Business and HR Experts Forecast The Year Ahead 2021

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This past year has been full of crises, changes, and uncertainty. What can we possibly expect going into 2021? Geeks Geezers and Googlization has hosted many great thought leaders throughout this past year to help us stay ahead of the curve, and on this special episode, we are following up with some previous guests to get an idea of what might be ahead. 

Ira reached out to his guests over the past year and asked them to share some thoughts on what is coming. This episode contains predictions and forecasts from fourteen guests bookended by predictions from Joyce Gioia, Vice Chairman of the Association of Professional Futurists and CEO of The Herman Group, and HR Global Thought Leader Ira Wolfe, President of Success Performance Solutions and author of the best-selling book, Recruiting in the Age of Googlization.


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[7:37] “We have millions of people who are perfectly trained and very capable of handling jobs that no longer exist–at the same time, we have ten million job openings.”

[16:30] “I think it’s more than likely that we’ll see more than just the prototypical flying cars next year.”

[24:32] “Leaders who can win the hearts and minds of their team, who can inspire them on a daily basis, even over Zoom, are going to be the leaders who create unstoppable teams, and those unstoppable teams will be the ones who win the market.”

[27:24] “2021 is full of opportunity, but do take a moment to think about the various risks, the impact they can have on you, but don’t forget about the society at large and the issues that could impact all of us.”

[30:43] “In 2020, people got more resilient, wiser–the world has gotten a little bit smaller.”

[40:00] “It is so important that we take care of ourselves as leaders. It is not selfish to put your oxygen mask on first.”

[46:22] “Uncertainty will continue but growth and innovation are going to grow exponentially.”

Podcast Notes

Joyce Gioia, The Herman Group [7:01]

The first trend Joyce sees in 2021 is labor shortages. She cites a forecast from Ed Gordon that predicts 10 million job openings in the first part of 2021. One driving force behind this shortage is mis- or disemployment, where people are well-trained for jobs that no longer exist. 

Essentially, this is due to a massive disconnect between employers and applicants. This could be based on geography, compensation, or skills. Joyce believes the solution, in part, lies in upskilling and reskilling the talent pool in order to match company needs and fill positions.

Joyce is also looking forward to a rise in “homeshoring” where companies bring offshored labor back home. Offshoring happens because companies can get the same work done for less overseas. However, there are many areas in the US with low costs of living, which will likely be used to meet the increased demand for medical supplies in 2021.

Joyce’s final prediction is the continuation of devastation brought to unhoused and financially insecure people who have suffered losses because of the pandemic. Unless the government begins to support citizens and workers with pandemic relief, as is common throughout the world, we can expect to continue to see losses of wealth and health as a result of the pandemic.

Finally, Joyce sees one thing from 2020 that she hopes sticks around: activism and democratic engagement. Democracy is not a spectator sport, and our future depends on the continued willingness of people to meaningfully engage in our society. 

Dennis Hill, EXACTA [13:25]

Dennis has a proven track record of predicting trends in computing, beginning with foreseeing how the government would respond to digital catastrophes in the early eighties. In 2021, he expects to see continued aggressive rollout of 5G infrastructure and 5G-ready devices. As 5G routers are introduced and progress continues to be made in wireless capabilities, we will begin to move away from cables entirely.

Aligned with this, we will see a huge rise on blockchain as a way to decentralize databases and improve security across networks. Blockchain will also be embedded in software for new users to improve the security of personal data, which is now protected under new laws from 2020.

His final prediction is a growth in autonomous applications used to improve human life. For example, couriers will begin to roll out drone delivery and cars will be controlled by centralized city hubs. All of this would contribute to greater health and safety of humans.

Kevin Grossman, The Talent Board [18:05]

Kevin saw one really good development in 2020 that he hopes will carry into 2021, and that was a much greater empathetic connection between employers and employees. Even though some people found themselves in tough situations because of unemployment, employers were working with employees just to get everything figured out. 

In 2021, Kevin hopes employers will carry over that transparency and authenticity that helped them navigate the pandemic. He also forecasts a rebound in employment and industry following the distribution of the vaccine. Along with this, Kevin believes that the slimmer recruiting teams will be relying more heavily on recruiting technology to make the best choices.

George Randle, The Talent War [21:54]

George brings even more optimism to his 2021 outlook based on his hopeful view of the vaccine deployment through Operation Warp Speed. He believes this will drive rapid V-shaped recovery and get people back to work quickly. The most successful companies will be out in front, taking advantage of the huge talent pool populated with very talented people. 

He hopes we will carry our sense of gratitude that we developed during the pandemic so we continue to value time with family and small moments of joy in our daily lives once we can again engage with the world like we used to.

Elizabeth Lotardo, McLeod & More [24:11]

Elizabeth predicts a renewed emphasis on employee engagement. The shift to remote work revealed gaps between employee’s passions and their work that can only be fixed by effective leaders. 

“Leaders who can win the hearts and minds of their team, who can inspire them on a daily basis, even over Zoom, are going to be the leaders who create unstoppable teams, and those unstoppable teams will be the ones who win the market.”

Bill Coletti, Kith [24:45]

Bill forecasts a real need to get ahead of potential operational issues that might get in your way. This means taking proactive action now to prepare for those issues before they happen. For instance, what will be your company’s stance on vaccines? 

