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Talent Acquisition & HR Trends for 2021

Talent Acquisition & HR Trends for 2021

We recently hosted a webinar to discuss how the most innovative HR and Talent Acquisition professionals are pioneering new initiatives to capitalise on the opportunities available in 2021.

Who could have predicted 2020? This tumultuous year forced change everywhere, including the hiring community. The landscape of hiring and recruiting practices was completely shaken up and forever altered.

With 2020’s residual fallout beginning to settle, savvy HR and Talent Acquisition professionals begin to plan how to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the new world of work. Hiring functions must stay ahead of the game to compete with new challengers in the battle for talent. Though the game remains the same, the table has shifted and, rather than resist this, talent teams need to find innovative ways to win.

To find out more about how the biggest names in the industry plan to innovate their way to hiring success in 2021, we partnered with The Business Transformation Network to host our first ERUPT panel webinar of the year. We were delighted to be joined by:

– Eunice Clement-Tweedie – Senior Director, Global Talent Acquisition at LEGO Group
– Nick Short – Talent Acquisition Lead (UK&I) at Siemens
– Nuria Munoz – Global TA Programme Lead at Unilever
– Jessie Danyi – Head of People at Pleo
– Laura Pettitt – Global Head of Talent at WorldRemit

What follows is a summary of the best, most actionable insights that resulted from the conversation.

Innovate by… Focussing on Candidate Attraction & Experience

Candidate attraction, engagement and experience should be the primary goal and accountability of any Talent Acquisition professional. Too often, the opportunities to innovate in these areas are overshadowed by business demand to deliver quickly and keep the hiring “machine” running smoothly.

The removal of face-to-face interactions with candidates and businesses means that on one hand, talent pools are no longer governed by the availability of local talent, but on the other, a great office environment and associated perks are now of lesser importance to candidates deciding on the next step in their career.

To compete for the best talent, internal hiring teams should treat every candidate as a potential business customer.

If your candidates receive a great hiring experience, regardless of whether they are successful or not, they will be an advocate for your brand. It’s easy to lose sight of this, particularly in large organisations where the talent team may not have direct engagement with sales, marketing or ‚’customer success’ teams, but just as consumers are more likely to share negative experiences, so too are candidates.

Personalise the candidate’s experience with unexpected “lollipop” moments to surprise and delight.

One candidate at Lego was forced to reschedule an interview when their child had an accident and had broken their arm. The recruiter was of course happy to reschedule the interview, but in addition went one step further and arranged for a personalised Lego set to be sent to the child with a note wishing them a speedy recovery. Naturally, this level of thoughtfulness left a strong and lasting impression on the candidate.

Innovate by… Improving your OnBoarding

This is a strange time to start a new job. In many parts of the world, it is unlikely that new employees will have had many opportunities for face-to-face interactions with the team by the time you’re ready to make an offer. This adds more weight to the importance of over communicating in an authentic, human way.

Talent functions map out the candidate journey from application/reach-out, through interview rounds, to the final offer stages. HR and People functions map out OnBoarding experiences, which is where the employee lifecycle starts.

But who is mapping out the crucial stage in-between?

The most innovative talent functions have accounted for this step, plotting multiple communication touch points during the period between the candidate accepting your offer and their first day. Strategies include setting up informal coffee conversations (be they virtual or, with luck, in-person) with various team members and sending new starter ‘swag’ kits, an early way to begin innovating via employee advocacy (more on that later).

Innovate by… Keeping your existing People happy

It’s simple enough. If your People strategy is entirely focused on generating new candidates without keeping your existing employees happy then you are doomed to failure. 2021 is the year of ‘Employee Stickiness’. What are you doing to keep your people engaged with the business and fulfilled in their roles?

What does ’employee happiness’ mean in 2021? There are many factors, but the most important can be bucketed into the categories of Professional Development and Business Culture.

The subjectivity of roles and businesses makes a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development plans impossible. What is important across the board is encouraging effective mentorship and transparency of feedback. The most innovative People teams hypothesise that this will be the secret to ensuring teams run smoothly and that candidates are professionally fulfilled.

They’re achieving this by instilling a culture of accountability and honesty, encouraging constant, iterative feedback sessions across the business. They’re implementing cross-functional micro-missions, discussing outcomes and sharing feedback during standups and roundtable feedback meetings.

To elevate this, some businesses have adopted a culture of radical candour, encouraging teammates to share unabashed, non-bureaucratic feedback in a psychologically safe environment. For this to be successful, parties delivering feedback must be specific, constructive and backed by data or example. Feedback should be able to be mutually given and received, regardless of hierarchy.

Meanwhile, the ‘New World of Work’ requires a modern-thinking approach to business culture. Suddenly, business culture is no longer defined exclusively by happy-hour drinks or bean bags in the office. Instead, innovative People teams need to find new ways to bring people together.

Workplace instant messaging tools, such as Slack or Teams, have become indispensable for keeping workforces both formally and informally connected over the past 12 months. However, most people default to using this to communicate with their direct teams or existing friendship groups. Innovative people teams have had success forging new cross-functional relationships via random pairing in these tools. Services like Slack’s ‘Slackbot Pairing’ or Teams’ ‘Icebreaker Bot’ connect team members who do not communicate, encouraging them to become acquaintances. This is treated as a virtual substitute for those new interactions often had during so-called ‘watercooler moments’.

What if the team is really missing the office environment? Why not gamify that office experience? Fintech start-up Pleo have done just that, by tasking their People to recreate their existing office space in Minecraft’s multiplayer mode. Sure, this doesn’t replace the actual working environment, but studies have long demonstrated that collaborative video games are an effective way to bring people together.

On an individual basis, mental health and wellbeing should be explored and efforts optimised. We’ve long been critics of simply hosting a wellness seminar or yoga workshop to ‘treat’ mental health. As we’ve mentioned before, a business invested in the wellbeing of its People should seriously consider investing in Mental Health First Aid training.

Innovate by… Achieving Employee Advocacy

If you spend enough time on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter, you may see posts or Tweets shared by employees about new initiatives launched, new swag received or otherwise new experiences they’re grateful to their employers for leading.

Consider this EVP gold and a sure sign that the business’s People team’s efforts are paying off. When an employee voluntarily (we cannot stress this enough) shares their personal gratitude publicly, you know that you’ve touched on something that really resonated with them.

The added benefit? This is just another innovative way to attract new candidates to your business.


As you can see, innovation in HR and Talent Acquisition is not merely about pioneering new sourcing techniques. Instead, efforts stem from a holistic approach to your Talent and People strategies, one that combines attraction, OnBoarding and ensuring the welfare of your existing people, in turn encouraging advocacy of your EVP.

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