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5 HR Trends To Monitor in 2021

5 HR Trends To Monitor in 2021

HR people icons and Clarity HR logo representing HR trends

HR departments are given more and more responsibility each year, oftentimes with budgets that don’t match. This means HR teams must constantly seek ways to innovate and stay on top of trends if they want to compete in the marketplace, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end, here are five HR trends to watch for in 2021. When reviewing them, employers should consider how their organizations may benefit by implementing similar strategies.

1. Employee Well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the perception of what qualifies as a “safe and healthy” work environment. A couple years ago, any business with a wellness program may have fit that definition. And, even then, a company lacking those qualities wasn’t always a deal breaker for some employees.

Now, “safe and healthy” means something much different. In 2021, expect an increased focus on more rounded employee well-being. Baseline efforts will include safeguards against COVID-19, but many employers will likely go beyond illness prevention.

Already, some organizations have transitioned to a more holistic well-being approach, and others will undoubtedly follow suit. These initiatives examine the larger picture and aim to help employees better themselves, even outside the workplace. Efforts include mental health programs, dependent care assistance and flexible scheduling. Focusing on these areas can lead to healthier, happier and more productive employees.

2. Greater Inclusivity

While much of last year was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion was also devoted to stemming racial inequity. Months-long protests forced a national conversation about diversity in the workplace and beyond. This prompted many businesses to make statements about committing to more diverse representation in their ranks.

While public statements and private company actions don’t always align, some workplaces are keeping good on their word. Notable efforts include consciously trying to diversify leadership, scrutinizing hiring processes to identify barriers to diversity and developing training to foster greater cultural and racial inclusivity. Employers can expect an uptick in these types of efforts in the new year.

3. Expanded Remote Work

Many businesses were forced to shut down or migrate to remote work during the pandemic. Now, even with a vaccine in sight, a large number of those employers will likely continue offering remote work opportunities. In fact, some tech giants like Twitter and Google have indicated workers may not be required to return to the office ever again.

This suggests remote work, at least part time, will remain for the foreseeable future. As such, employers should consider expanding their own remote opportunities, as applicable. This won’t be feasible in all situations, but it might be for some positions. Doing so will not only provide a safeguard against COVID-19, but it can also serve as a tantalizing recruitment perk. Moreover, remote positions give employers greater hiring flexibility, allowing them to expand talent pools to any area with an internet connection.

4. Increased Employee Monitoring

A natural counterpart to remote work is employee monitoring software. When a number of employees operate outside the workplace, employers sometimes need other ways to keep track of productivity. That’s where these tools come in.

Employee monitoring software is what it sounds like—software that tracks computer usage. Depending on the software, it might record and employee’s website traffic, app activity and time spent idle. Some solutions even give employers access to employees’ webcams.

While some of these monitoring capabilities may seem extreme, the demand for such tools has only increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That means employers with remote workers should consider whether monitoring software is right for them. Particularly, employers should weigh the need to manage workers against the consequences of infringing on employee privacy. In other words, a heavy hand in this area might actually breed more resentment than encourage productivity.

5. Reimagined Onboarding

Onboarding is yet another workplace facet that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This critical process of hiring, training and welcoming new employees into an organization is one of the most important functions of HR. What was once a series of carefully outlined in-person meetings has now been upended.

Employers had to reimagine the onboarding process in 2020 and will likely continue adapting it in the new year. For many, this means transitioning to an entirely virtual onboarding process, while maintaining the same level of quality. Virtual onboarding may include remote meetings via webcams, online quizzes, video tutorials and other creative methods of educating new employees remotely. Even among employers that have reopened, developing these processes now will better position HR teams in the event of another COVID-19 wave and shutdowns.


COVID-19 affected nearly every workplace function last year, and that influence will linger into 2021 and beyond. Entire functions are being reimagined and reevaluated. Employers will need to adapt quickly if they want to compete in this innovative landscape. Reach out to Clarity HR for more guidance related to these and other workplace trends.

In 2021 and beyond, HR technology can help improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace—especially for HR professionals. And with many organizations adopting remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is increasing pressure for organizations and employees to adopt technology to collaborate, communicate and work from a distance.

Light bulb icons on a string one is lit up for HR technology trends

HR technology can automate a wide range of time-consuming business functions, allowing HR professionals to shift their focus from administrative tasks to high-impact tasks like strategy, employee engagement and change management.

In fact, according to PwC’s Human Resources Technology Survey, the core issues driving HR technology decisions include:

  • Finding, attracting and retaining talent
  • Developing people to reach their full potential
  • Improving the employee experience
  • Creating collaborative work environments
  • Workforce planning
  • Ensuring employee well-being, diversity and inclusivity

HR technology can enhance the overall employee experience, transform businesses and help organizations respond to change. This article explores HR technology trends to watch for in 2021.