Companies will also need to refine their approach to racial justice. The events of this summer were not the end, and there is likely to be a different response to issues of racial justice under the Biden administration. This also ties into proactively managing your relationship with the public.

One simple exercise Bill recommends is to take any current event and ask your leadership team, “How would we respond if this happened to us?” This is the single most important thing companies can do to prepare for 2021. 

Claudia Reuter, Techstars [27:50]

We learned a lot in 2020, like the struggles our employees or coworkers face in balancing work and life, who essential workers really are, and that technology is what we make of it. 

In 2021, Claudia thinks we will see new tools and solutions to foster collaboration online and just be better online for ourselves, our coworkers, and our families. Claudia is looking forward to a very bright 2021.

Gerry Crispin, The Talent Board [28:46]

Gerry has a very positive outlook for 2021 and expects that it will be a great year for everyone. However, he has one concern over the SEC announcement from August 26 that requires firms to include metrics related to human capital on financial reports. This is a long story that will play out overy years, but Gerry predicts it will prove to be a transformational event.

Declan Murphy, [30:18]

Declan believes that 2020 made us more resilient and wise, and has also shrunk the world. Geography is no longer an issue as people around the world have embraced remote work. Further, digitalization is here to stay as all generations have now embraced new ways of doing things. And finally, we have learned how to be kinder to each other, even over great distances. 

This points to a wonderful upswing in 2021 as people use these changes from 2020 to launch back into the world. New ideas and technologies from 2020 carried over into the post-vaccine world of 2021 set the stage wonderfully for a bright year.

Keith Kitani, GuideSpark [32:24]

Keith predicts that the most impactful trend in 2021 will be rethinking and reimagining the employee experience. Distributed work and digitization have permanently changed how, where, and when employees work, but the question is: How will these changes manifest in 2021, after the pandemic?

One risk is overwhelming employees with constant communication. Since communication is critical for success, companies will need to rethink how they communicate in a way that really engages employees and helps productivity. 

Keith hopes that the increase in family time will stick around after the pandemic. Eliminating commutes and letting employees work where they live gives more time for things that truly matter.

Micole Garatti, FairyGodBoss [34:16]

Micole is also excited about the future of remote work. Studies show that remote work is the preferred work style for most employees, and since many people have experienced its benefits and made it work during this pandemic, she hopes it will stick around and even become the norm. 

Replacing employee  engagement with employee support has been another exciting change for Micole. This is a shift from a focus on numbers of employee engagement to look more closely at how employees are being supported, especially as we all navigate multiple crises.

Phil Strazzula, Select Software Reviews [35:50]

Phil thinks that one of the most important changes will be the economic stability, or instability, created by the vaccine, stimulus packages, and a return to regular life. Even now, it is hard to see what the new normal will look like, but it is certain to be different. 

Remote work is the feature of 2020 that Phil hopes will stick around. It has reduced traffic significantly, and gives employees more flexibility throughout the day. However, employees will need to be vigilant to actively separate work life from home life.

Rhamy Alejeal, People Processes [37:15]

Rhamy also highlights the role that working from home will have in the future. As employers and employees have navigated this new way of working, productivity has increased by as much as 25%. This means it is here to stay because it is more effective, employees prefer it, and it’s a great recruiting tool. 

Rhamy hopes that businesses will carry this one lesson from 2020 into 2021: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Tim Spiker, The Aperio [38:48]

Tim believes that remote work will stick around not only because it is preferred by employees, but because virtual meetings have become so normalized that companies can cut transportation costs. Since we are now comfortable relating over screens, there is less need to travel. 

Mental health will be very important in 2021. We must take care of ourselves first, especially when we are working in isolated environments. Self-care prepares you to be the most effective you can be.

Mike Raven, AQai [41:52]

Employee wellbeing is going to have a high priority in 2021 for both employers and employees, according to Mike. The pandemic has highlighted the need to take wellbeing seriously, and Mike envisions something like a credit system to help employees own their wellbeing. 

Mike also believes that remote work is here to stay, but that in-person work may pick back up towards the end of the year, likely as part of a flexible work system. 

Finally, Mike hopes that the climate emergency will take a higher position on corporate agendas. Especially as technology improves and climate change impacts investments, he hopes to see a 2021 where the environment is taken seriously.

Ira Wolfe [45:14]

Ira believes that the only certain thing next year is huge amounts of change, just like always. However, even as things change, innovation will continue to grow exponentially. As evidence of this, in the first nine months of 2020, there was a 12% increase in the start of new businesses as compared to the first nine months of 2019. 

In 2021, there will be two economies that will collide, Main Street and Wall Street, and we need to help them converge. At this intersection are a number of issues including racial equity, gender equity, pay equity, and social justice. Whether we will make as much progress as we would like, these conversations are sure to continue. 

 Ira’s third prediction is that there will be a ton of opportunity in 2021. As indicated in the growth in new businesses, there is a good portion of the population that are resiliently responding to the pandemic to keep moving forwards. 

Finally, we have become more authentic and transparent, which Ira hopes will continue to be a central part of our work life. This makes us more human and leads to better working lives for us all.


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