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Top Predictions, Must-know HR Trends and HR Stats Forecast for 2021

Recruitment | 10 Min Read

Top Predictions, Must-know HR Trends and HR Stats Forecast for 2021


The biggest factor shaping the top HR trends in 2021 is employee well-being in a remote work scenario. As organizations around the world grapple with the new normal, ‘holistic’ and ‘future-proof’ become the dominating buzzwords throughout the latest HR trends forecast. Before we explore detailed insights into these, here are the top 7 global HR trends that are here to stay in the post-Covid landscape.

  • Comprehensive soft-skills training
  • Designing work for well-being
  • AI-backed leadership development
  • Increased adoption of “recharge days”
  • Experiential rewards and recognition programs
  • The emergence of superteams
  • Holistic employee development through 360 feedback

Backed by the top HR statistics that predict remote working to be the norm in the foreseeable future, this blog offers detailed insights into the most anticipated human resource trends, categorized into six key areas: talent acquisition, L&D, employee engagement, HiPo identification and organizational planning, employee experience, and R&R.


Chapter 1: Top HR Trends in Talent Acquisition

1. Employer branding will take center stage in talent acquisition.

2. Tech and AI-driven new-age assessments will redefine hiring processes.

3. Dedicated mentorship will be the guiding force for recruits.

We are making three bold predictions about the future of attracting, hiring and onboarding the best talent in your industry to help you maintain your advantage in the talent war. These predictions distill our learnings about human resource trends from surveys, observing the businesses working with us, and data points backed by global HR stats.

Don’t forget to read our additional predictions about new trends in workplace learning and development in this forecast: 10 Striking Training and Development Trends You Need to Know in 2021



HR Trend 1: Employer branding will take center stage

ou must invest in building a strong employer brand to attract and hire top talent in 2021. 

  • 75% of candidates will research a company’s reputation before applying for a job opening. (Source: LinkedIn) 
  • A strong employer brand reduces turnover by 28% and cost per hire by 50%.
    (Source: LinkedIn) 

The top trends in human resource management suggest that 2021 will be about amplifying your story-telling and marketing your employee value propositions (EVPs). But before that, recruiters will have to focus on measuring the results of their previous talent attraction strategies, predicting their impact, and then making data-driven investments in how they approach employer branding as one of the key emerging trends in HRM this year.


HR Trend 2: Tech and AI-driven new-age assessments will redefine hiring processes


Many organizations in 2021 will seek more of a “whole person” analysis of candidates, which Mercer | Mettl has always advocated. And our experts are more convinced that hiring in 2021 must go beyond assessing the skills or the intellectual horsepower.

Recruiters will embrace the tech-driven global HR trends and adopt advanced evaluation solutions to measure candidates’ personality traits and motivational drivers to help shortlist individuals with the potential to thrive in the long run. Even when hiring for executive and mid-management positions, organizations will focus equally on competencies, experiences, personality and behavior, motivational drivers, cognitive reasoning, and more.


HR Trend 3: Dedicated mentorship will be the guiding force for recruits


Emerging HR trends in 2021 are all about closer remote collaborations. And a growing number of companies will adopt a more personalized approach toward employee onboarding. Assigning a mentor/friend to help a recruit during the first few weeks will be a wonderful step toward building a lasting professional relationship.


Chapter 2: Employee Learning & Development in 2021: Emerging HR Practices and Trends You Might Find in Your Industry

2021 HR trends in L&D will continue to reflect the changing nature of work, focus more on holistic learning opportunities, and grow based on 360-degree evaluations. Organizations will address the pressing need to assess current employee skills to identify their standing, gauge future skill requirements and potential, and train them to fill the gaps.

Based on our close observations of the ongoing HRM patterns and HR statistics in 2021, we can safely predict that the following major L&D trends will dominate professional spaces.

1. Companies will shift their focus to comprehensive soft skills training.

2. More companies will begin to nurture superteams.

3. 360-degree feedback will be the norm in leading organizations.


L&D Trend 1: Companies will shift focus to comprehensive soft skills training


The outbreak of COVID-19 and its consequences have induced high levels of stress and anxiety amongst employees worldwide. Such circumstances have resulted in focusing on soft skills as a top priority for L&D teams.

  • According to an IBM report, the three most critical skills, in addition to higher emotional intelligence and empathy during crises, include: 
    • The ability to manage time and prioritize. 
    • The willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change. 
    • The ability to work effectively in remote team environments.

(Source: IBM)

  • Popular research has revealed that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills and only 25% on technical knowledge.

(Source: American Management Association) 


L&D Trend 2: More companies will begin to nurture superteams


Mercer Mettl strongly believes that companies now have an opportunity to enhance their teams’ value in remarkable ways, with the next frontier in HR trends being superteams: combinations of people and technology leveraging their complementary abilities to pursue outcomes. 

