The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook

Let’s all take a collective sigh that 2020 is over. Last year – which included record-breaking job losses and unemployment as high as 16% in May 2020 – was a challenge. But according to Monster’s latest research, shared in the Future of Work 2021 Global Outlook Special Report, there’s reason to be optimistic. 82% of employers plan on hiring in 2021, including 37% who plan to re-hire backfill jobs and 35% who plan on hiring for net new jobs. Monster has been tracking job-search and hiring trends throughout 2020, monitoring how candidates and employers are responding to this once-in-a-lifetime event. As the capstone of our research, we fielded two global surveys to both recruiters and workers in October and November 2020, and the results revealed that despite the volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic, recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are feeling optimistic about the coming year. Below are the top takeaways from the Future of Work surveys, ranging from the overall state of recruiting and the impact the pandemic has had on hiring to mental health and the role of diversity in the workplace. See how the industry is adjusting and what the coming year has in store for hiring managers, staffing agencies, and recruiters.

The positive 2021 hiring outlook

The big reveal is that the future of hiring in the US is surprisingly upbeat: 82 percent of the respondents plan to hire in the new year, and 93% feel confident they will find the right candidates. That’s welcome news to the millions of workers looking for new jobs or considering a role or career change. Interestingly, nearly half (49%) of the tech industry respondents said they’re planning on creating new jobs in 2021. As well, recruiters for blue-collar and grey-collar positions (roles that typically require interaction with customers or the public regularly in a non-office setting such as a school, hospital, retail store, restaurant, airport, etc.) said that they would be looking to increase their workforces in 2021, 39 and 28 percent, respectively.

How employers responded to the pandemic

When asked which policies their companies have changed the most due to COVID-19, respondents ranked remote-work flexibility (43%); adaptable offsite work schedules (40%); updated health policies and protocols (36%); staff skills training (34%); increased security (29%); and reducing workplace footprints (20%) as the top policies. Interestingly, 46 percent of hiring managers globally expect to make these pandemic-response changes permanent, though the numbers vary by industry. How does this impact recruitment efforts? A great majority of respondents—77 percent—expect candidates will increasingly ask about workplace safety in a post-COVID world. In a separate survey of 400 workers, we asked what they expect employers to pay more attention to in the coming year. Along with flexible work schedules (38%) and salary protection (35%), health policies and protocols ranked third (30%)—confirming recruiters’ instincts. Here’s what candidates expect employers to care about in 2021:

  • Flexible work schedules (38%)
  • Salary protection (35%)
  • Health policies and protocols (30%)
  • Training staff to the new ways of working (29%)
  • Shifting to a more remote work environment (25%)

Top recruiting challenges of 2021: skills gaps and virtual recruiting

The skills gap is widening

Despite the positive outlook, recruiting still faces some sizable challenges. The top hurdle that hiring managers expect to face in 2021 remains the skills gap and its impact on finding qualified candidates—with 40 percent of respondents naming it as an anticipated challenge. Remarkably, a third of U.S. employers say the skills gap has increased compared to last year, and 80 percent of employers say they have difficulty filling openings due to skills gaps as opposed to a year ago. Regardless of the industries being recruited, the top skills employers want are:

  • Dependability (arriving at work on time, not taking excessive time off, following through on all assignments).
  • Teamwork/collaboration (working well with others within their team and company as a whole).
  • Problem-solving (the ability to be resourceful when it comes to work challenges and solve them without assistance).
  • Flexibility (willingness to take on new work or new ways of working).

Virtual recruiting: on the rise but growing pains remain

With the shift to remote work and the decline in in-person activities, virtual recruiting became essential during the pandemic.  70 percent of U.S. recruiters used virtual technology for at least half of their candidate interviewing and new-hire onboarding, while another 35 percent said that at least 75 percent of their recruiting practices were virtual. Respondents specifically working in talent acquisition and recruiting say that their hiring process is 75 percent virtual. Despite those high numbers, not everyone is on board with virtual recruiting. It was cited as the third biggest challenge facing employers in 2021, with 28% of respondents saying they expect to struggle with this form of hiring. Not surprisingly, the level of use of this technology appears to be generationally influenced. Indeed, 44 percent of Gen-Z and millennials say that virtual technology was involved in at least 75 percent of their hiring process, whereas almost half of baby boomers and nearly a third of Gen-X hiring managers say that 25 percent or less of their hiring and onboarding are virtual.

Recruitment process challenge to address: how to best assess qualified candidates

Based on the value of in-person interviews and the difficulties associated with virtual hiring, it is not surprising that when asked which parts of the recruiting process will prove to be most challenging in the coming year, recruiters pointed to identifying and assessing qualified candidates: Here are the three recruiting challenges anticipated for 2021:

  • Assessing candidates during the interview (41 percent)
  • Identifying quality candidates quickly (40 percent)
  • Effectively screening candidates pre-interview (36 percent)

Asked what tools recruiters find most useful in finding qualified candidates they listed personal connections/referrals/word of mouth (40 percent), followed by resume search (32 percent) and posting on company/career sites (30 percent).

How work is impacting mental health

Mental health issues and concerns have been top of mind for many workers and employers, and as the pandemic continues, these issues remain a major concern. We surveyed workers to see what mental-health problems were caused/impacted by work. The top-ranking issue is job-related anxiety at 31 percent. The following issues also impacted workers:

  • Depression (15 percent)
  • Headaches from too much screen time (13 percent)
  • Loneliness (10 percent)
  • Physical illness (7 percent)
  • Increased alcohol use (5 percent)
  • Imposter syndrome (4 percent) and increased drug use/suicidal thoughts (3 percent)

Studies have shown the impact these factors can have on worker productivity. Thus, hiring managers and recruiters should work closely with their teams to ensure that workers have the tools to help prevent these issues and have the skills to help treat them if they do arise in their workforce.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies Needed for 2021 Hiring Plans

When workers were asked what DEI initiatives they were most looking for in an employer, many cited employee training, building a diverse workforce, creating elements of an inclusive environment and workplace (including being open to and including other people’s opinions). Having people from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions and encouraging employee resource groups (i.e., pride, diversity, and inclusion practices) ranked as top priorities as well. Some encouraging survey results show that employers have responded to workers’ DEI expectations, and the two groups’ inclusivity-priorities align. A total of 42 percent of employers focus on employee training, and 34 percent are working towards building a diverse workforce. Although the majority of U.S. employers (56 percent) say that they are updating their recruitment strategies to attract more diverse talent, an astounding 30% of employers revealed they don’t have a DEI strategy in place. Those who do have an active DEI strategy focus primarily on gender, race, and ethnicity and less on age, disability, and veteran status.

Moving forward in 2021

Ultimately, the Future of Work showed that the outlook for hiring is healthy, though there is work to do among recruiters and candidates to strengthen and improve the state of hiring in 2021 (especially when it comes to the skills gap and how transferable skills are demonstrated). All people in the world of work can look forward to a year of increased opportunities, a continuing reliance on virtual work, and more flexibility when it comes to where and how employees work. Want to dig deeper into Monster’s data? Download Monster’s Future of Work Report.