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Thoughts on 5 of Dan Schawbel’s Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2021

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author and globally-recognized researcher. HIs focus is on boosting workplace performance. As head of a company dedicated to helping organizations make employees the center of their business success, it's Gal Rimon's focus too. His views on those trends that relate directly to employee engagement and performance management are offered in this post.

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

Thoughts on 5 of Dan Schawbel’s Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2021

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author and globally-recognized researcher. HIs focus is on boosting workplace performance. As head of a company dedicated to helping organizations make employees the center of their business success, it’s my focus too.

Dan has predicted workplace trends since 2013. His top 10 projections for 2021 was just issued. I was particularly struck by 5 of them because of what my company’s employee engagement and performance management platforms does for Microsoft, Novartis, Synchrony, and Teleperformance, among others.

Here are my thoughts on those trends.

Trend: The dispersed and decentralized global workforce

Dan notes COVID-19 forced employees to suddenly work from home (WFH). He believes many took advantage of the health crisis to find new places to work from…to call home.  This trend has gained lots of steam as evidenced by the growth of so-called “second tier cities,” like Denver and Austin.

What that means

With employees scattered across the landscape, making certain they are/feel connected to their teams, engaged in their work, and performing well is much harder than before company offices became a second or third choice of where to work.

When teams worked in the same space, a manager could look across a room and notice an employee having a tough time. A few steps taken to that employee’s workstation, a brief chat held, and the matter was handled.  Mechanisms need to be in place that allow for such conversations to occur as quickly and easily – at the click of a mouse.

For a dispersed workforce to be productive, they need to be managed in real-time. That means data reflective of performance and learning KPIs must be seen simultaneously by employees and their managers now, not later.

Trend:  The hybrid workplace and workforce

On this projection, Dan points to the rapid emergence of workplace flexibility. Home or office. This blend, the hybrid workplace, combines “structure and sociability (at the office) and independence and flexibility (at home).”

What that means

These last months have been nerve-wracking for employees. They continue to express a sense of loneliness, an inability to deal with at-home distractions, and feeling burned out. A return to the office is change that may be as emotional as going home last March. Employers need to make that process as smooth and stress-free as possible. Too much flexibility, as in unpredictable work schedules, and employees may feel anxious, be unfocused, and not hit their goals.

In addition, managers need to be aware of and attuned to the differences in leading employees who are in the same place and those who are working remotely. That’s something few have been trained to handle. So they could use some help. Perhaps employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) to handle routine tasks, freeing up time for managers to develop their team members.

Trend: The demand for retraining and reskilling grows

The economic disruption created by COVID-19 is the main reason this is one of Dan’s 2021 workplace trends. As businesses shifted their approaches, employees needed new skills or old ones had to be polished. Because, in many cases, employees were in different roles or had different responsibilities.

Dan also observed companies are looking to change the skills of large numbers of employees because they have to. The way business works is undergoing massive change. And so too must the skills of the employees getting the work done.

What that means

When employees left their offices to WFH, all classroom-based training stopped. But companies didn’t stop operating. Training couldn’t either. There was an amazing expansion in the use of digital, remote training, in all its forms. It’s expected that such training will remain prominent. One form that came into its own when corporate classrooms went dark is microlearning. It delivers bite-sized portions of learning that employees can easily consume and adopt as they work. It can be served across multiple platforms – desktop, mobile, tablet – and engaged with anytime, anywhere.

Trend: COVID-19 accelerates the digital transformation of the workplace

Dan cites Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadel, as saying, with the virus, “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” The hesitance to embrace advanced technologies melted away. Among the technologies that emerged is AI-driven software that aids employee performance and the customer experience.

What that means

There’s no excuse anymore for companies to be resistant to technology that can enhance their employees’ performance. The old reasons to delay no longer hold up.

Trend: The hourly workforce is treated like they are essential

For weeks at 7 PM across New York City people cheered frontline workers, voicing appreciation.  As Dan states, “these workers are seen as necessary for civilization to run.” With 2021, he expects they will be treated in a manner reflective of the importance of their roles to their companies and the markets they serve.

What that means

The repetitive aspects of frontline jobs can contribute to disengagement, absenteeism, and attrition. When employees feel they’re a part of something greater than themselves, engagement rises while absenteeism and attrition fall.

Companies need to leverage workplace flexibility, at-a-mouse-click communications, microlearning, real-time performance management, and more to ensure employees are motivated to perform their best when the world is no longer controlled by a coronavirus.

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