Talent Acquisition in 2021: 6 HR Experts Share Their No-Bull Predictions

From the pandemic’s economic impact to the ongoing battle for equality, the face of HR has changed for good—and every business needs to reflect that

To survive the new year, we need to get up close-and-personal with the trends that will impact HR in 2021, so we asked our favorite experts to have their say on what’s ahead, and let us in on their top survival tools for the coming year.

Check it out!

The top 5 talent acquisition trends in 2021

Talent Acquisition Trend #1: Compassion is making a comeback

“Now is not the time to ‘know it all’, it’s the time to humbly admit areas of development.” —Laura Mazzullo, Owner of East Side Staffing

As owner of New York based boutique recruitment firm, East Side Staffing, Laura Mazzullo is a human-centric HR mastermind who knows good people when she sees them.

Like many HR leaders, she’s watched 2020 take its toll on talent acquisition pros. 

“In 2020, talent acquisition (TA) professionals recognized they were working on lean, understaffed teams and were facing real burn-out. It was a challenging year in 2020 for many in TA were victims of lay-offs due to the pandemic,” says Laura. 

But every HR cloud has a silver lining—and for Laura, 2020’s silver lining is the new-found emphasis on humanity. 

“I’ve found more is being asked of talent acquisition pros going into 2021—more of a focus on humanity, inclusion and deep emotional intelligence (yay!)—and that TA pros aren’t going to be able to go into the new year with a focus solely on transactional behavior,” she explains.

Here’s what Laura believes candidates and hiring managers need moving forward: 

  • Coaching
  • Empathy
  • Compassion 
  • Creative problem-solving 
  • And help to be introspective in order to make the right, data-based choice.  

“I think employers will be making many more values-based choices in 2021 and will be incredibly discerning about the recruiters they hire internally as well as the firms they partner with externally; there seems to be a deeper understanding of the impact talent acquisition has on employer brand and talent attraction,” she says. 

And the best part? Talent acquisition professionals are finally taking pride in honing their awesome skills.

“I also see talent acquisition pros more open to the idea of coaching and training themselves. In the past, there was some shame around not having all the answers or needing coaching/guidance. Now, I find more people asking me for training and I LOVE this notion that TA pros are finally realizing they have a craft that is worthy of honing. Now is not the time to ‘know it all’, it’s the time to humbly admit areas of development,” says Laura.

Laura’s top HR survival tool for 2021: The ability to learn 

“My favorite tools are an incredibly active listening ear (intro calls with candidates went from 30 minutes to over an hour), empathy for others and a humble understanding that even with 17 years of experience I’m learning something new every day. I launched a YouTube channel to share what I’m learning with others #LearnWithLauraHR and started a coaching business to help TA pros improve. In 2020, it’s been clear that LEARNING is the way forward,” says Laura.

Talent Acquisition Trend #2: In 2021, great branding (and great data) is everything

“Careful analysis of data to help talent acquisition processes become more effective and efficient will be critical.”—Melanie Peacock PhD, Founder of Double M Training & Consulting

Melanie Peacock is an HR powerhouse. 

As founder of boutique HR firm Double M Training & Consulting, which focuses on putting the human back in HR, Melanie’s motto is “investing in people provides the best return”.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

And so it’s no surprise that for Melanie, the most important trend in 2021 is to nurture candidates before they’ve even joined your company.

“In addition to the need to move processes online, the requirement to have a strong pipeline and network of potential employees has been especially illuminated. As such, the importance of employment branding has been brought to the forefront,” explains Melanie. 

And that’s not all. Melanie also believes in the power of data to attract top talent. 

“A top trend heading into 2021 will be the increased use of predictive analytics. Careful analysis of data to help talent acquisition processes become more effective and efficient will be critical.”

Melanie’s top HR survival tool for 2021: Virtual onboarding

“Clients have told us that virtual onboarding has been really useful in 2020. It allows for creativity and the removal of geographic barriers. Lessons learned will be used and this type of orientation is likely to continue, even when FTF work resumes,” says Melanie.

Talent Acquisition Trend #3: Disengaged candidates need nurturing

“How a company treats all people—including their workforce, candidates, clients and suppliers—through this time will have an impact on their ability to hire in the future.” —Katrina Collier, Founder of The Searchologist, Speaker, Facilitator and Author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter 

Katrina Collier is on a mission to “get all the people who recruit people to treat people better.”

As founder of The Searchologist, Author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter, founder of DisruptHR London, and an Ambassador for Hope for Justice, it’s no wonder Katrina is an HR legend.

Through her superhero dedication, she shows companies how to free their human-made recruitment obstacles and focus on delivering an unforgettable candidate experience. 

“The top talent acquisition trends in 2021 really depends on your industry,” says Katrina, “For example, tech and healthcare are still struggling to hire because there is still a shortage of people with the skills they need, hospitality stopped hiring as restaurants closed, and other industries were inundated with applications from people desperate to get back into work.”

