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The 5 Most Important Real(ity) Trends in 2021

Tracy Levine Forbes Coaches Council Big Thinks December 2020 Predictions for 2021

The 5 Most Important Real(ity) Trends in 2021

Automation is IN


Large workforces are OUT

The future is people working with technology

“There’s a big distinction between humans as humans and humans as workers. The former are indispensable. The latter may not be.”

Andrew Yang , Book: The War on Normal People

The most valuable company in the U.S. in 1964, AT&T, had 758,611 employees; the most valuable company today, Apple, has around 137,000 employees2020 will be remembered as a tipping point for technology acceleration. Automation is projected to erase 85 million jobs globally in medium and large businesses across 15 industries and 26 economies by 2025. While many are quick to point out that news jobs will be created, they are not being created at a rate that is as quick as jobs are being eliminated.

Technology continues to be a team player in 2021. With Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIOT), companies utilize and connect multiple technologies that are more efficient, more productive, and more reliable than humans and can multiply growth and revenue faster. Plus, hiring technology to do a job is not taxed, but hiring people to do a job is taxed. Powered by these strong financial incentives, the quest for automation is growing ever more pervasive and will continue in 2021.

Rate of Automation through 2025

Career Assessment Tests IN


Diversity & Inclusion and skill alignment is being pushed OUT

"To hire quality talent, recruiting leaders must shift their strategies from replacing the workforce to instead shaping the workforce by defining needs based on skills, sourcing talent more broadly."

Gartner News Release: September 10, 2020

Many Human Resource (HR) Leaders need a mindset shift to prevent using career assessments to institutionalize biases and amplify skill gaps and skill misalignment in their workforce. But 2021 is not shaping up to be that year. Inexplicably, Human Resources is increasingly turning to outdated and miscalibrated career assessment tests, further making diversity & inclusion initiatives more of a marketing campaign than a reality. This is particularly damaging for minorities and underrepresented groups.  Also, many Career Assessment Tests endanger future company profits and survival as these tests also have a bias for yesterday’s skills.

The damage is magnified as HR continues to use outdated tests that are based on the personality and behaviors that were statistically successful in the past. The majority of these tests would not pass an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bias audit, and the research and science of the tests are only as good as the diversity of candidates that are mapped in the test.

Even without an AI Audit of the many outdated career assessment tests used in hiring, the data shows that HR Leaders continue to get it wrong by trying to pick fit through tests that measure yesterday’s leadership skills, which may not align with the new data-driven business culture. How the data gets curated and refined is important. That means hiring leaders that have Design Thinking Skills. Design Thinking skills don’t typically cluster naturally together in many of the predetermined career assessment categories.

According to a September 2020 Gartner Report, only 16% of new hires possess the needed skills for their current role and future role. You only have to look at the current hiring process to understand why. The current process includes outdated interview questions and processes, human biases to hire yesterday’s pedigree and a bias for siloed cleaner looking career paths, outdated career assessments based on yesterday’s skill alignment, banded jobs, and the ‘myth of hiring for culture’ versus hiring for ‘skills that pay the company’s bills’ and grow revenue.

The Gartner September 2020 press release had the following to say:

1.) Target The Total Skills Market: 43% of candidates today are self-taught in one or more of their role’s requirements. HR leaders should also audit their entire hiring process for exclusionary practices that advantage one talent segment over another. 

2.) Shifting From Replacing to Shaping the Workforce: Define talent needs by prioritizing skills instead of hiring profiles. Career assessment tests, by their very nature, are hiring profiles.World Economic Forum list of top 10 skills of 2025

Being an Ally is IN


Being a Traditional Brand or Influencer is OUT

Focus on developing your voice. Figure out what’s important to you and be willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook

Recently Google released the search trends for 2020. The search trends show a mindset shift. “How to be an Ally” was searched more than “How to be an Influencer.” And “How to donate” was searched 2X more than “How to Save Money.”  Another top search was, “How to help during coronavirus.”  Google’s summary of 2020 search trends,  “All over the world, we saw this shift in values as people turned their energies to being supportive, empathetic, and taking a stand for voices unheard.”

Whether you are a company or an individual, being a traditional brand or influencer is out as employees, communities, and individuals struggle with the double disruption of accelerating automation and the pandemic. Empathy and being an Ally were top of mind in 2020 and are expected to continue through 2021.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Quote: Ryunosuke Satoro

Liquid Workforces are IN


Perm employment is continuing to trend OUT

Remote work allows you to do your work in an evironment that makes you happy.

In 2016, Accenture coined the term “Liquid Workforce” to describe the process of organizing and shaping teams so that they can rapidly adapt and change depending on the environment they find themselves in.

Liquid workforces will continue to be a corporate necessity in 2021 to survive and gain a competitive advantage.  Three trends are fueling the acceleration of adopting a Liquid Workforce strategy around human capital management.

  1. Continued automation changes how and where work is getting done and transforms corporate hierarchy, processes, and operation structure.
  2. Continued Economic disruption and uncertainty require radical and brutal flexibility in human capital management.
  3. Continued dynamic change makes it difficult to rely on the traditional Learning and Development and Training Programs to keep employee skills relevant and current.

As more companies focus on creating a Liquid Workforce, more jobs will be “as a service,” consultative, or freelance rather than perm jobs. According to the World Economic Forum, “the majority of the US workforce will freelance by 2027.”

I believe the big win for employees in 2020 was the mass adoption and forced acceptance of work from home (WFH). In a more dynamic business environment where a Liquid Workforce is a competitive advantage, work from home opens up more opportunities for workers in a dynamic and disrupted job market. For most professional jobs there is not a valid reason to only recruit locally or in a specific time zone.

Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (XR) is IN


Existing Only in the Physical World is OUT

In the past, before phones and the Internet, all communication was face-to-face. Now, most of it is digital, via emails and messaging services. If people were to start using virtual reality, it would almost come full circle.

Palmer Luckey, Founder of Occulus VR

According to Tech Republic, “91% of businesses are already using or planning to adopt AR or VR technology.” Companies are using the technology for immersive learning, virtual merchandising, manufacturing, and designing cars, buildings, and cities. Salesforce uses Oculus Rift to create an immersive 3D environment for analyzing data.

In 2021, more companies will explore AR, VR, and XR technologies to elevate interactions between employees and between employees and the customers they serve.

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