HR Trends To Watch In 2021
And Beyond

One of the lasting results of the COVID-19 pandemic is workplaces making the shift toward digital processes to replace or augment manual processes. As we navigate this time and enter the “work from home” era – with many businesses deciding to switch to remote work or offer a hybrid in-office/remote working plan – companies who find ways to digitize are setting themselves up for long-term success. 

Pair this new age of work with our always-on, hyper-connected world that has been made possible with the internet, mobile devices and the powerful infrastructures powering them. The result is innovations that haven’t merely changed how we connect with one another – they’ve changed the way people do business, including how companies hire and manage people. 

Cloud-based technology, advancements in artificial intelligence, new communication solutions, and the booming gig economy are just a few disruptors that are reinventing the world of work and the profession of HR.

With these incredible disruptions, Human Resources professionals and their companies need to be aware of and ready for the following trends in 2021 and beyond.

Latest Trends In HR Technology

Human resources has a tremendous responsibility in the face of growing and quickening change; it must be the driving force that helps companies embrace and adapt to disruption through appropriate recruitment, onboarding, training, and retention practices. Technology plays a huge role in all of these areas.

Movement Of Core HR Systems To The Cloud

The modern HR department has begun to leverage cloud-based technology and integrated solutions. The cloud provides many benefits, such as:

Limited Internal IT Requirements

Cloud-based systems free HR teams from reliance on internal IT staff members.

Ease Of Scalability

HR teams can easily scale the technology up or down with a cloud-based software provider based on business requirements.

Business Continuity

Critical human resources data can be secured more effectively when a company is struck by natural or human-made disasters, power failures, and other disruptive crises.


Cloud-based systems allow employees in different locations to work together more effortlessly and provide greater transparency of data – a must for offices with remote employees.


HR teams that use cloud-based systems can offer staff members greater flexibility for working from home or checking in during vacation or on holidays when necessary.

Always Up-To-Date Technology

HR departments typically receive automatic updates to software and systems, so they routinely have the most up-to-date technology.

As HR decision-makers select cloud-based solution providers, they should consider how well products integrate with other ERP solutions, assess productivity and efficiency gains, and determine any change management issues that may occur with new product implementations.

Team Management Systems

A lot of exciting team management systems are available to human resources departments that want to take collaboration and management to the next level. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Collaboration And Communication Systems

These software options allow organizations to streamline communication, centralize critical information, and collaborate more productively and efficiently. Some of the most popular solutions in use today include Slack, G Suite, and Microsoft Teams. Not only do these platforms encourage collaboration, but they also provide security, flexibility, and transparency. Additionally, they work across a variety of mobile devices.

Performance Management Systems

These types of solutions help HR professionals monitor and measure performance, as well as manage onboarding and training initiatives. Some options to consider include:

Real-time performance feedback: Many of today’s workers – i.e. millennials – want more real-time feedback. Some HR departments are moving their organizations away from annual performance review platforms to performance review tools that allow managers to provide performance feedback more frequently and on demand.

Coaching software: Some HR teams have championed the concept of coaching as an organizational priority rather than a discretionary management style. Companies that embrace coaching as part of their corporate culture can leverage coaching software tools. These platforms document coaching plans, goals, and measure coaching efforts on employee outcomes.


A plethora of online training software exists to assist HR teams in planning, developing, or outsourcing training. Human resource professionals can explore:

Trends In Seasonal Hiring

Recruiting professionals have observed a traditional seasonal cycle when it comes to hiring. These seasonal hiring variations can be broken down by quarter as follows.*

Q1 – Hiring Wave

Many businesses hire during the first quarter. A strong close to the prior year and the new year’s corporate initiatives drive many of the decisions to devote resources to recruiting and hiring, especially in January and February. Q1 is a time when HR professionals will face a possible talent shortage since their business will be competing with so many other employers.

Q2 – Seeking Warm Weather Workers

Industries dependent upon good weather conditions tend to heat up recruitment efforts during the second quarter. Industries such as construction, tourism, and hospitality have strong hiring pushes during April, May, and June.

Q3 – Summer Lull

The summer months are typically a slow recruitment period for most industries. With hiring managers and job candidates taking time off for summer vacation or summer holidays, the third quarter is a bit more relaxed. Recruitment tends to gear up again toward the end of August.

Q4 – Heavy Hiring Focus Followed By A Lull

For the retail industry, the beginning of the fourth quarter represents a significant hiring push for seasonal holiday workers. In other sectors, CEOs seek to reduce operating profits; one way to do that is by hiring a recruiting agency during the fourth quarter to minimize annual taxes. October up until Thanksgiving can be a busy time for hiring. Thanksgiving through New Year’s, on the other hand, typically slows down as people take time off for the holidays.


How Does Technology Impact Seasonal Hiring?

In some cases, technology-driven marketplace disruptions have altered recruitment and hiring. For example, as more consumers turn to online shopping for the holidays, fewer seasonal retail jobs get added each year. However, companies like Amazon and other online retailers may have an increased need for seasonal workers in warehouse, fulfillment, and customer service roles.

