Human Capital Trends 2021 – A Switch From Employer-centric To Employee-centric

Human capital trends are representative and reflective of the challenges faced by businesses in each industry. Invariably, the influences of the economic and market forces are felt directly and indirectly by human resources. Keeping an accurate finger on the pulse of human capital trends is an unwritten requirement for all organizational top brass. Rule of thumb: Strategizing for the future of work follows trends for maximal efficiency.

Human capital trends not only make the news; they continue to be top-of-mind among business leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives with good reason. People are the biggest asset and intellectual capital of an organization. By staying attentive to the trends of work, workforce, and workplace, true leaders serve all four aspects of human capital management (HCM) – recruiting the right people, filling all the required job roles to achieve the organizational objectives, managing them well, and infusing them with the inputs that lead to high performance.

You might also be interested to read: Importance of Strategic Human Capital Plan

Notable human capital trends 2021

  1. Recruitment practices get revved up: Thanks to AI-powered algorithms, talent pools are wider. It’s possible to glance at a job role match and job fit against candidates’ experience and credentials without contacting them. Referrals can be gotten from social media networks and professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. Shortcuts such as ‘Apply with Facebook’ or ‘Easy Apply on LinkedIn’ minimize the number of steps and forms to be filled out in an application. AI-backed recruitment outsourced to third parties is set to catch on.
  2. Well-rounded skill sets required to make the cut: New hires are no longer simply good at one skill. They need to be rich in the emotional quotient, be good communicators who can read between the lines, and be able to focus on tasks. The ability to learn on the job and develop transferable skills is valued higher than years of experience. Dubbed as “Power skills”, hiring managers now pursue a combination of digital literacy, data interpretation skills, critical thinking, and quantitative ability in their human capital.
  3. Virtual onboarding: Hiring teams, interviewers, and functional heads show recognition and empathy for candidates’ private concerns and constraints right from this stage. Communication in the first 6-8 weeks of hiring becomes the basis for long-term good relations – especially when new hires don’t meet the team face to face. Frank, proactive, and open communication to compensate for cues lost from not being physically present is encouraged.
  4. Flexibility of remote work: Building workforce agility starts with being open to hybrid teams. Since the post-crisis era requires a slimmed-down workforce at the office, a needs-based attendance means teams have to have excellent coordination to get more done. Compared to the year 2019, 2020 has brought at least four times more work from home jobs in percentage points. Work from home jobs are listed in the top three search keywords among job seekers on Naukri and other popular job portals.
  5. Reskilling and gap-filling: Reimagining human capital and maximizing diversity of skills are now crucial. Bringing in cadres of the workforce such as qualified women and returning workers who got laid off during an unforeseen event is now a deliberate practice. Veterans, mature learners, and career-shifting professionals are now able to re-enter the workforce.
  6. Training new hires on cutting-edge skills: Virtual reality (VR) training adds a new dimension to learning because of its immersive nature. Since VR lends itself to simulation, it’s widely used in safety training and hazard identification. But it is set to move far ahead, with applications in Retail, Customer Service, Hospitality, and Insurance.
  7. Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a major concern in a developing economy like India whose talented workforce caters to multinational corporations from every corner of the globe. India’s world of work is a microcosm in which the progressive values of the more heavily industrialized nations are faithfully represented. Accenture is a worthy mention in this arena, with 40% of their workforce being women, and 23% reaching the managerial cadre.
  8. Alignment with core values: While compensation is important, candidates now recognize the need for alignment of personal goals with those of the organization they join. For the human-centric values such as recognition of gender fluidity, racial equality, support of ethnic groups, Indian companies such as Reliance, the Tata Group, and Mahindra have made it to the global lists. Sun Pharma, Godrej, and Infosys have honorable mentions. Most of these organizations maintain a ‘Culture Desk’ or ‘Culture Lab’ that helps employees ease into a sense of belonging with their fellows. This points to attracting and retaining young, emotionally secure, talented employees who share the same global values and creating a sense of community for like minds.
  9. HR Analytics: Harnessing the power of numbers to understand people better can help in building workforce resilience in the post-crisis era. Behavioral aspects are now represented in data to help identify signs of burnout. Software as a Service (SaaS) tools have revolutionized the amount of data that can be logged and pivoted to produce useful insights. Even entry-level packages prove useful and startups leverage the recommendations to hire better.
  10. Career development is more than continuing professional development: Attending workshops and conferences is not outdated. But more effective alternatives like webinars, informal learning opportunities, and gatherings such as ‘virtual office hours’ or podcasts shared by industry leaders bring in out-of-the-box insights to those who wish to grow in the less-traveled or even uncharted paths. Offering the big picture view to recruits and helping them nurture career paths is essential among visionary leaders today.
  11. Social entrepreneurship/socially-conscious business: Corporate social responsibility was nominal conformity for a short while before the importance of taking society along on a company’s for-profit journey became the norm. Now, ecological balance, awareness drives issues like climate change, and saving natural resources is a year-round activity with all-hands on deck. In addition to the Government of India, NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) has initiatives to bring women into IT as a harbinger of social change and betterment. 34% of the Indian IT workforce are women. More ‘women in tech’ and ‘women who code’ are hired every day because it’s a conscious effort to empower females in India. These programs now extend to universities and colleges in India to inspire learners.

Human capital trends in the world of work are all-encompassing – they can be cited in all areas of HCM including onboarding methods, workflow management, workforce planning, workforce productivity, benefits and compensation planning, and separation or retirement. Something perceived to be as small in the scheme of a worker’s tenure at an organization as an employee’s autonomy at a self-service portal can assume significance. It guides the worker’s overall experience at the organization and is, therefore, crucial.

In the era of ready and inevitable digitization, the future of human capital shows a clear inclination towards flexibility as opposed to rigidity in various areas. Human capital trends are gunning with full steam towards building workforce agility to stay relevant in business without borders. The post-crisis era has made this switch a necessity as opposed to a luxury.

The macroscopic picture shows that the human capital trends have switched from being employer-centric to employee-centric, all the way to being task-centric in the current stage. This sweeping change is an overarchingly positive one for the cause of businesses. For this reason, the human capital trends of 2020-21 are instructive in building promising business models.

You might also be interested to read:


  • 11 CURRENT HUMAN CAPITAL TRENDS: 2020/2021 DATA, INSIGHTS & PREDICTIONS | CompareCamp | Arthur Zuckerman | May 28, 2020
  • 4 Tips on How Employers Can Adjust to the ‘New Norm’ of Virtual Onboarding | HR Daily Advisor | Karrien Francis | Aug 2020
  • WFH jobs jump three times vs pre-COVID-19 levels, according to survey | ET Bureau | Rica Bhattacharyya | Aug 2020
  • Digital Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel for India? | Tufts University Digital Planet | Bhaskar Chakravorti and co. | June 2020
  • Inclusion Diversity in India | Accenture
  • Reliance, Tata, Mahindra on global list of LGBT+ inclusive companies | The Week | K Sunil Thomas | Nov 2019
  • Women in Tech: India Leads the Way, S&P Global Market Intelligence 451 research, 2018

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