HR Trends for 2021

With 2020 nearing an end there is no denying that this year has been like no other in our lifetime. This was the ‘year of the pivot’ where we all had to change how we deliver and think about HR. To put it plainly, we had to deal with issues previously reserved to theoretical possibilities rather than realities.

Naturally, the sounds of bells ringing in the new year will not trigger a sudden change for 2021. In fact, the trends that we see emerging for 2021 are already upon us and will only be amplified in the coming year.

So, what are those trends?

Employee Mental Health

There is no doubt that stress, anxiety, and depression were already present in the workplace and with COVID-19 present everywhere we go, those issues are unfortunately predicted to increase in severity over the coming year. We are all tired; our resilience and our tolerance is down and this has the potential to make for a long, dark winter. While the effects of the pandemic are still being analyzed (and will be for years to come), the Canadian Mental Health Association is already reporting that mental health has declined 44% for women and 32% of men in 2020. Moreover, those with pre-existing conditions (anxiety, depression, substance abuse) are experiencing a worsening of symptoms.

So, how we show up to support our colleagues will be the difference between having a successfully managed and thriving workforce, and one that is struggling to perform under this added weight. Getting HR professionals and managers tooled-up in support employees with their emotion well-being will be critical to all organizations. And this leads well to the next trend we see continuing next year…

Managers are suffering as well

We rightfully focused on employees in our first trend because an employee is an employee regardless of their role, and more than ever managers and leaders in organizations are stretched too thin. They are trying to do even more with even less, and often find themselves supporting their team at the expense of their own mental health.

One of the primary drivers of this problem is fear. Managers are fearful and reluctant to ask employees how they’re doing. At the same time, no one seems to be asking them how they are doing. This needs to change so that everyone, front line staff and managers, feel heard and valued. Dealing with this requires constant communication, adjusted for the new remote reality. So, talk to your managers and ask them plainly: How are you doing and how can I help?

Diversity and Inclusion

It will come as no surprise that diversity, inclusion, and a respectful workplace continue to be at the forefront for organizations seeking to employ an increasingly diverse workforce. 2021 will be the year of following through on all the that was promised. Not planning on following through? Do so at your peril as you may just undo all the hard work put to get you where you are today. Your staff and your customers will be watching.


Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in conflict within teams and that is not surprising. We are not at our best when we are tired, scared, and overwhelmed. Often, we act on those fears in a manner that impacts our colleagues who themselves are fearful and scared, and as you can imagine, that dynamic results in some very unfortunate outcomes.

It is up to us to be aware, educate, and bring people together in a way that allows them to bring their best selves to work, and that is when the magic happens.

Where to now?

There are still things to celebrate about 2020 – Yes it was difficult on so many levels, yet the learning we take from our collective experiences this year will help us be more understanding and resilient as we move forward to a new year.

Want to learn more? Need to strategize an action plan for next year? We are here to help.