An optimistic path forward: 2021 hiring trends to watch

By: Scott Gutz,  Monster CEO

It’s not hyperbole to say that 2020 has redefined the very nature of how we work and what the ideal employer (and candidate) looks like. And this is not just my opinion. The findings of Monster’s just released Future of Work 2021 Global Hiring Outlook, which focuses on global trends among employers and candidates, confirm these massive shifts.

Every industry, every segment, has had to accelerate its pace to meet the needs of change. As McKinsey reported, in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, consumer and business digital adoption leaped five years ahead.

I’m optimistic that we’re heading toward brighter days, especially toward the second half of 2021, when the vaccine rollout should be close to complete. Recruiters surveyed in our Future of Work report also share that optimism: 82% of employers told us they plan to hire in 2021. Coming from a year where we reached the highest unemployment rate in decades, that’s a lot of hiring and welcome news.

However, we must understand the landscape and adjust to our new ways of working. Here are three trends that will lead the way:

Creating a better (virtual) workplace reality

We’ve known for a while that remote work and flexibility would evolve into something more permanent, but we had no idea how quickly that would happen. Nor did we anticipate the limited impact on productivity and how well companies would adapt.

Our research revealed that 70% of U.S. recruiters used virtual technology for at least half of their candidate interviewing and new-hire onboarding last year. However, both employers and candidates (Gen Z in particular) said they find it difficult to get a real feel for culture and value alignment during virtual meetings. Clearly, challenges remain with virtual hiring, and this is an area I’ll continue to watch as part of Monster’s mission to help candidates and employers find the right fit.

Part of the “right fit” equation includes a vibrant workplace culture and a healthy work environment. Unfortunately, today’s workers are struggling with physical and mental health issues worldwide due to their jobs, including 46% of those who cited job-related anxiety and/or depression in our Future of Work report. The continued pressure of working from home and increased workloads have put renewed focus on work/life balance and how candidates evaluate an employer or even consider starting a job search.

A renewed focus on diversity & inclusion

More than half of employers in the U.S. told us they’re updating their recruitment strategies to attract more diverse talent right now. This effort is no longer something companies should do; it’s increasingly becoming something companies must do to attract top talent.

Our research has shown that a majority of workers find having a diverse workplace essential to them. One Monster poll found that 62% of candidates would turn down a job if they felt a company didn’t value diversity & inclusion.

Let me say upfront that at the management level, Monster is not as diversified as an organization as we should be – but we are working to change that. Just hoping things would get better and making everyone feel welcome – which I believe we always have – isn’t enough. Of course, we share that reality with many organizations.

Employers should understand that this isn’t a quick fix. The discussion needs to be ongoing, and not only around promoting opportunities to a more diverse talent pool, but also, what should we be doing to increase the number of under-represented people in those pools? For example, how can we start attracting more people of color and women to emerging, highly skilled fields in the science and technology sectors?

Flexibility will close the skills gap

The circumstances of this past year gave recruiters a unique opportunity to seek out candidates from struggling industries who have key transferable skills, proving what we’ve long known: the future of work is all about a fluid, flexible workforce and candidates who are constantly adapting their skill sets to grow or even change their careers. But the big question is, who’s responsible for re-skilling and upskilling the workforce?

This is something the staffing industry has taken the lead on over the past decade, and it’s certainly one of the biggest challenges that businesses need to solve. Our research reveals a lack of agreement on who’s responsible for upskilling – candidates or employers.

Over the last five years, the skills ranked most in demand have changed, as well. A recent IBM survey revealed that the top two in-demand skills were behavioral (willingness to be flexible and time management) rather than technical, STEM-related skills that used to lead the list. We see similar data and an added pandemic impact: dependability is one of the top skills desired by employers. Companies are saying they need to be able to find people where and when they need them.

Let’s get to work– together

In this period of significant unemployment, there’s a real need to put people back to work to get us out of this pandemic and economic crisis. At the same time, workforce dynamics continue to change in significant ways.

At Monster, we’re learning from the hardships of the past year and moving ahead with optimism and a renewed commitment to making our workplaces better. We’re introducing new ways for job seekers to highlight their goals and skills to set them on the pathway to a new job. I think by this time next year, we’ll look back and be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Read our Future of Work Report to get detailed predictions for 2021 hiring trends.