2021 has flown by! We find ourselves at the end of another year. In this last Astronology® for 2021, we will recap some emerging HR trends we saw in the year.
While 2021 has been an improvement over 2020, there were still some lingering issues. By the spring of 2021, a vaccine for COVID-19 slowly rolled out to the general public worldwide and more organizations found ways to safely reopen in order to move towards some sense of normalcy.
Despite facing the threat of stronger variants of COVID – 19 (such as Delta and Omicron), we’re seeing more nuance in the world of work than we did in 2020. In addition, we faced an unforeseen event this year that was influenced by the recent pandemic – the so-called “Great Resignation.” Due to a new presidential administration, 2021 also saw some changes in legislation. We also saw a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts (DE&I).
HR Trends in 2021: Where We Started
In our “HR Trends for 2021” article we predicted the types of changes to look for in 2021. Four areas we specifically predicted movement in were the following:
- Legislation: We anticipated that then President – elect Joe Biden would look into expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that we would see support for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) bill, that there would be adjustments to traditional 401(k) plans, and that there would be a movement to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
- Technology: We predicted that Zoom fatigue would become a trend as remote work becomes more common. We also anticipated that organizations would move into a more hybrid work setting with workers having the option to work remote under certain criteria.
- Work Culture: The push for more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts hit a fever pitch in 2020. We expected to see this expand in 2021.
- Compensation and Benefits: With the ending of most state unemployment funds and emergency federal programs in early 2021, we anticipated a slow but steady decrease in unemployment rates.
While some of our predictions did come to fruition in 2021….we also saw some interesting turns.
2021 HR Takeaway #1: The Great Resignation
The biggest, most unexpected turn we’ve seen in 2021 is the “Great Resignation.” Despite the ending of unemployment funding programs, employees were still quitting their jobs in droves. By September 2021, 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs. Astron’s National Director Jennifer Loftus predicted that this “Great Resignation” could last for the next two years, until the end of 2023.
Who in the workforce is likely to look for new work? Why are they leaving? Research indicates that the younger workers (Millennials and Generation Z) are leading the charge in leaving, but they are not the only ones departing their employers. A recent SHRM survey revealed some common reasons employees gave for leaving their employers:
- Better compensation
- Better work/life balance (excluding remote work)
- Better benefits
- Career advancement opportunities
- A desire to make a career change … related to “COVID clarity.” While enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees became more aware of what they truly wanted out of a job and their lives. And many times those things weren’t available at their current employer.
An additional effect COVID-19 had on workers was isolation. As a result of the shift to Work From Home in order to curb the infection rates of COVID-19, the SHRM survey reported that 28% of respondents felt lonely and more isolated while at work and thus felt less loyalty toward their employer.
In response to this “Great Resignation,” employers are trying a variety of strategies to quell turnover. Those strategies include work location flexibility, referral bonuses, merit increases, and additional spot bonuses.
2021 HR Takeaway #2: Legislative Changes
As of the writing of this article, there were five areas of legislative activity in 2021:
- Vaccine requirements in the workplace – In an attempt to bring staff back to the workplace safely, organizations have developed their own vaccination policies and/or daily testing requirements. Naturally, this has caused a division in the workforce, with some viewing this as a violation of human rights and not a public health issue. Also, certain states such as Florida have enacted vaccine bans to prevent organizations from developing any vaccine policies.
- National paid family leave program – On November 19, 2021, the Democratic House lawmakers passed a bill that advocates for a national paid family leave. This paid family leave is included in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” Act, which as of December 21, 2021 has not fully passed in Congress.
- The PRO Act in 2021 – On March 9, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. HR professionals have raised concern over if this law could create an imbalance in labor relations. Specifically, some believe the law could violate employee privacy by denying employees the ability to choose how unions communicate with them. The legislation also requires the disclosure of employees’ home addresses, work locations, shifts, job classifications, cellphone/landline numbers, and personal e-mail information. We are now waiting for the Senate’s response.
- Changes to 401Ks and IRAs – Part of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” Act (if passed) would include creating required minimum distributions for retirement accounts of more than $10 million, eliminate “backdoor Roth” loopholes, and prohibit new contributions to large accounts.
- Moves toward a higher minimum wage –In recent years there has been an outcry for a national minimum wage of $15 per hour. While many large businesses (such as Walmart, Amazon, and Hobby Lobby) have already responded by raising their minimum wage to $15 or above, in 2021 24 U.S. States saw a minimum wage increase inching closer to $15 per hour.
2021 HR Takeaway #3: Employees Want Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)
A 2021 Glassdoor Workplace Trends survey reported that while social causes have shed new light on ongoing issues with racial and gender inequality, employees want more from their places of work than pledges. Namely, employees are looking for transparency on diversity efforts and better communication when challenges occur. While it is reassuring to see DE&I related job openings increase by over 55% in recent years, it is equally important that any DE&I efforts are monitored and adjusted when appropriate.
For instance, Janet Lockhart-Jones, Ed.D., President and Chief Learning Leaders of Project Partners Consulting recommends that employers, “…look internally to root out systemic problems. Companies can examine their core talent acquisition and mobility practices and address any reasons why they haven’t been hiring and promoting more people of color, LGBTQ individuals and other minorities.” She also adds that once these diverse people are hired for specific roles organizations have bigger questions to address: “once inside, are they being treated fairly? Do bias and discrimination exist unchecked? Do they get the opportunity to compete for the prized assignments or promotional opportunities equally as their white counterparts? Do they feel a sense of belonging?” It is encouraging to see the conversation and efforts for DE&I continue into 2021. We are certain these will carry into 2022.
2021 certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to HR activities. We expect 2022’s developments will keep everyone on their toes as well! Did we miss some trends HR trends? Please share your thoughts in our comment section below.
Before we wrap for the year, everyone at Astronology® and Astron Solutions wishes you a safe, healthy, relaxing, and joyful final two weeks of 2021. We’ll see you again on January 4th!