HR Trends 2021

HR Trends 2021

HR Professionals as designers of the digital future

In 2020 digitization became more relevant. In particular, mobile and flexible working models played a major role. This development will continue in 2021. The HR trends 2021 clearly show that HR managers must proactively help to design a digital working world so that the employee once again becomes the focus of HR work.

1. Purpose becomes more important in times of crisis

Motivated employees are more effective and contribute more to the company’s success. They also stay longer in the company, according to a Deloitte study.¹ In times of crisis, however, most people are worried. Therefore, it is now particularly important to show employees appreciation and give them a sense of purpose. That is why the HR department must focus on people and strive for authentic communication. Communicating the company’s values in a sustainable manner and strengthening a sense of “we” is becoming a success factor.

2. Digital processes for more sustainability and climate protection

One of the major social issues reflected in HR is climate protection. Many companies are looking at how they can save resources and operate more sustainably. The HR department has a pioneering role to play here. It must ensure a cross-departmental, environmentally conscious mindset and set an example itself. In this context, digital HR processes such as automated document generation, digital sick notes or vacation applications are important. After all, a paperless office and working in a home office can make a significant contribution to conserving resources while increasing employee satisfaction.

3. Flexible working models based on trust are more important than ever

Rigid structures with fixed working hours and a fixed office location are increasingly giving way to mobile, flexible models. Many companies were forced to send employees into the home office in 2020 and have recognized the benefits of remote working. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, 42 percent of respondents intend to further expand their home office offerings in the future.² But this also requires a cultural change, which the HR department must encourage. Companies need a leadership style that grants employees more self-organization and inspires confidence. HR must support this with training opportunities for managers and digital HR processes.

4. Proactively shaping the new, digital normal

More than ever, HR is needed as a strategic partner to management in 2021. It must proactively shape the company’s working world, rather than just reacting to social changes. Crucial to this is planning and managing new, digital ways of working. To remain competitive, companies must increasingly evolve in the direction to a new work 5.0, a one hundred percent digital and networked environment. HR must foster this transformation in the workforce and move forward with digital HR processes themselves.

5. Compliance culture while working at home

While location-independent working is becoming more common, companies also need to think about how to maintain compliance outside of the office environment. After all, when employees work at home, there is an increased risk of unauthorized persons listening in on conversations and catching a glimpse of the screen, or of confidential printouts ending up in the waste paper. To protect personal data and internal company information, it is important to make employees and managers aware of the compliance guidelines while working at home.

6. Sensitivity among managers

The rise of working from home creates new challenges for managers. How do they manage to keep teams together that work permanently at a physical distance? Communication and trust play an important role here. Employees not only need good technical equipment for digital collaboration, but also the feeling that they are not isolated. A daily team call via video chat or a casual exchange at the end of the day helps, for example. The HR department must support managers in developing soft skills for the team spirit as well.


The changing world of work brings employees more flexibility and self-determination, but also creates new challenges for them. Companies need strategies to promote cohesion, motivation and communication in highly distributed teams, to enable productive, secure cooperation. Ulrich Jänicke, CEO of aconso, summarizes: “People are and remain the most important asset for companies. It is the HR department’s job to ensure that employees and managers feel comfortable at work and can give their best. To do this, HR must establish a digital culture and proactively shape the future of the company.”

¹ Deloitte-Whitepaper „Employee Experience“,  S. 16