The objective is to go a step further after successfully forming teams that are: 

  • Composed of different kinds of thinkers. 
  • Boast an above-average diversity. 
  • Collectively work toward innovation and creative solutions. 
  • More adaptable and able to thrive in all kinds of situations. 


L&D Trend 3: 360-Degree feedback will be the norm in leading organizations


The conventional annual performance review is steadily getting pushed out of future HR trends for quite some time now. Although gradual, this shift is here to stay in 2021. Such an assessment benefits the leadership, teams, and the entire organization immediately.  

Offering colleagues a safe, confidential, and reliable feedback mechanism enables a company to gain valuable insights into its current leadership, teams, and overall organizational health.

360 feedback equips leaders with potent knowledge and insights into what is working and what isn’t. When using this feedback data correctly, decision-makers can take action quickly by helping employees improve and become better leaders and contributors. 


Chapter 3: Latest HRM Trends and HR Stats for Better Employee Engagement

Human resources industry statistics reveal that employee engagement levels have significantly dropped compared to pre-Covid-19 times. Therefore, people-leaders must invest in new strategies that make every professional feel valued, motivated and productive. It is imperative to continually gauge employee well-being and identify development areas. Such a holistic approach can help better manage remote employees.

  • Compared to their disengaged peers, engaged employees are 33% more likely to say they had the tools, resources and support needed to work effectively.
    (Source: Forbes) 
  • Businesses that score the highest on employee engagement reflect a 21% higher profitability level. Also, companies with a highly engaged workforce tend to be 17% more productive.
    (Source: Gallup)

This chapter highlights the critical employee engagement HR stats and trends to watch out for in 2021.

1. Leaders will adopt cross-functional work strategies.

2. Designing work for well-being will dominate the future trends in human resource management.

3. Gamification will be the buzzword.


Trend 1: Leaders will adopt cross-functional work strategies


Cross-functional collaboration is a powerful tool that allows several teams and departments to remain aligned and work toward a goal together while increasing transparency and promoting diversity. We predict the rise of cross-functional collaboration as one of the top human resource trends in employee engagement as it helps improve: 


top human resource trends in employee engagement as it helps improve


In the long run, cross-functional work strategies:

  • Make it easier to discover different perspectives and identify innovative solutions to satisfy a client and the business.
  • Ensure that diverse viewpoints are heard even when working remotely.
  • Challenge old ideas and the status quo, fostering a culture of learning and cooperation that overcome geographical boundaries.

Trend 2: Designing work for well-being will dominate the future trends in human resource management


Experts forecasting the emerging trends in human resource management for Mercer | Mettl have clearly defined that 2021 will be about moving beyond the conventional work-life balance. The focus will now be on employee mental health, with the goal to prevent burnout and dissatisfaction.

According to the forecast of stats and HR trends by Deloitte:

of HR leaders agree that burnout impacts employee retention.

of leaders agree that well-being reasonably drives organizational performance.

(Source: Deloitte Insights)

Incorporating well-being into the design of work supports well-being for individuals, teams and the organization. Of course, we cannot overlook that workplace stress also leads to physical health consequences. The same has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify burnout “resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed” as a diagnosable health condition -why all recent trends in HR management revolve around well-being and belonging.  

The idea for organizations is to take something personal and translate it into something that can have a broader impact beyond individual employees. The idea is to be more humane in the approach toward HRM. 


Trend 3: Gamification will be the buzzword


2021 will witness a surge in experiments with more informal team-building and socialization methods, especially as employees continue to work remotely. Organizations will have to put serious thought and effort into rolling out employee engagement activities and initiatives that: 

  • Specifically address isolation. 
  • Encourage interaction and establish an emotional connection among team members.  

That is where gamification comes into play. Essentially, it’s the process of using game-based elements such as scoring systems, rewards, or a healthy workplace competition to ensure active workplace engagement.  

  • 90% of professionals are more productive when they use gamification.  
  • 72% of people believe that gamification inspires them to work harder. 
  • Using game-based motivation can raise engagement levels by 48%. 
    (Source: Medium) 

Gamification will enhance employee engagement as game elements emerge as a vital part of:


Gamification will enhance employee engagement as game elements emerge as a vital part of


We predict gamification will become an essential medium to make life at work, and by extension, the employee experience more fun and spark engagement among remote and dispersed workers.


Chapter 4: Latest HR Trends in HiPo Identification and Organizational Planning

High-potential (or HiPo) programs and organizational planning initiatives commonly focus on incubating talent with the potential to succeed in leadership positions. In 2021, organizations will continue to design these programs and initiatives to backfill the sparse leadership pipeline. 

  • 65% of companies are moving away from other talent investments to fund their high-potential employee programs. 
  • Organizations with an agile HiPo strategy are 70% more likely to have a strong leadership bench. 

