3 bold (and kinda crazy) HR tech predictions for 2021

Ulises I. Orozco, Co-Founder, PTO GeniusUlises I. Orozco, Co-Founder
Now that we've moved beyond the challenges of 2020 let's take a moment to consider what the new year may have in store for us.

1. Companies will look for creative ways to engage employees in a newly remote world.

Most of us spent 2020 scrambling to figure out remote work. The primary directive was to nail down the logistics of how the organization would work in the "new normal" and how policies and expectations would have to adjust on the fly. We were most concerned about how to "keep the lights on" as best we could. It wasn't easy. We had to muster the courage to make some difficult decisions, but we got the job done.

Now that things have settled down a bit and we've established a dynamic and agile workforce, companies will slowly shift focus to figuring out ways to engage the remote workforce.

According to Gallup, only 36% of employees were "engaged" during 2020. Gallup defines an engaged employee as one who is "highly involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace." Companies with higher engagement scores historically report much higher employee and revenue metrics.

Look for newly empowered and creative HR leaders to continue to deliver value by thinking outside of the box and reimagining how the workplace interacts. Technologies like virtual spaces and digital gatherings, once seen as unusual and clunky, will usher in a rush of engagement-centric technical solutions.

2. Companies will rethink total compensation to keep and retain top talent

The rise of the remote work workforce has completely changed talent acquisition. We've gained access to a whole new pool of top-tier talent from all over the world, but so has the competition.
And the "competition"? Well, that's changed too. We're no longer just competing with "Evil Corp" on the other side of town for the best candidate. We're competing with companies far and wide. We've globalized talent, and that's a good thing. But if we're going to keep the talent we have and attract the best candidates, we need to rethink total compensation.

Out-of-state job applications accounted for one out of every four applications submitted in the last few months of 2020, a 34% year-over-year increase according to a survey of 500 U.S.-based HR professionals by recruiting platform iCIMS. Expect that number to increase as more companies settle into remote work and begin hiring again.

Companies will start to fine-tune and, in some cases, look to revamp their total compensation plans entirely. When's the last time you reviewed your benefits? Do they speak to the needs of the employees you want to keep and attract? Are your policies cluttered with outdated and regressive restrictions? More companies will take 2021 to revisit and retool.

3. Companies will redefine and personalize employee wellness

Would it surprise you if I told you that people struggling in their personal lives also struggle at work? Employees are overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and it's hurting companies by driving down productivity, chipping away at profitability, and increasing absenteeism.

According to data from the CDC, all working-age demographics reported increased anxiety or depression in 2020. The two largest age groups were hit hardest; 58.7% of workers 18–29 and 49.5% of workers 30–39 reported new anxiety and depression symptoms.

The HR leader in 2021 will prioritize and redefine what "wellness" means in the new normal. These leaders understand the source of employee mental anguish varies and changes often. They will craft a more dynamic and personalized definition of "wellness" that shifts as employees' needs change. This new definition will usher in new software solutions and tweaks to employee benefits that reflect the employee's worries. Technologies like PTO Genius that leverage artificial intelligence to actively promote time off to employees at risk of burnout while helping employees with financial concerns convert extra PTO into cash will companies reimagine and personalize their benefits.

Wellness is personal. We'll finally get that right this year.