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HR in 2021: The Future of Talent Acquisition & Management

By Mahe Bayireddi, CEO of Phenom

At the beginning of 2020, the HR industry could never have anticipated the record-high unemployment rates that would soon rock the global economy — impacting individuals, small business owners, and companies across the world. They had to shift their approach to talent acquisition and management as furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes became unavoidable. Facing an unpredictable talent landscape, many HR teams worked to improve their efficiency by adopting artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology.

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As the pandemic’s impact continues to be felt, recruiters, too, will continue to navigate new TA challenges. In 2021, the state of the workforce looks poised to improve as a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available. As HR teams maintain business continuity, they should also prepare for the labor market to begin rebounding by the middle of the year.

The same technology used to support companies throughout the pandemic can have an even greater effect within strong labor markets. Recruiters and managers can continue to develop their employees while returning some of their focus toward the candidate experience. With AI and automation, they can avoid becoming overwhelmed —  instead, maintaining a healthy talent ecosystem framed by clear diversity and inclusion goals.

Before the pandemic, many HR innovations were three or four years away from universal adoption. However, numerous developments arrived ahead of schedule because companies needed to adapt to sudden change. HR teams are realizing that their company’s standing as a great place to work hinges on how they deploy their technology and prioritize their talent’s needs. Their actions in 2021 will be multifaceted, but a few trends will stand out:

The Growth of Short-Term Gig Work

Employees will most likely stay and grow with a company — even after the pandemic — if  given opportunities to add news skills and advance their careers. We will see more managers encourage their employees to take on short-term “gig” work, which will provide essential avenues for people to work outside their primary role, unlock nascent skills, and meet new mentors. At the same time, managers will learn new insights about their teams, enabling them to place employees in better positions to succeed over the long term. With AI optimized to curate employee data and recommend ideal short-term projects, companies will be better equipped to reduce talent churn and keep pace with their evolving industries in 2021.

The Role of AI in DE&I Goals

Organizations are looking long and hard at their own diversity, equity and inclusion. Initiatives toward this end are crucial on many levels — most importantly, providing candidates with fair opportunities. DE&I is also a prerequisite to building high-performing teams, as it emphasizes unique perspectives and employee pride within company cultures. As the emphasis on this topic continues, the HR industry will leverage AI-powered technology that focuses on the skills and experience required to reduce bias in the recruiting and hiring process. If human awareness and technological context work together, we’ll see more companies diversify their talent in 2021.

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Rebalancing Work and Life

Remote work has become near universal for knowledge workers during the pandemic, providing employees with previously unheard-of “flexibility”. But behind the scenes, many employees are finding it difficult to keep their work and personal lives separate. Since remote work isn’t going away once the pandemic is over,  companies will look to enhance and distinguish their work-from-home experience — especially as the flow of external talent resumes. If work is invading evenings and weekends, employees will burn out and job seekers will steer clear. In 2021, expect more organizations to address work/life boundaries and show more empathy for employees, which will not only help retain employees but foster an employer brand backed by an authentic “culture of care.”

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