(Source: Gartner https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/leadership-management/high-potentials ) 

Based on ongoing workplace patterns, attitudes, and HRM statistics, Mercer Mettl predicts three major HR trends that are expected to rule the area of high-potential identification and organizational planning in 2021.

1. Remote evaluations will become more frequent and diverse.

2. AI will play a greater role in leadership development.

3. Internal mobility programs will share the limelight with future HR trends.


HRM Trend 1: Remote evaluations will become more frequent and diverse


Performance management by employing assessments and evaluations accelerated in 2020 as many managers and their teams transitioned to working remotely. The drastic shift in working scenarios also witnessed more professionals expressing a keen interest in upgrading the value they brought to their organization.

In 2021, we can expect these tendencies to push remote evaluations as one of the highly popular trends in human resource management because:

  • A vital part of taking ownership of skills development is participating in assessments to understand which skills the employees bring to their company and the ones they need to cultivate.
  • An accurate view of skills through regular remote evaluations will enable companies to quickly deploy their employees’ unique talents through gig assignments and internal mobility to adapt to the changing market dynamics.
  • Embracing continuous feedback via activities like regular check-ins are proven tools to foster communication and drive engagement in a virtual environment.

HRM Trend 2: AI will play a greater role in leadership development


For the past few years, organizations have relied on their HiPo and fast-track programs to prepare the next generation of leaders. In 2021, wise executives will fine-tune the said programs to better identify their best probable leaders using AI. It is primarily because of the growing realization that smart machine decisions are often better at eliminating biases and, therefore, making the best choices for the organization.

  • In the coming ten years, Artificial Intelligence will become the norm and an assumed part of leadership development experiences. (Source: Forbes) 


HRM Trend 3: Internal mobility programs will share the limelight with future HR trends


Analyzing the recent trends in HRM, we expect businesses to double down on their internal candidates’ development and growth as opposed to spending more on hiring external talent.

  • We have witnessed a visible shift in recent months as organizations left their stagnant mobility programs to explore the almost limitless possibilities of a flexible and AI-driven internal talent marketplace
  • There has been a notable rise in the number of businesses dedicated to providing employees with a more targeted and relevant internal mobility experience. 

Diverse and future-ready internal mobility programs can empower both employer and employee to close the skills gap and achieve more with less in 2021.


Chapter 5: Current Trends in HR that Focus on Employee Experience

1. Applying diversity, equity, and inclusion to employee experience programs.

2. Optimizing employee tech experience.

3. Embracing “recharge days”.

Did you know that happy employees tend to be up to 20% more productive at work? (Source: Social Market Foundation)

And companies that provide a great employee experience outperform the S&P 500 by up to 122 percentage points! (Source: Glassdoor.com)

Employee experience is more than just the latest buzzword topping the new trends in human resource management. A positive experience can have a significant impact on bottom-line KPIs, such as productivity and profit. In this chapter, we have elaborated on the key HR trends that will be the basis of employee experience strategies in 2021.


Employee Experience Trend 1: Applying diversity, equity and inclusion to employee experience programs will be the norm


There are countless benefits of implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in employee experience programs. From attracting the most qualified employees and creating a happy workforce with high job satisfaction to fostering innovation and greater financial success, the companies with the highest rates of diversity and inclusion are the ones that succeed.  

  • Diverse teams, on average, outperform more homogeneous ones and tend to generate 20-30% more revenue than less diverse organizations and teams. (Source: McKinsey & Co.) 
  • The past 5 years have witnessed a global 70% increase in the number of D&I professionals. 50% of these roles are in senior leadership positions.  
  • The demand for DIB roles since 2015 has been growing at a much faster rate than the demand for traditional HR – 39% between July 2019 and June 2020. These HR stats have remained consistent even during the pandemic. (Source: LinkedIn) 

As more organizations realize this, equity, diversity and inclusion will be a recurring theme across:


As more organizations realize this, equity, diversity and inclusion will be a recurring theme across


And several other people processes in 2021.  

Companies will shift to make DEI a focal point of their organizational strategy, leaning into the daily realities of underrepresented groups.


Employee Experience Trend 2: Optimizing employee tech experience will become a priority for businesses


The extensive digital push triggered by COVID-19 has paved the way for greater utilization of technology across all spheres of human resource management. 2021 will easily be the year when an increasing number of people leaders begin investing in a fully-featured digital workplace solution with elements such as: 

  • Internal social networking  
  • Document management 
  • Specific collaboration features  
  • Support and resources to manage finances, managing stress, coping up with life transitions, adapting to virtual schooling, and more 
  • Access to platforms for continuous learning and using VR/AR will help people respond to change  

HR statistics for human resource management reveal that the popular goal will be to continually heighten employee experience in a way that workers feel included and cooperative.

