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Averbook: Why 2021 is the Year of ‘Re-‘

Jason Averbook, Mercer
Jason Averbook
Jason is a Senior Partner and the Global Leader of Digital HR Strategy at Mercer | Leapgen, with a career that spans over two decades in the HR and technology sectors. From 2018-23, Jason co-founded and served as CEO of Leapgen, a company committed to shaping the future workplace. Now, under the expanded partnership of Mercer | Leapgen, Jason continues to challenge executive mindsets, advocating for a shift from executing technology projects to embodying a digital function. Jason also serves as an adjunct professor at universities worldwide, has held senior roles at industry giants such as PeopleSoft and Ceridian and is frequently quoted by top media outlets.

The year 2020 was already supposed to be a harbinger–the most important year since 2000, harkening back to the magical milestone of Y2K. Once that moment passed and we realized we were all still breathing, we started talking about this thing called Workforce 2020 and the promises it foretold. It was going to be made of remote workers and defined by distributed models. It would be comprised of full-time workers, contract workers (“gig” hadn’t been coined yet) and teams. Between 2000 and 2020, this was all going to happen–we had 20 years to work on it. Were we ready? Were we prepared? Had we gone “digital” in our thinking?

When we kicked off 2020, I stated a few key priorities for the year that I predicted would play out:

  1. the shift from HR technology to digital HR;
  2. a true focus on worker experience, reimagining how we deliver experiences with design at the center; and
  3. a much better focus on how we’re going to manage our talent, from recruiting through learning, and finally realizing why sequencing and roadmaps were so important–not just implementing modules, but truly deploying capabilities.
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So, we were hit upside the head, and now we get to use that hit as a wake-up call, beginning in 2021. I’m calling 2021 the Year of Re-. What does that mean? Re- means retraining, remodeling, refreshing. We need to do some rethinking. We need to focus on reengagement.

How do we do that? The value of the HR function is forever. To reflect its true and proper value, does “HR” actually need renaming? Maybe. Does it involve resequencing? For sure. Does it involve rethinking? Yes. Does it involve revisioning? Of course. If we approach 2021 as our Year of Re-, it becomes our rallying cry to sit down, think about our strategy, think about our vision and realize digital is here to stay. Employee experience is here to stay. And a different kind of talent management is here to stay.

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The most critical thing to understand is that humanity is here to stay; we’ve just been reminded of it (another re-). Infusing humanity in new ways requires remaking HR into a function we’re proud of in 2021 and beyond; it’s our time.

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Throughout 2021, I’ll focus on a new “re-“ concept every month. We’ll be called upon to act on these concepts in an ever-changing world. 2021 is our most important year.  It will define the rest of the decade for the function of HR.  So, let’s look in the mirror and commit together: “It is our time, let’s make a leap.”