But despite the surface-level differences, there are some things every industry has in common going into 2021—like a general feeling of mistrust among candidates after such a rollercoaster year.

“The companies that knee-jerk reacted and fired too many people will struggle to re-hire them, in fact it’s already happening! Many people have moved on and settled into new roles and no longer trust their previous employer; potential candidates are wary too,” explains Katrina. 

Katrina believes it’s up to recruiters to focus on candidate relationships and build that trust back up.

“In 2021, recruiters will need to use super-human skills to get people to change roles in an uncertain economy. I also think there will be a trend of people taking jobs as a stop gap and moving on when economies bounce back, this will prove costly to companies that do not take care of their people,” she says.

There will also be plenty of lessons learned from individual recruiters who struggled in 2020. 

“In 2020, thousands of recruiters also found themselves on the job hunt ‘living’ the candidate experience, which has been truly eye-opening for so many. I hope that when they return to work they remember this time and ensure that their new company’s focus is on ensuring they treat people well. In fact, how a company treats all people—including their workforce, candidates, clients and suppliers—through this time will have an impact on their ability to hire in the future,” says Katrina.

Katrina’s top HR survival tool for 2021: Human skills

“For the recruiters I’ve been working with in The Robot-Proof Recruiter Mastermind, their most useful talent acquisition tool is their ramped up human skills. Never has there been a more important time to show empathy & compassion, to treat people with kindness, to be aware of how you’re coming across, to be a great influencer and more. Technology is a great enabler but it needs to be used to improve the human experience, and right now humans need extra TLC!,” says Katrina. 

Talent Acquisition Trend #4: Low-cost recruiting tech is the future

“We will see an increase in interest in low cost recruiting tools, recruiting automation to help save time, and a new focus on empathy in employer branding.” —Chris Russell, Managing Director at RecTechMedia.com

There’s a reason Chris Russell is one of the most tech-savvy recruiters on the planet—known as “The Mad Scientist of Online Recruiting”, Chris has been experimenting with recruiting tech since 1999

Since then, Chris founded RecTech Media, where he acts as managing director and hosts their powerful HR tech podcast.

It’s no wonder he believes low-cost recruiting tech is the future.

“Talent acquisition has changed with all the layoffs that have hit HR and recruiting. Teams are smaller and doing more with less resources. As far as trends we will see an increase in interest in low cost recruiting tools, recruiting automation to help save time, and a new focus on empathy in employer branding,” he says.

Chris’s top HR survival tool for 2021: Canva

“My most useful tool would be Canva. The online graphic creation tool has been my go-to for creating visual job ads for social media that look great and get more engagement,” says Chris.

Talent Acquisition Trend #5: Great DEI programs need to be the ‘new normal’

“The pandemic-driven female recession has threatened to reverse the progress women have made.” —Romy Newman,Co-founder and President of Fairygodboss

If you’ve been in the HR space for long, you’ll have heard of Romy Newman. 

As Co-founder and President of Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women, Romy leads the way helping major companies attract qualified female talent.

But after a year that’s left many women out of a job, Romy’s dedicated to turn the tables on these changes come 2021.

“Between the pandemic, economic recession, and racial equality movement in 2020, the way in which people search for and evaluate jobs has fundamentally changed. Women once surpassed men as the majority of the U.S. workforce, but the pandemic-driven female recession has threatened to reverse the progress women have made,” explains Romy.

Here’s how talent acquisition pros will be protecting women’s rights in the workplace circa 2021+: 

  • “Moving forward, talent acquisition leaders need to successfully convey that inclusion and diversity is core to their Employer Value Proposition.”
  • “They must meet diverse audiences where they are by partnering with new channels, such as Fairygodboss, to source women talent.
  • “And TAs must also find new ways to engage and convince women to reenter the workforce.”

Micole Garatti’s top HR survival tool for 2021: Word-of-mouth marketing

Romy’s right-hand-gal, Micole Garatti is Director of B2B Marketing at Fairygodboss, Writer at SocialMicole, and Author of The Most Inclusive HR Influencer List

Pretty cool resume, right?  

Micole’s favorite tool for 2021 is anything that makes your brand shine above the rest.

“People want to work for a company they can be proud of and promote. With 96% of job seekers saying they research a company’s reputation before accepting a job and 75% saying they would not accept a job at a company that has a bad reputation, the best talent tools help organizations take control of their employer brand, market their employer value proposition, and share employee stories,” says Micole. 

But above all, a great brand is one that gets people talking.

“Nothing can replace the value of word-of-mouth marketing,” she adds.

From compassion-led hiring to low-cost hiring tools, the talent acquisition trends coming in 2021 are set to inject a much-needed dose of energy into an otherwise beleaguered sector. 

So get ready to put the toils of 2020 behind you and prep for a future we can look forward to.

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