  • 7 out of 10 employees of highly automated companies say automation enhances job satisfaction and increases time for creativity and opportunities for advancement. (Source: The Business Times) 
  • 30% of firms will increase their investments in cloud, security and risk, networks, and mobility in the coming years. 
    (Source: Forrester)
  • Collaboration technology leads to employees who are 34% happier with their workplace culture. (Source: Deloitte) 


Employee Experience Trend 3: More organizations will embrace “Recharge Days.”


Recharge days- aHR trend made popular by startups in 2016 – has gained momentum continuallyIt involves allowing employees to take days off outside of their assigned leave entitlement. It allows them additional time off to support their mental health and well-being, a critical requirement during extended periods of working from home.


Chapter 6: Recent Trends in HRM Influencing Rewards & Recognition at the Workplace

Holistic rewards and recognition strategies will continue to dominate recent trends in human resource management. Starting with meaningful remote employee benefits to a digital celebration of milestones, companies will go the virtual way to make their employees feel cherished at every step.

1. Flexible working arrangements.

2. Experiential rewards and recognition programs.


R&R HR Trend 1: Flexible working arrangements will top modern R&R approaches


Global HR trends in 2021 are all about trusting employees to take time off when they need to, as long as they can meet performance objectives.

  • Studies have revealed that flexible hours can influence 88% of respondents to choose a job that offers lower pay over an opportunity with a higher salary but a fixed schedule. (Source: Fractl) 
  • Flexibility in everyday schedule is the top requested benefit, second only to health insurance. (Source: Harvard Business Review) 

That translates into lesser restrictions and higher flexibility as a way to appreciate an employee’s professionalism, work ethics and dedication to perform well. 


R&R HR Trend 2: Experiential rewards and recognition programs will replace conventional benefits


Thoughtful and timely rewards for employees in the right way can genuinely help bolster employee motivation and empowerment, directly impacting their well-being, productivity and loyalty.

With the change in future HR trends, work profiles, preferences, and priorities in every profession, conventional R&R initiatives would need a major upgrade. The focus, now, will be on experiential rewards and benefits related to wellness:

  • Current HR statistics reveal that employees are now more interested in experiences over material gifts when rewarded.
  • Organizations will utilize data backed by wholesome HR stats to include opportunities for exploring memorable new activities and driving enjoyment in the remote work culture.
  • Given the increasing employee stress-levels fueled by working in isolation, taking care of both physical and mental health via online counseling and video-based retreats will be more critical than ever.
  • Companies may consider meaningful things such as more responsibilities, leadership opportunities, presentations, and talks for senior leaders, concerning self-development.
  • Exclusive access to webinars, online workshops, and training sessions will be the wholesome R&Rs that equally benefit employees and employers.



This forecast covers the most significant HR trends post covid and HR stats that will govern workplace decision-making in 2021, serving as a handbook for HR experts who want to upgrade their policies, programs and initiatives.

Which of these trends did you find the most helpful for your new HR approaches?  

Please share your thoughts with us below.



What are the HR trends for 2021?


This blog highlights the top 17 HR trends for 2021 across the areas of employee development, rewards and recognition, high potential identification, and more. Some of these trends include:

  1. The growing popularity of gamification
  2. Nurturing superteams with the help of advanced technology
  3. Encouraging rewards in the form of experiences
  4. Replacement of outdated performance review with 360 feedback
  5. Optimizing employee tech experince


What are HR statistics?


HR statistics or human resource management statistics include predictive, observational, and descriptive data points offering an analytical insight into the changing patterns and practices in the domain of human resources. This information helps develop a better understanding of global work cultures and set standards for industry best practices.


What are the emerging trends in HR?


Emerging HR trends in 2021 are greatly influenced by the post pandemic circumstances across the globe. With a growing focus on creating more humane work places, the top HR trends this year are focused on work-life balance, employee retention, wholesome rewards and recognition programs, and AI-powered leadership development strategies.


What should HR focus on in 2021?


Trends in human resource management define a focus on employee wellness as one of the top priorities for HR professionals in 2021. Most of the HR trends post-COVID emphasize developing soft-skills, adopting individual feedback systems, and a holistic approach toward workforce learning and development.


What trends will shape HR over the next five years?


Every authentic HR statistics report highlights the following as the top human resource management trends that are here to stay for the next five years: human resource planning around skill development, 360-degree feedback instead of conventional annual reviews, flexible working arrangements, and a greater focus on rewards and recognition.  


What are the recent trends in HRM?


Recent trends in recruitment include advanced employer branding with greater emphasis on DEI policies. On the other hand, the top L&D trends in HRM focus on remote learning opportunities, AI-backed programs, and ongoing skills development.

Originally published February 22 2021, Updated June 10 2021

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