to full-time, part-time, freelance and gig work, HR will reimagine traditional practices to be purpose-centric. Companies creating value for all stakeholders will emerge stronger out of the pandemic, and HR can lead inclusive growth through a broader adoption of principles like ESG and DE&I.”

Pamay Bassey Chief Learning Officer, Kraft Heinz Company “During 2020, we all saw an increased interest in employees looking for opportunities to ‘learn their way through’ uncertain times. Many organizations found themselves having to transform training and learning programs so that they could be delivered virtually; some employees found time to utilize digital resources in a new way to support their own learning and development. In 2021, we have an opportunity to continue to refine the ways that we offer learning and development to our employees – to determine which programs actually were enhanced by redesigns that allowed them to be delivered virtually, and which really work best with a face-to-face or blended approach. And, as we look towards new ways of working – whether it be continued virtual work, a hybrid model, or a return to the office, we will need to focus on programs to support our managers and leaders as they expand their toolkit on how to manage distributed workforces more effectively – and employees as they continue to navigate new ways of working.”

Naveen Bhateja EVP, Chief People Officer, Medidata “After a tumultuous 2020, there will be renewed focus on CARE for ALL, especially employee mental health, stress management and overall well-being. New tools, apps and e-learning platforms that offer guidance on managing stress, healthy eating, fitness and mental health will be the part of the overall benefits package. Child care and paid parental leave will become table stakes. Overall, empathy will be visible throughout the organization. Employees will note how employers CARE for them.”

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup and Professor of Business Psychology at Columbia University and University College London “My prediction is that there will be greater focus on the humane aspects of work and talent: as tech and AI continue to have greater and greater impact, and we continue to work mostly away from others, we will need HR (and leadership) to help us reclaim our humanity, putting empathy, kindness, and passion at the center of an otherwise cold and dehumanized age of work.”

David DeFilippo, Ed.D. Principal, DeFilippo Leadership, Former Chief People and Learning Officer, Suffolk Construction “2021 will be the ‘Year of the People Manager.’ The pandemic's dramatic impact on our individual and team work styles has exposed the enduring fact that the relationship, trust and daily practices employed (or not!) by people managers have a very real and lasting effect on individual and team performance and morale. In 2021 we will see the integration of our new virtual work skills combined with people managers going ‘back to basics’ to facilitate stronger connections and meaningful contributions from their teams.”

Rachel Fitton Head of Group Talent Acquisition, Singtel Group “More purpose-driven companies will start to visibly address and tackle the real global negative impact the pandemic had on working mothers. They will do this for three main reasons: 1) it is part of their diversity and inclusion DNA, 2) it will solve their own hiring shortages and 3) it makes good business sense. Some likely solutions include policies that make it is easier for all parents to take leave, compressed workweeks, and childcare sharing schemes, as well as creating a culture that is less focused on the need to be seen online during traditional office hours and instead adopts best practices and tools for asynchronous working.”

Nuno Goncalves Vice President Human Resources, Head of Talent Acquisition, Development & Learning, UCB “Following an unprecedented year in which CEOs and senior leaders confronted a different type of crisis than the financial ones that we endured in past decades and were tested on their ability to do the right thing for their employees and communities, I predict that the companies that demonstrated their ability to do the right thing for others than their shareholders during the pandemic will be well placed to win the new war for talent. This is now a differentiating factor, far more valuable than the financial statements and growth projections: the path towards Human Centered Leadership and Organizations.”

Nicole Haris Talent and Organization Leader, Mondelēz “In 2020, we saw two massive shifts emerge in leadership that will continue to evolve in 2021: First, the emphasis on inclusive, collaborative, and productive environments for people and innovation to thrive. Second, acknowledging the humanity in our workforce – including the emotions, non-work-related responsibilities and stresses that outside life create on the employee experience.”

Mark Levy Employee Experience Advisor; Former Head of Employee Experience, Allbirds and Airbnb “My prediction (and hope) is that we will have a better way of working at organizations who co-create with their employees a model where we leverage the learnings of 2020. Employees should co-create the hybrid approach of working, and the physical workplace is leveraged for collaboration, community, and learning.”

Joe Militello SVP, Chief People Officer, PagerDuty “For those companies where ~99% of the company was virtual during the pandemic everyone had a similar work experience and somewhat on the same playing field (everyone got the same size square on zoom, teams, etc). When folks return to the office we know that it won't be everyone returning, and for those who do return, it will be less frequent (not everyone doing 5 days a week). HR should lead the way to reimagine different ways to create a sense of belonging by identifying new rituals and interactions for those who are 100% virtual and for those who are hybrid. Belonging fosters employee engagement, increases company loyalty and reduces attrition.”

Reza Moussavian Senior Vice President HR Development, Deutsche Telekom Group “The aftermath of pandemics-related experiences such as work from home will accelerate the need for digitization in HR. We could witness that ‘mindset-only’ based HR concepts will neither fly nor be accepted. HR is required to fly high on digital transformation and dive deep on the digital implementation. “Digital First!” is the command of the hour, the year, the decade - which means HR needs to clean up their own house to ignite sustainable business impact: digital recruiting, digital assessments, digital learning, and new-skilling, lateral talent management, distinguished expert careers, digital-fit leadership development, expert-centric and systemic organization development, remote sourcing, and shoring. More will be required from business and employees. Key to success will be the re-skilling of the own HR organization.”

Christopher Pirie Founder and CEO, The Learning Futures Group; Former General Manager, Global Sales Readiness and Learning, Microsoft “Learning will increasingly become the crucible in which connections and bonds are formed across organizational boundaries. As corporations shift to serve a broader set of stakeholders including employees, gig workers, suppliers, partners, the communities where they operate. They will increasingly use learning to develop deeper connections, operational efficacy and a sense of shared purpose. Financial services, healthcare, technology, and many other verticals are using learning and education to create deeper connections to customers, prospects, partners, employees, and the communities where they operate.”.

Frida Polli Co-founder and CEO, Pymetrics “Soft Skills: When assessing candidates, looking beyond the resume isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. More and more, people are realizing how limiting it is to solely focus on someone’s degree and past experience—this is far too narrow of a view. Soft skills, on the other hand, really expand the aperture of what someone is capable of. They are critical to understand in both candidates and employees, especially with the landscape of jobs changing at an unprecedented rate as new skills grow in demand to meet upcoming consumer and business demands.”

Tim Sackett President, HRU Technical Resources “I think in 2021 we’ll see organizations of all size have to take a real deep look at the mental health of their employees, and look at new strategies and offerings to help employees beyond traditional employee mental health services. 2020 kicked almost everyone’s butt, 2021 will be when we get to help put them back together again.”

Nancy Vitale Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Partners for Wellbeing; Former Chief Human Resources Officer, Genentech “With the reality that many people will be vaccinated in the first half of 2021, I predict schools will be open in the fall and back to live in-classroom instruction. Additionally, nursing homes and care facilities should once again be safe. 2020, however, brought more focus to the caretaking needs of working families— and the devastating effect lack of caretaking support can have on those families. Companies will pay more attention on how to support working parents and working caretakers moving forward as this area of focus has strong ties to not only engagement but diversity in the workforce as well. We will continue to see the rise and growth of solution providers and vendors that address these needs for employers.”

Cris Wildermuth Associate Professor at Drake University and Community Chair at Linked:HR. “Some ‘lessons learned’ during the pandemic may change the way organizations see flexible work arrangements, especially working from home. I predict HR professionals will discuss new policies for virtual employees, expanding the pool of viable candidates. At the same time, HR will need to consider new leadership best practices for remote workers.”