Newman HR Consulting

February 23, 2021

Top 2021 People Trends and how to prepare

Top 2021 People Trends and how to prepare

This year will see challenges of a different nature and it’s more critical than ever to develop your people plan for 2021. Even with a plan, things may go array, but investing time now will enable you to better weather the storms of the unpredictable kind.

  1. Working from anywhere. With more people working remotely, it’s challenging to connect and maintain your business culture. Keep in touch with your employees by using gift cards and thank you notes – do the unexpected to connect in a tangible way. See my article Human-resource planning for coronavirus cross training and 8 other tips for best techniques to virtually manage your team.
  2. Support for remote workers – employee expectations are increasing for support for home offices, including equipment, computer subsidies and work scheduling. Ensure your employees are taking advantage of tax breaks. These also become recruiting tools.
  3. What’s that I see? We are well connected through Zoom, Microsoft teams and HopIn. Ensure your employees use these platforms well – develop their virtual presence, manage meeting etiquette. Invest time in creating strong virtual recruiting, onboarding and training programs. Expectations have increased and the traditional multi-bulleted PowerPoint slides are starting to look really dated.
  4. Mental health – more than ever, mental health needs should be considered – wherever you are working. Review your benefits program to consider an Employee Assistance Plan. These are relative inexpensive. The benefits for even one employee can be profound, restoring employee mental health and managing your company’s time prudently.
  5. War for Talent – Despite higher unemployment levels in some sectors, finding great employees is a perpetual challenge. Candidate’s expectations and demands have increased as well as their resourcefulness. You need to manage your social media reviews, your job postings, and your website to ensure that you are presenting the best image to attract top talent.
  6. How are we feeling today? Many companies pivoted, re-organized, shrunk, re-invented themselves during 2020. A lot of change took place and there have been lots of learnings. Your staff will remember how they were treated in 2020 – both good and bad. This is an ideal time to check in with your teams, capture the learnings, and take action to ensure they remain engaged in 2021. Organization surveys, change management workshops can help you prepare for the next wave.
  7. The audacity of ethics – 2020 has increased our awareness of social injustice and ethical behaviors in society and in the workplace. With greater understanding, we no longer tolerate behaviors that we turned a blind eye to the past. Ensure that you have a robust Harassment policy and provide the mandatory training for your staff as mandated by the Occupational Health & Safety Act of Ontario.
  8. Increased severance payments. Recent decisions in Ontario courts have thrown out many existing termination clauses resulting in much higher severances. We strongly recommend updating your employment offer letter to include new wording; however, it’s not recommended that you have your existing employees sign new offer letters.
  9. Did I hear a cough? COVID work protocols are now commonplace, but issues still arise. Be clear with your employees on all the various scenarios. What will you do if an employee decides not to get vaccinated? Will you allow them in your workplace? Isolate them? Terminate them? Developing clear answers for staff now can avoid uncertainty and potential chaos later.
  10. Gig economy and fractional management. As work becomes more specialized, more companies are moving to hire specialists to fill roles on a part-time, interim or project basis. At senior levels, there is a growing trend to hire virtual CFOS, CIOs, and CHROs. These experts can hit the ground running, delivering immediate results without a long term cost commitment. See my article: Senior Leadership to Help Your Business

Tools to Help

  1. You can use my planning guide to review your past year – note the people highs and lows and then capture any learnings.
  2. Next, go through the specific areas of HR to identify key actions – recruiting, compensation, training
  3. Finally develop your calendar of people communications. Plan your virtual or real town halls, plan your employee events – take 5 minutes now before you forget.

    Download our Planning Conversation Document

You can also check this video on my website. Written in 2020 pre COVID, the concepts are the still valid:
Annual People Planning Video – top 3 activities

Solving your talent challenges

Despite COVID, we worked with our clients to hire some remarkable people in 2020. Here’s some of the positions that our recruiting team, Barry Connor, Matt and Linda Newman and I, filled over the past year:


  • IT Manager – Distribution, Cambridge
  • Office Managers – Legal, Elmira; Accounting, Cambridge
  • Project Manager – IT, Waterloo
  • Director of Engineering – Metal Manufacturing
  • Business Development Rep – Food Manufacturing
  • General Manager – High Tech Automated Manufacturing
  • Senior Construction Manager – High Rise Construction
  • Director of IT – Food Manufacturing


  • Accountants – Construction, Recycling – Kitchener & New Dundee
  • Building Surveyor – Construction, Oakville
  • Junior Engineer – Manufacturing, Cambridge

Clerical & Factory

  • Help Desk Specialist – Managed Services, Waterloo
  • Dispatcher – Logistics, Cambridge
  • Customer Service Representative, Vancouver BC
  • Warehouse Team Member, Cambridge

We offer a full range of recruiting options from resume scanning to start to finish recruitment. In addition, we can also recruit at the C-Suite level – Presidents, Directors and General Managers.

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