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Herman Trend Alert: 2021 Workforce-Workplace Forecast Part 2

Part two of a series on workplace trends for 2021.


Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional speaker. Archived editions are posted at

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Every year at about this time, The Herman Group issues its annual workforce-workplace forecast. Intended to provide employers with insights about what to expect in the coming years, this Herman Trend Alert is Part 2. To read Part 1, click here.

As a “Viral Tsunami”* rages on the West Coast of the United States and cases are spiking in many countries of the world, it is difficult to focus on the future beyond how to survive the present and the near-term future. That said, I have done my best.


5. Diversity and inclusion are more important than ever
Many of the events of 2020, including The Black Lives Matter Movement have raised the consciousness of the country to the critical need for a focus on diversity and inclusion. Every major organization and many minor ones now have (or are recruiting for) a Director (or Vice-President) of Diversity and Inclusion. The younger generations demand an inclusive workplace; for them, it is not optional. If you want to retain these younger generations (Gens Y and/or Z), honoring this value is critical – and we mean more than just lip service!


6. Big Data in HR will have an increasingly important role
With COVID challenges as a background, companies are looking for any and all ways to operate more efficiently. Right now, it is only the larger companies that are able to take advantage of Big Data. As the cost goes down, more medium-size organizations will be able to take advantage of these insights. This trend points to a business opportunity for Information Technology (IT) providers who can aggregate the data of numerous small and mid-level companies to help the non-giants compete with their multinational competitors. The companies that are able to mine their data will find very valuable inferences will find themselves at a competitive advantage.


7. Wise companies will use technology to stay connected and be more efficient
In almost every industry, companies are using chatbots to support stakeholders getting immediate answers to questions and problems. Zoom and other online platforms are helping people and teams working from home – by choice or by necessity – to continue to work together. Whether calendar programs or scheduling bots (like, embracing the use of these time-savers can help your people in small ways to juggle all of their responsibilities. As we move into the future, we will see an increasing number of processes automated to help humans with administrivia. As you embrace new technologies, keep in mind the user experience and the need for employees to learn the new technologies to be productive with them.


8. Learning online will evolve
For Millennials, the convenience of learning online far outweighs the desire to sit in a room with others. They are drawn to on-demand learning platforms like and and they will appreciate the chance for training and mentoring with this kind of easy access. Especially with the real-time coaching featured on the, these effective platforms are painless ways to train and develop your employees without paying for travel and the time it takes to get there and get home.


9. Cafeteria-style benefits re-emerging with a twist
With top talent becoming increasingly difficult to recruit, employers have created some leading-edge benefits to offer, like the ability to use benefit dollars to pay off student loans. Post-COVID, flex-time and flex-place will once again become very desirable perks. Moreover, platforms like can help your financially stressed employees to stay physically and fiscally healthy as well.

10. Adaptability is emerging as the quality most in-demand by employers
With the pandemic and other changes challenging us at every turn, employers are looking for people who can adapt and lead their workforces. Adaptability can be taught. My podcast cohost Ira Wolfe offers a course worth considering. Visit this site to learn more and consider an effective program for upskilling your teams and leaders.


The year 2021 will bring us unprecedented challenges and opportunities as we move from Normal 2.0 to Normal 3.0. Now, you are slightly better prepared.

* Term coined by Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.


© Copyright 1998-2020 by The Herman Group, Inc. — reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3548 or To sign up, visit The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc.”