chapter 2

2021 hiring trends.

The past year was one like no other. Businesses in every industry were disrupted in ways no one expected or was prepared for. But even in the face of a global pandemic, the U.S. workforce proved resilient beyond measure. Businesses that could go remote did so, often literally overnight. Those that couldn’t adopted new health and safety practices to protect their employees. And even though we’re not rid of COVID-19, businesses are still hiring and the economy is improving.

The U.S. gross domestic product soared by 33.1 percent between July and September, and even though fourth-quarter growth slowed somewhat, 2021 holds the promise of a slow but steady economic recovery. Many industries survived the pandemic unscathed and competition for key hires never slowed from its pre-COVID-19 pace — and there’s no reason to expect that to change in 2021.

Here are the must-know trends to watch for in 2021.

remote work is here to stay

At the height of the pandemic’s initial surge, Gallup found that 51 percent of employees said they had been completely remote since the start of the pandemic. But while some people gradually returned to worksites as new health and safety protocols emerged, a large number of U.S. employees remained fully remote. By October, 33 percent reported that they always work remotely. For the 67 percent who aren’t always remote, they’re likely working in blended models with time split between the office and home. This model is expected to become the norm, even after the pandemic passes. 

That’s because both employers and employees discovered key benefits to remote work, and it’s emerging as a must-offer benefit for employers that wish to remain competitive. In fact, two thirds of those who worked remotely during the pandemic want to continue doing so. By offering candidates that option, employers not only have a crucial lever for attracting top talent, they also gain the ability to increase diversity and inclusion. With the ability to attract great talent from anywhere, employers can source from a talent pool vastly larger than their local markets.

diversity and inclusion are now table stakes

The oldest members of Gen Z will turn 24 this year, and members of the most diverse and most educated generation in U.S. history are flooding the workforce. When its 66 million members look for work, they look for diverse and inclusive workplaces. In fact, a recent survey found that 83 percent of them say a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when selecting an employer. For those looking to hire in 2021 and beyond, that’s a hard stat to ignore.

To hire top talent from this generation, employers will have to put their efforts to be diverse and inclusive on center stage — and those efforts will have to go beyond mere lip service. With so much at stake — and with many employers now having the opportunity to hire talent from literally anywhere — poor progress on the D&I front will make hiring harder than ever before.

comp is still king

Benefits that help maintain work/life balance and physical and mental health may have emerged as critical drivers of talent outcomes, but they still take a back seat to salaries that align with (or, ideally, exceed) the overall market. 

In fact, according to a recent Randstad survey, 63 percent of all employees said they would accept a role elsewhere that offered a raise they wouldn’t receive at their current employer. At a time when the ability to adapt to market changes and innovate overnight can make or break entire organizations, allowing top performers to jump ship is something no business can afford.

how to thrive in 2021

We may not know what the future holds, but we do know that these trends dominate today’s hiring market. Employers that offer remote work when possible, make meaningful commitments to diversity and inclusion efforts and tailor their compensation packages to exceed the current market will win the war for 2021’s top talent.

Of course, with all the other obstacles businesses face today, that’s easier said than done. It’s also why so many of them turn to Randstad for help.

With a nationwide network of qualified talent, a consultative approach to staffing and workforce solutions and a local presence in hundreds of markets around the U.S., we can help your business attract and retain the talent you need in the toughest hiring market on record.

Visit today to get started.

a note about pay rates amid a pandemic

Some of the latest pay rates have been — like everything else — impacted by COVID-19. While compensation levels for most roles have remained relatively static throughout the pandemic, some employers found themselves paying a premium to bring essential employees back to work.

This was particularly pronounced in industries like food and beverage manufacturing, where some companies have allocated as much as $4 million in cash bonuses to keep food production workers on their manufacturing floors during the pandemic. Others have increased hourly rates and even provided weekly bonuses for frontline workers.

Meanwhile, some states — and even citiesintroduced legislation that would require employers to provide hazard pay to essential workers, while others created funds to help eligible employers offer hazard pay for workers in "life-sustaining" fields like healthcare or food manufacturing. The CARES Act also offered qualified employers "emergency retention credits" of up to $10,000 per employee to help businesses retain their most vital workers.

There’s no doubt that these measures were well deserved and vital for retention, and each of these factors may influence current pay rates in your local market. But because they vary from industry to industry, business to business and state to state, they may not be reflected in this guide. These are specific compensation trends tied to a moment in time and are not indicative of long-term changes in pay.

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