Five Predictions for 2021

Thoughts on What's Coming

Welcome to 2021. Hopefully far better than 2020. This past year has accelerated trends already underway and altered how we think about remote work, socializing, learning, and much more. Numerous trends will permanently alter the recruitment landscape, but I have decided to focus on the five that I think will be most significant.

  1. Almost everything we do will be automated.

    There is little need to dig deeper into this. The reasons and trends have been discussed for the past few years in detail. It seems inevitable that automation will dominate all aspects of recruitment and learning this year, with AI becoming more and more integrated into the way we work. The number of traditional recruiters and their support staff will shrink at least 50% by the end of 2022. The remaining recruiters will need to take on different roles to survive.

  2. RPO will continue to grow and take over much of this traditional recruiting.

    RPOs have had double-digit growth every year since 2015. In other words, more and more organizations are turning to RPO to replace or augment their internal functions. An internal function has to be as efficient as or more efficient than an outside provider to remain competitive. This means continually improving operational excellence, adding appropriate technology, accessing detailed market information, coaching hiring managers, and building a reputation for adding real value through the quality of talent it provides. Budgets, expertise, and time are major factors that limit internal functions' ability to do these things and act as efficiently or as fast as a good RPO.

    RPOs have invested heavily in building robust recruiting technology and other services by spreading costs over many clients.  They have also built analytics functions. By gathering and analyzing data from their many clients, they have a more comprehensive view of the trends and market forces than internal functions. They have wide-ranging knowledge of the recruitment landscape, the skills a particular employee needs, the pros and cons of various technical solutions, and deep expertise gained through engagement with numerous clients.

    RPOS will continue to gain market share this year, forcing internal functions to redesign themselves and find new ways to add value.

  3. The New Role of Talent Architect.

    I recently wrote about the role of talent advisors, and many recruiters may take on that role. But I am more inclined to believe that those who become talent architects will be more successful and useful.

    A talent architect will help organizations design strategies that maximize value and provide the best return to the organization. This does not mean exploiting people or overworking them. It does not mean employing gig workers with no benefits. What it does mean is that a talent architect will work with HR and leadership to develop ethical practices and design systems that maximize people’s skills and capabilities over time. They will create a balanced workforce of permanent and gig workers according to individual desires and organizational needs. A talent architect will focus on the long term by building a core of passionate learners, capable of multitasking when necessary, and who have a strategic outlook on the business and their own careers.

    Talent architects will ask and find answers to questions like these:

    • What is the organization’s general philosophy about employees? What types of people are going to build the future the organization wants.

    • What is the philosophy about automation & outsourcing people functions? What gets automated and what doesn’t?

    • What does the future of work look like in/for the organization? What new jobs are likely to emerge? Where is R&D and business strategy heading?

    • What potential skills will the organization need in the next 5 years that don’t currently exist?

    • What talent scenarios has the organization developed to help think about contingencies and future directions?

    • How will the organization prepare to get or develop potentially needed skills? How does it build capability? Do HR policies support the strategy and provide incentives?

  4. Internal mobility & employee development will be central.

    Core to continued financial success will be cultural acceptance to develop current employees to their maximum capability. This will mean revamping HR policies, rethinking how employees get developed, creating internal rotations and internships, and focusing on continuous learning.

    Most learning will be self-initiated and delivered through the Internet and mobile devices. It will often be remote and virtual where teachers become coaches, facilitators, and content curators rather than lecturers. AI will guide learning and provide information and answers that would probably elude most teachers.

  5. Work will become hybrid.

    While some employees will return to the physical workplace out of the need for social connection or because the work requires it, many will decide to remain working virtually. Organizations will limit the number who return for health reasons and reduce the costs of the physical plant, office equipment, and other associated costs. From time to time, people will get together for team meetings or work on a project, but this may happen in a coffee shop or other venues and not at the usual workplace. We will use this year to evolve the new Modus Operandi for work.

This will be a watershed year as we consolidate and get used to the changes forced on us by the Coronavirus. It will be a year of reinvention, redirection, and renewal.

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