3 talent strategy trends and the C-Suite impacts

Though 2020 has already disappeared in the rearview mirror, the ongoing effects of its turbulent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, will undoubtedly impact how we work and who will find work. These drastic shifts in talent development and learning will extend well beyond the present, and leaders in CHRO positions especially will not be immune to such changes this year, nor two to three years down the line. As I look towards 2021, I anticipate the companies that remain competitive are the ones who are well prepared for these trends, as they relate to business flexibility, diverse staff and leadership, and shrinking talent pools.


Disruption as a way of life

If last year has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is a guarantee. The tumultuous events of 2020, including the presidential election, the Spring protests for racial justice, and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, will leave lasting marks on the American psyche and impact how we work, interact with one another, and go about our daily lives.

And there are no signs that 2021 will be any less eventful. The pandemic and the upcoming vaccine rollout will remain in the public consciousness, and broader changes related to climate events, demographic trends, and emerging economies are all expected to intensify, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. These future events promise to interrupt our day-to-day and upend employees, consumers, and businesses overall. Ultimately, it’ll become harder for employers to ignore such disruptions and even harder to plan for them. When it comes to industry-specific disruptions, a 2018 Accenture report cited 93% of executives know their industry will be disrupted, but only 20% feel prepared to address it.

It is crucial, then, for companies to have an agile workforce made up of talent that can respond to whatever may come. And as companies pivot in response to the landscape — whether that be rapidly hiring more people, reskilling current workers, or changing business needs — employees, for the most part, will trust the judgment of their CEOs. As reported in the 2020 Edelmen Trust Barometer, workers believe that the CEO of their company is trustworthy, ranking them more trustworthy than journalists, and religious and government leaders. It is from this esteemed position, and against this dynamic backdrop of the forthcoming year, that CEOs should anticipate turning on a dime for whatever reason, and establish a workforce that is just as flexible.


DE&I: It’s time to ‘walk the walk’

Alongside the national demonstrations for racial justice last year, there was an outcry for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. It was a time of great awakening for many companies and their senior leaders, who were generally straight, male, and white. But if 2020 was the year of wake-up calls and grand promises, 2021 will be the year that most organizations “put up or shut up” for DE&I.

In June 2017, Fortune reported that 80% of high-ranking officials at top Fortune 500 companies are men, and 72% of those men are white. Three years later, nothing much has changed. As of January 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 8% of managers are black and only 3.8% of CEOs are black as well. 

The expectation of representation existed before, but employees are going to look for policies, processes, and developments that will bring about real change. Employers themselves must unpack their legacy systems to examine how their practices contributed to such inequity. Only then can the hard work be done and new pathways can emerge, ones where companies can elevate diverse, frontline talent, build equitable hiring practices and pipelines, and expand access to skilling opportunities.


Talent pipelines will tighten up

For those in the HR industry, we have been hearing about the “talent wars” for two decades. And this uphill battle of recruiting great talent will hold especially true even after the pandemic. Rebuilding the economy will take time, with different industries recovering at different rates. Low-skill workers will toil the most during this K-shaped recovery, as they struggle to pay their bills and make ends meet. At the same time, the Federal Reserve reported that health and childcare concerns tighten labor markets even further, and college enrollment is declining so sharply that education research firm EAB projects it to decrease by 12% in the next decade. 

This shrinking pool of viable workers will create a revolving, merry-go-round source of talent, which will only get more expensive for companies as they compete on compensation, benefits, and perks. Because of this, employers need to invest earnestly in reskilling and developing their existing talent and improve the employee experience. That way, not only will workers be armed with the necessary skills they need to face unforeseen disruptions, but also companies will hold onto these skilled workers like the rare and vital assets that they are.

Written by Matthew Daniel
Principal, Employer Solutions

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