Open office space with big windows and lots of light.
From hybrid hiring to safer in-person workspaces, there are a few trends taking hold as people seek new jobs in 2021. — Getty Images/vicnt

As companies begin to settle into 2021 and look ahead to a post-pandemic economy, many are looking to hire or rehire workers. In February 2021, job growth nationally surged as some sectors reopened amid optimism, with COVID-19 vaccinations beginning to pick up across the country.

“While the labor market still has a lot of ground to make up, we are in a different place than we were a year ago and the economy seems poised for a strong rebound,” said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank, told CNBC.

As hiring starts to pick up across a broad swath of industries, it will not look the same as before the pandemic.

Here are four major trends we’re likely to see from employers and employees throughout 2021.

Remote and hybrid hiring increasing in popularity

In March 2020, many companies around the globe shifted their workforce to work from home. As the pandemic continued in many countries, businesses made long-term investments in remote work. In its Future of Work 2021 Global Outlook report, jobs site Monster notes that remote job flexibility was the top policy change caused by the pandemic, and that likely will remain.

“The pandemic essentially forced many companies to do the unthinkable: manage a remote workforce,” writes Monster in its roundup of 2021 hiring predictions. “To a large extent, it was successful, proving that the work can still get done even without a physical office presence. In other words, even when things return to normal, there’s a good chance that many employees will prefer to remain off-site, at least some of the time.”

The Modern Hire 2021 Hiring Trends Report suggests businesses feel an “urgency for meaningful improvement in organizational diversity and inclusion.”

Diversity and inclusion a top priority for employers

Another significant focus for companies in 2021 will be to diversify hiring. The Modern Hire 2021 Hiring Trends Report suggests businesses feel an “urgency for meaningful improvement in organizational diversity and inclusion.”

“While the changing social climate may be the immediate catalyst, organizations have long recognized that diversity and inclusion are drivers of financial performance,” the Modern Hire report noted. “Research has also shown that at the human level, diverse and inclusive teams are more creative, innovative, and engaged at work. For all of these reasons, organizations are engaging more fully in understanding diversity and barriers to diversity within their workforce. They view hiring both as the primary driver reinforcing bias and also as a primary driver for improving it.”

To accomplish this, expect businesses to invest in new software and tools to help them predict, measure and control for bias throughout the standard hiring process. Some companies and candidates may prefer artificial intelligence (AI) instead of human recruiters to reduce bias.

Prospective employees expect safe, redesigned workspaces

While many new employees will continue to work remotely, some new workers will return to office spaces in 2021. These new hires will expect transformed work areas that ensure their safety and follow newly established norms like social distancing and improved sanitation as they come back.

“Employee safety is the highest priority when considering a return to the office, and businesses must not only implement back-to-work safety protocols but also make sure they communicate those efforts to returning employees and ensure that those policies are adhered to,” Rebecca Henderson, executive board member of Randstad, writes in Forbes. “This includes maximizing social distancing via greater spacing in terms of seating plans, workstation arrangements and manufacturing line configurations. Organizations should also consider installing visual social distancing and sanitation cues – like floor markings and signage reminders – and staggering the timing of employee shifts and breaks.”

Screening and onboarding will be increasingly virtual

In both the public and private sectors, the pandemic pushed some or all of the hiring process into the digital realm. It’s likely that early screening interviews and the post-hiring onboarding will now all take place via video chat applications. One example of where the public sector shifted well into virtual onboarding is the General Services Administration (GSA), as the organization has been able to increase hiring because of its digital transformation.

“It’s been an intensive period, but we are actually on pace, if not doing a little bit better than during a normal year,” Merrick Krause, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer and Director at GSA, told FedTech. “Some of the processes we leveraged were already in place, but the pandemic and the ­virtual work actually helped us to accelerate innovation and employment. Now, we’ve been able to leap ahead with our virtual ­processes and our technology to improve recruiting and hiring.”

The GSA, Veterans Health Administration, and other government agencies that shifted to virtual onboarding are likely to continue these practices in 2021 and beyond.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 10, 2021