If my talent insights are as accurate as my football picks, only 51% of these predictions will come true. Nevertheless, I’ve got a good feeling about these ones. Onto my 2021 talent trends!

1. Side Hustles Evolve into Small Businesses:

Two employees are in an office surrounded by dogs. One employee is supposed to be taking care of the dogs.

As the concept of a Talent Marketplace expands, the idea of “borrowing” talent will become widely embraced by organizations. First, it’s a safer hiring method if you prefer to “try before you buy.” Second, it allows employers to ease back into their 2021 hiring plans without the commitment to fixed hiring costs.

And with the increased demand for flexible labor, many side hustlers, freelancers, and gig workers will decide to scale their time and output by making the leap from side hustle to small business in the year ahead.

2. The Year of the Digital Detox Vacation:

A man is sitting on the beach taking a zoom call. The participants think his tropical beach background is just a zoom background image

While I’ve already written about the importance of taking a real vacation in 2020, it was nearly impossible to experience the utopia of a digital detox while stay-cationing at home. Travel will resume in 2021, which means that a) employees will be eager to disconnect from work and take a well deserved and REAL vacation, and b) employers need to proactively plan to address business continuity and single points of failure. Cue the increased demand to “borrow” more talent from the gig workers, freelancers, side hustlers, and small businesses. 

And about those well deserved vacations: Let’s pledge a New Year’s work resolution to not send any “I know you’re on vacation, but…” email or Instant Messages in 2021.

3. Collaboration as a Competitive Advantage:

Two employees standing 6 feet apart in an office at a whiteboard. They can't see what each other is writing on the board.

A Hybrid Workplace Model will be the most popular solution for navigating the complexities of in-office versus remote work. The challenge for 2021 becomes: how can you address the collaboration and social connectivity limitations with a geographically dispersed workforce? 

While some collaboration tasks (like whiteboarding 😉) are easier to facilitate in a physical setting, the hybrid organizations that thrive in the next year will be the ones that best leverage their digital collaboration tools.

4. The Year of the Data Engineer:

Two robots are drinking a bar and complaining about the humans that program them

While this trend has been in the works for multiple years already, 2021 will be the year where organizations reinvest in productizing and monetizing their data and insights. The best Data Engineers will be in even higher demand. 

If you’re a new candidate to the field, you’re likely to be bombarded with Recruiter DM’s as soon as you add those Data Engineering keywords to your LinkedIn profile. For Employers, the challenge shifts to formalizing a talent strategy to attract and develop Data Engineering capabilities for your organization.

5. Lunch and Dinner Interviews Will Become the Norm:

Two people are out to dinner at a restaurant. The man has told the restaurant it is the women's birthday so that they get a free meal

I’m bullish on this one. Why? 

1. We all need to support the hospitality industry in 2021.

2. In a hybrid work model, restaurants will serve as the de facto meeting place for off-site candidate interviews.

3. A restaurant interview is an excellent venue for assessing a candidate’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in a real-world setting. 

As candidates continue to refine and improve their interviewing skills, Hiring Managers will start testing new methods to evaluate social competence and self-awareness. While it can be challenging to uncover these attributes during a formal interview, a restaurant is ideal for assessing a candidate’s EQ in real-time. I expect that we’ll see more and more restaurant based interviews in the year ahead.

In Closing:

I wish you good health and happiness over the holidays and the year ahead. If these talent trends and predictions resonated with you, please subscribe and share. I’ll be back in the new year with more insights and ideas, including a deeper dive into some of my 2021 predictions.

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Chris Mulhall is a Talent Management Executive and the Founder of Whiteboard Talent. His mission is to challenge the status quo and encourage others to disrupt the Talent industry. Read more about Chris, his comic strips, and his affinity for whiteboards.

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