1. Employee Wellness Management

Employee health and well-being will continue to be a priority this year. Due to the pandemic’s negative impact on employee mental health, employers can and should use technology to provide the support that employees need. Digital tools, such as apps, videos and webinars, can help mitigate employee stress, anxiety and burnout. Keep in mind that access to virtual mental health support can help reduce the stigma of reaching out for help. Improved employee mental well-being can result in a more engaged and productive workforce.

Additionally, consider how apps, gamification and wearables (technology that monitors breathing, movement and exercise) can be incorporated into company-sponsored wellness programs. This is particularly important if employees are working remotely, so you can ensure they are taking care of themselves, eating healthy and staying physically active. Healthier employees are generally more productive.

Finally, rather than manual data collection and program management, tech-enabled wellness portals can help ease use for both employees and administrators.

2. Employee Self-Service Portals

HR departments are tasked with many complex and sensitive administrative tasks—and it’s easy for errors to happen with manual data entry. Software can make the overall data management process simpler for HR professionals.

Conversely, employees may want to own, access and update their information. HR technology (e.g., self-service portal) allows employees to perform a range of HR-related tasks without filing paperwork, such as the following:

  • Updating personal information
  • Confirming employment status or rate of pay
  • Tracking and evaluating employee performance
  • Accessing online pay stubs
  • Viewing and printing federal, state or local tax forms or withholding information (e.g., Form W-2 or Form W-4)

Employers and HR professionals can also leverage self-service tools to communicate time-sensitive information like employee benefits changes and company holidays.

3. Remote and Hybrid Workplace Management

Most workplace experts agree that both remote and hybrid work arrangements—where employees work remotely part of the time and in the office the remainder of the time—are here to stay. Regardless of location, technology and project management tools can help improve workplace collaboration, communication and workflow efficiency. For tools already in place, evaluate the usefulness to identify any shortcomings or gaps and take the appropriate steps to improve functionality and usability.

4. Workflow Automation

Workflow automation technology can help employees work and collaborate efficiently and effectively. Focus on the business areas where efficiency can be improved and will have the biggest overall impact.

For example, project planning will vary by organization and depend on unique challenges or pain points, so start with evaluating and identifying those issues first. Consider projects within the HR department or projects throughout the organization that HR is supporting. Another idea is to consider how a single portal for HR, IT and other corporate resources could streamline a formal onboarding process for new hires. Once you’ve identified areas in which you can implement such technology, be sure to communicate any changes openly across the organization.

5. Learning and Development

The pandemic forced a shift from in-person learning to e-learning, online coaching, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Learning management systems (LMSs) can increase accessibility and ensure all employees have equal onboarding and learning opportunities. Schedule availability, location or learning style won’t hold back employees from growing professionally.

As many everyday activities went virtual in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the use of AR and VR for employee training in industries that rely on in-person or hands-on learning opportunities. An LMS is a more affordable and attainable option—and the software can be used by most employers to improve efficiencies and help effectively facilitate learning and development efforts from a distance.

Technology can also play an important role in employee career pathing by identifying skill gaps and providing personalized, self-paced courses. Moreover, it can help make performance review processes more efficient by tracking progress, accomplishments and feedback all on one platform.

Other HR Technology Considerations

Having new technology doesn’t do much good if employees won’t use it. Many organizations rely on training and communication from leadership to help boost user adoption. However, a PwC survey recently revealed that these two strategies are the least effective for increasing employee use of new technologies. Topping the list of most effective strategies were the use of incentives and gamification. This means that your organization may need to evaluate and change how you educate and train employees on new technologies.


Consider how these trends might motivate your organization and employees to adopt new technology that is intuitive and accessible. Contact us today to learn more about 2021 trends and how to effectively leverage HR technology.

American Flag flying in front of the White House under Biden Administration

Each presidential transition brings changes to the HR landscape. When President Donald Trump took office in 2016, he overturned or revised many of his predecessor’s federal regulations, a common trend between administrations of opposing parties. It is also something likely to continue under President-elect Joe Biden.

With any legislative change—regardless of intent or outcome—employers must adapt quickly or risk penalties. This can mean redrafting internal policies, recategorizing workers, changing organizational priorities, rewriting employee handbooks and any other HR responsibility. Essentially, the more prepared an HR team is, the easier it will be for them to succeed in a changing landscape.

Some of the policies upon which Biden campaigned may not come to fruition. Moreover, wide-sweeping workplace changes may be stifled due to congressional gridlock, though Biden will retain the ability to affect change through executive orders.

However, thinking about these issues early can help inform operational planning and prevent last-minute scrambling when change arrives. To that end, this article discusses potential changes employers can expect during a Biden presidency.

Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Health care has been a particularly contentious topic for over a decade, ever since the ACA was introduced. Biden supports building off the ACA’s framework and intends to expand a public health option that’s similar to Medicare. Granted, an upcoming (at the time of this writing) Supreme Court case may significantly impact any efforts.

As things currently stand under Biden’s proposed model, the government’s offering would directly compete with insurance providers. The public option would also be available to anyone—even if their employers offer qualified-health plans. Specifics are unclear, but this indicates that small employers may be able to save money by having their workers rely on public health coverage (as opposed to offering it themselves).


In addition to an expanded version of the ACA, President Biden also supports Medicare expansion. He proposes lowering the eligibility age to 60 (from 65). Since many employees delay their retirement until they are eligible for Medicare coverage, workers may start retiring earlier if this plan is enacted.

Labor Rules and the Future of Work

Biden is very pro-labor, as evidenced by his campaign platforms, and may return to Obama-era labor rules—many of which are viewed as burdens by employers. Specifically, Biden is in favor of a bill called the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

Among other things, the bill would limit which employees may be classified as independent contractors. It also includes provisions allowing employees to unionize more easily and expands the definition of “joint employer.” Such initiatives would have significant impacts on workers—especially in the current gig economy—and may force corporate restructuring for businesses such as Uber, Postmates and GrubHub. Endorsing such policies clearly outlines how Biden’s labor platform diverges with the Trump-era Department of Labor, which is to say a move that embraces workers more so than employers.

Paid Leave

Paid leave has historically been a priority for Biden during his political career. The president-elect is currently pushing for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Progressives want to expand that effort, in the form of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The act would expand the qualified reasons for taking paid leave and opens eligibility to more workers. Biden supports many components of the act but hasn’t fully endorsed it. This indicates that some version of this legislation—namely, expanded paid leave—may come early during Biden’s administration.


The Trump administration fought hard to limit immigration; Biden is likely to reverse many of those efforts. Some of the reversals may include reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and allowing more green cards. More specifically, Biden wants to increase employment-based visas, which would pave the way toward citizenship by way of gainful employment.

Minimum Wage

Many states have started gradually increasing their minimum wages at the end of 2020, but not all of them. Biden wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026 and eliminate the tipped wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 and has historically only increased by a couple of dollars every two decades. This would be one of the most significant increases to the federal minimum wage in history.

Another significant impact would be the elimination of the tipped wage ($2.13 per hour). Currently, tipped employees earn a lower minimum wage (called a tip credit), but are expected to make up the difference with tips or be paid the remainder by their employer if they don’t make enough in tips. If Biden eliminates the tip credit, employers would have to start paying those employees significantly more money, which could lead to much higher labor costs.

Specifics of such an arrangement are unclear at this time, so it’s difficult to predict how this would impact employers. Namely, employers are currently unable to retain tips themselves—they all go to employees. If the tip credit is eliminated, such regulations might also be amended as a way to lower labor costs.

LGBTQ+ Rights

During his campaign, Biden said he intends to “end legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.” This typically includes reforming the treatment of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Biden also supports efforts to increase data collection regarding violence against transgender people, who have been disproportionally victimized.

Cannabis Legalization

Over half of the country (35 states) now allows for the medical use of cannabis. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia allow for recreational use as well. While cannabis is still an illegal drug in the eyes of the federal government, states have continued to signal their willingness to cash in on this lucrative crop. In fact, as states rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in cannabis tax revenue each year, federal legalization seems more and more likely.

Biden falls short of endorsing federal legalization, but he has expressed an interest in decriminalization. During his campaign, he even talked about expunging prior cannabis convictions for individuals. In general, Democrats seem to favor more lax penalties for nonviolent drug offenders. This could signal how Biden will pursue this issue as well.

Employee Data Security

Data security has been a growing topic of concern over the last decade. Frequently, individuals are wanting more control over their personal data, and to know where it’s being sold. In 2018, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gives citizens the right to know what data businesses collect about them, delete some of that information, opt out of the sale of personal data and avoid discrimination as a result of exercising their CCPA rights. Experts predict Biden may seek to adopt similar protections on a federal level.

In fact, Democrats already introduced data privacy legislation in 2020, but it’s taken a back seat during the COVID-19 pandemic. This signals the direction Biden’s administration will go. Moreover, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris championed consumer privacy during her tenure as California’s attorney general and is likely to retain that stance.

If enacted, expanded consumer privacy legislation on a federal level may resemble something akin to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of Europe. This would mean a greater burden on employers to show data transparency with users and enable individuals to control more of their data. Such legislation would almost certainly come with penalties for noncompliance as well.


It’s impossible to predict exactly how a Biden presidency will impact HR teams. But, it’s still important to examine his platform and consider how employers may be affected by potential policy decisions. Doing so can help inform operational planning and prevent last-minute scrambling when legislative changes inevitably drop.

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