How the transformation of talent acquisition will change HR next year

This month, HRE is helping HR leaders prepare for the year ahead with a series featuring insights from industry experts, thought leaders and others about what we can learn from 2020 and the challenges coming in 2021. Read the series here.


This year has brought HR a host of unprecedented issues to navigate: employee safety concerns, engagement in a newly remote world, legal considerations and even the reshaping of the HR role itself. With all of that change just in the last few months, many HR leaders are looking to 2021 with a bit of trepidation: What’s next?

Tim Dowd is CEO of Accurate Background.

Tim Dowd, CEO of Accurate Background, considers the remote workforce to be the biggest challenge facing workplaces in 2021. As employers and employees continue to adjust, Dowd recommends staying focused on the opportunities and advantages that also come from these new circumstances. Here’s what else he expects:

HRE: What should be HR leaders’ first priority for 2021?

Dowd: The No. 1, absolutely critical priority for HR leaders in 2021 is to navigate the waters of remote leadership. As employees continue to work from home, and many companies evolve this into a permanent organizational structure, organizational leaders, both in HR and across all disciplines, must continue to find ways to connect, engage and energize with the workforce regularly, using technology to its fullest potential. Corporate monthly emails won’t cut it; leaders will need to interact more frequently–as a company, as teams and one-to-one–to maintain a company culture that attracts and keeps its top talent.

HRE: What will work look like in 2021? What does that mean for employers?

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Dowd: We know the gig economy will continue to thrive in 2021, so employers and employees will continue to need to be nimble. We’ve already seen this with California’s passage of Prop 22, which supports the business model of classifying drivers for app†‘based transportation and delivery companies as “independent contractors” rather than employees. It is predicted that in 2021, gig jobs will actually outnumber traditional, office-based jobs, as people are increasingly looking to work on their own terms. As a result, employers will see the fastest way to reach their desired results is by using a mix of contractors, freelancers and full-time employees.

HRE: What lessons have remote leaders learned in 2020 that they should take into 2021 as priorities, and why?

Dowd: As a remote leader for the majority of 2020, and carrying that into 2021, my greatest takeaways from this uncertain and often unnerving year are twofold. First, I was reminded that employees are extremely resilient and can accomplish remarkable achievements under a great amount of duress. It should be a priority to continually commend them for their abilities to adapt and thrive under such unusual circumstances.

Next, this year proved to be a reminder to continuously identify lessons we can learn from the unexpected. The biggest lesson learned from the shift to remote work? The way we acquire and retain talent has changed, and capitalizing on that transformation will be a top priority. With the projected rise of remote work environments extending beyond the pandemic, geographic barriers no longer exist for who, and where, a company can hire.

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This opens doors to talent previously unattainable due to geographical restrictions, making the talent pool both larger and potentially more competitive. And for the newly transformed WFH employees, gone are the limitations of job applications based within a certain mileage. Talent recruitment and retention have evolved, and the advantages of that evolution are key.

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Elizabeth Clarke
Elizabeth Clarke is executive editor of Human Resource Executive. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida and then spent more than 25 years as a reporter and editor in South Florida before joining HRE. Elizabeth lives with her family in Palm Beach County. She can be reached at [email protected].