Some employers with strong seasonal hiring pushes have created an almost “consumer-like” experience for seasonal job seekers. Home Depot, for example, launched a tool in time for its spring hiring push that allows job applicants to choose their preferred interview time.
In other cases, technology does not change when hiring happens, but it can change how seasonal hiring occurs. A few examples include:
  • Development of a robust online employer brand through blogging, social media, and video keeps a company top of mind – and top of search engine results pages – during the time leading up to a hiring push.
  • Research and selection of an applicant tracking system (ATS) to streamline hiring processes during peak recruitment periods.
  • Development of pre-screening questions and processes that automatically filter the pool of applicants down to the most qualified candidates.

What About The Gig Economy?

The gig economy, made up of freelancers and other independent workers without a formal employment agreement, continues to disrupt the corporate workforce. According to research, 44 million workers, or 28.2 percent of the U.S. workforce, were self-employed at some point during a given week in 2019. With these growing numbers of contingent workers, employers must be ready to respond.
With fewer workers – especially millennials – in the traditional workforce, HR professionals must guide their organizations on how to make the most of the gig economy. With freelancers and independent contractors, companies can:
  • Scale up and down more quickly and easily.
  • Save time and money.
  • Improve quality with access to more skilled workers for specific projects.
  • Increase operational flexibility.

Solutions such as Upwork and Freelancer can help companies find affordable, qualified talent. There are even niche freelance hiring networks for specialized careers such as engineering or science and researchers.

HR professionals and managers should use technology to ensure contract workers and freelancers are productive members of the team.

  • Encourage use of corporate communication and task/project tools to promote collaboration and productivity between direct employees and contingent workers.
  • Use time tracking tools to manage freelancer workloads.
  • Provide access to shared drives and centralized information (as appropriate) to promote transparency in the freelancer-client relationship.

The Future Of HR Technology

The enterprise of the future will be digital, and HR will be a leading force in ushering in new technology. Three intriguing areas of HR solution development involve artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and virtual reality.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will play a more significant role in business across the board, and HR is no exception. While AI will necessitate the reskilling and transitioning of some workers, many HR professionals will experience AI augmentation, not replacement.

AI And Internal HR

AI will eventually help HR teams become more productive and efficient when it comes to internal tasks and processes. AI solutions may help reduce the administrative burden of some low-value, highly repetitive tasks, such as processing onboarding steps for new hires. Additionally, AI can play a role in the employee’s onboarding experience by delivering personalized information and training suggestions based on the new hire’s position.

Natural language processing (NLP) technology will also benefit HR departments. NLP solutions learn to interpret, understand and use language to communicate with humans. NLP technology will allow HR departments to use chatbots to provide employees with self-service options. NLP will also enable technology to assess employee’s happiness and contentment levels.

AI And External Recruiting

AI will also help with the recruitment side of things. AI-enabled applicant tracking systems will be able to assist recruiters during various stages of the hiring process through automated pre-screening processes to narrow down the applicant pool to only the most qualified individuals.

AI recruiters will use natural language processing to automate scheduling, provide feedback to candidates in real time, and answer questions. This technology will allow human recruiters to focus on candidate conversion.

HR departments will also look to improve diversity and inclusion initiatives with artificial intelligence. New solutions will limit or remove both conscious and unconscious biases in the hiring process.


Blockchain technology is most commonly associated with the digital currency Bitcoin – however, its applications extend beyond that one use. Blockchain is essentially a ledger of digital, public data. The data is organized into blocks and distributed via decentralized networks (chains) of computers that verify and automate data flow.

For human resources, blockchain has the potential to:

  • Improve data integrity by allowing employees to fully control data about themselves rather than relying on third-parties with potentially inaccurate historical information. Employees could store and share university-verified details, certification data cross-signed by the certifying body, and more. Recruiters would have access to valid, truthful data instead of having to rely on employee reporting and third-party verification.
  • Streamline payroll, especially when it comes to international workers. San Francisco-based company Bitwage already uses blockchain technology for global payroll to reduce delays caused by intermediary banks and third parties in the traditional payroll process for international payments.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) has been a hot technology for entertainment, but savvy human resources organizations have begun to see the potential for business and human capital.

VR And Onboarding

Companies with various offices across the globe and employees who work remotely can leverage virtual reality to provide a better onboarding experience. VR onboarding can offer:

  • Virtual orientation.
  • Tours of various corporate facilities and global offices.
  • Virtual encounters with peers and executives.

VR And Training

In training scenarios, virtual reality can allow employees to learn through simulations and games. This type of training engagement removes the pressure of “live, on-the-job training” where a mistake could impact productivity or cause the employee to feel less confident or nervous.

Meeting The HR Trends Of Today And Tomorrow

Human resources is fast becoming one of the most technology-dependent business functions; it’s also the department best positioned to use technology to transform how the enterprise functions and flourishes.

As you position yourself for success in 2021 and beyond, you should continue to sharpen classic human resources skills while also taking on a technologist’s mindset. Remember to think about how technology can help your company become innovative, collaborative, and transparent to improve recruitment and retention efforts.

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