Back to Insights

Global Outlook Q1 2021


While we are only a few weeks into 2021, we are already seeing that this could be a very busy year for the global HR profession and for HR search. Below are some key themes for the coming weeks and months:

Embracing a More Agile Future of Work

For CHROs, a key challenge is scenario planning for the future to ensure they are well prepared for whatever situation plays out, which means embracing a more agile future of work. We are seeing companies taking calculated risks on investing in organizational change, capability building, accelerated learning and development programs, and HR technologies. Add to this the unprecedented external change which has taken place over the past year, we conclude that this could result in seismic culture changes within established companies. How we have viewed a company and its employer brand in the past may indeed already be off the mark.

Hiring Trends Evolve

We are seeing a growing interest in subject matter experts across talent acquisition; diversity, equity, and inclusion; talent and organizational development; employee experience; culture change; and digital transformation. This is to be expected, as companies are looking for that ‘X Factor’ which can help attract, retain, and motivate high-potential and elite employees, uncover new pools of talent, and foster greater inclusion and engagement while also shaping high-performance HR structures to drive exceptional business results.

We are seeing an increase in the number and the scope of talent acquisition positions.  An increase in talent acquisition roles is often a sign of a recovering market and growing confidence as employers are investing in future skills. We can expect to see a heavier focus on areas such as employer branding and onboarding due to the broader influence and impact of the talent acquisition function. Many talent acquisition leaders now report directly to the Chief People Officer. Leveraging technology in this space to uncover, communicate with, attract, and retain new pools of talent will be key.  

Many CHROs and HR Business Partners remained in place last year, committing to their people and leadership teams, and guiding them through the COVID-19 onset. This year, we are starting to see more movement, and a ramping up in strategic business partner hiring with these roles often having culture change, OD/OE and capability building elements at their core. 

Forging the Link Between Well-Being and Performance

Many HR leaders talk passionately about a certain equilibrium being required now. There is a need to engage and motivate employees effectively to drive performance while energy levels are depleted. Organizations are under pressure to perform at optimal levels in tough conditions, so nurturing their employees to be successful will be critical. As a result, progressive organizations are buying in mental health, well-being, and career coaching expertise. The psychological contract between employer and employee has evolved. Effective communication is paramount to ensuring employees feel valued, energized, healthy and motivated to drive results. Cultures that support RUOK (are you okay) conversations will be winners as they empower their people to help each other. 

We are also seeing HR technology play an increasingly important role enabling greater connectivity across the organization and better access to data and resources. Employers are now offering well-being applications that create an ecosystem for employees to focus on all aspects of well-being including physical, mental, and financial. We expect to see a continuation of specialists in the organizational effectiveness space building capability and working on technology-driven employee experience initiatives.

Tackling Remote vs Onsite Working Practicalities

The return to the office discussion will remain very much top of mind throughout this year. Companies are now finalizing and implementing policy on how many days employees need to work in the office, and which roles need to be in which locations. Ongoing consideration is now being given to how employees can be enabled to live and work from remote and lower cost locations either part or full-time.

Practical challenges still exist. For example, employees in densely populated cities and countries around the world find that working from home is difficult as many dwellings are space constrained, and often homes need to accommodate extended families.  Childcare is universally a stressful and difficult issue in pandemic affected locations. This can lead to a lack of productivity or other stresses that may affect the wellness of the workforce. The challenges of managing employee engagement and wellness in a more virtual workplace has become an important new frontier for companies to tackle.

From a hiring standpoint, we have encountered issues on setting expectations and clearly communicating to candidates on the opportunity for fully remote working vs offering an extended period for relocation which may run up to 12 months or longer in some cases.   

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Remains Front and Center

We continue to see senior roles in the market for flagship Chief Diversity Officers. These roles can sit in different places within an organizational structure. Some report to the CEO, others into the CHRO. We have also seen the role reporting into the total rewards or the talent head. At the same time, it is interesting to see candidates hired from a variety of backgrounds such as brand management, communications, marketing, talent, and L&D. A consistent and constant acknowledgement is that to be successful, buy-in from the top is essential, within a culture where everyone is encouraged to take ownership. DE&I hiring at the top of the house will remain strong. However, this year will also be about building sustainable and effective programs and delivering results which have a measurable impact on engagement, culture, and business performance. The ability to truly measure the impact of DE&I initiatives is still a journey that organizations are only just beginning.


Keep up with the latest HR insights and updates.
Sign up

Recent Posts