Stacia Garr
Co-founder & Principal Analyst

Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst


  • This call focuses on the trends that we expect to see in 2021
  • Dani and Stacia present the 10 big trends they’ve seen this year and what they expect to flow into 2021
  • We spend time tackling the burning questions others have about will 2021 bring into the HR market
  • We hear insights from other industry experts that share the emerging trends they’ve been consistently seeing

Q&A Call Video


Introduction/What Are You Seeing?

Dani Johnson (00:00):

Okay. So I think we're recording. Let's just check that really fast. Yeah. Okay, great. Great. So we got that whole conversation right there on tape, I think it'll be riveting for those listening later. But welcome to our last Q and A call of the year where we're going to be talking about 2021 trends. Some of the things that we've seen this year, and some of the things that we have a really good feeling are going to drip over into next year. And I'm here with Stacia Garr we're co-founders and principal analyst of RedThread Research. And I have a dog barking under my desk. So if you hear it, that's what that is just a brief introduction to RedThread. If you're not familiar with us, we are a human capital research membership firm, and we focus on things like learning and career and performance and people analytics, diversity and inclusion has been big for us this year. And all of the technology associated with any of those things. We also cover pretty in depth. Especially this time of year, we get a lot of, we get a lot of pieces out on learning technology.

Stacia Garr (01:07):

Yep. And just to put a finer point on that. So we just launched the formal membership here in December for folks who don't know there's still quite a lot of content available for, for those who are maybe not quite yet ready to become a member. But the idea is, is to kind of formalize the membership and also allow us to do research that's not sponsored. So it's gonna allow us to expand the breadth and the type of research that we do here in 2021.

Dani Johnson (01:39):

Awesome. So today we're going to talk about 2021 trends. We're going to want to start with a question for those of you who are out there. We obviously don't know everything and we say that regularly. We would love to understand what you're saying, what you think trends will be in the upcoming year. So you can either use the chat we're big on chat for introverts, but also if you have, if you just, we've given everybody permission to talk. So let's just have a conversation about some of the trends that we're seeing out there.

Speaker 1 (02:19):

This is Speaker 1. My favorite topics are the digital learning, of course. So if everything's online, if everyone's working from home, if everyone is now needing to be sort of working remotely and independently you know, that affects the tools and technologies that affects performance and goals. What skills and strengths do you need now compared to before? So much of that just goes under, you know, the large heading of digital. And then also like you mentioned, the I liked how you included the phrase belonging in your diversity and inclusion, and so kind of that engagement piece. So, you know, how do people connect in 2021 when you're digital?

Stacia Garr (03:17):

Great. Yeah, and we we actually had a big debate about that internally because we were, you know, the move seems to be to DEI diversity, equity and inclusion. And, you know, I think that belonging piece is really important and we're like, well, it's, you know, four letter for four words, is that too much for an acronym? And we just said, you know what, we're just gonna, it's, it's everything. So we're, we're doing all four.

Dani Johnson (03:43):

I think you hit on a couple of really good ones, Jackie, and some of the things that we're seeing, so learning obviously is expanding quite a bit. And then, and then obviously the diversity and inclusion we've seen sort of ramp this year as well. What are others seeing?

Speaker 2 (04:06):

Hi, this is Speaker 2. Can you hear me? So I knew you know, at my organization, a lot of our current work is really focused on on skills and just, you know, kind of individualizing learning experiences for people so that they are able to improve specific skills that they want in relation to their job or future roles. So that that's something that, you know, I foresee us being focused on next year is personalization. And then how do we help people acquire new skills, right. That they're gonna need and kind of keep up with the evolving change of, of, of their roles within the organization.

Dani Johnson (05:08):

Yeah, I think you're right. So I think we've seen that discussion go on for a while now. And I think we're at the point where it's actually gonna do some good, this whole idea of skills. One more, one more comment before we move on in chat says continuing performance management, and what skills of the future look like, how they'll evolve and how do we prepare people for them. So kind of along with what's he saying skills. Anything else before we move on?

The 10 Big Trends

Trend 1: DEIB Critical To All People Practices

Dani Johnson (05:44):

All right. So Stacia and I recently put together our research roadmap for the coming year, and we're seeing basically 10 big trends and they've kind of fall in buckets. So we want to talk through these trends very quickly before we get to the questions, we had a lot of really good questions that were submitted this time. So the first one that we're seeing is DEIB be critical to all people practices. And I'm going to actually let Stacia talk about that one first.

Stacia Garr (06:09):

Yeah. So I think for those of you, who've seen research that I've done in the past on DEIB our recent strategy report that just came out a couple of weeks ago, the integration of DEIB into everything else that we do is something that we've been talking about for a long time, but it feels like now we're seeing that catch up everywhere else. Which is really exciting whether that's from a, you know, just a general practices and awareness perspective, but also from the tech we're going to be publishing our DEIB tech report the second week of January. And so we're going to talk a lot about some of the changes that have happened there, but I think the most remarkable one and this is a little preview for you all, is that we've actually seen the market size increase by three times since when we did the study in 2019, we published in January, 2019, so two years ago.

Stacia Garr (07:07):

And we think that that just incredible market growth reflects the fact that people are looking to integrate across all the different practices and interested in how tech can be used to, to accelerate that. I know we've got a question a little bit more deeply on, on the tech side of this. So I won't jump to that too much right now, but we just are seeing this show up much more broadly has felt like for a number of years, we were kind of saying this was important and now we're seeing people reflect it back to us, which is really exciting.

Dani Johnson (07:36):

Yeah. And I've been surprised at how much it's creeped into some of the other discussions like skills and, and mobility, for example, it's, it's becoming an imperative to pay attention to an all these other areas.

Trend 2: Managers as connectors

Dani Johnson (07:47):

Same thing we're seeing is a managers as connectors.

Stacia Garr (07:51):

Yeah. So this one is in my space as well. So for those of you who follow our stuff, you may have seen that we did a big study on managers that came out in mid October and what we did there was, it was so cool. Like we do a lot of research and I think all of it's cool, but like this piece was really cool because we had done a snapshot of organizational and manager behaviors actually this time last year, literally actually I remember we closed the survey on December 17th, so literally a year ago. And then, so it was right before the pandemic started. And then we were able to do a comparison of what was happening with managers and their behaviors during the pandemic. So we've rerun the survey in September and October of this year. And one of the shifts that we saw, well, we actually saw two big shifts in that study.

Stacia Garr (08:39):

One was that the amount of autonomy that individual employees felt they had went up as you would expect with what happened with the pandemic. But then second, they said that managers were much more open to new ideas, which was, which was really good. And what you would hope for. The challenge we saw was that pretty much every other support, whether it be through the manager or through the organization, every other support that employees received went down. And so as you think about moving into our, you know, whatever this, this new reality is going to look like, we know that a big portion of it is going to be a higher percentage of workers who are remote. And because of that their managers are going to be even more important than in the past. And in many ways the managers are going to be the connector to the organization in a way that wasn't necessarily as true in an office setting. And so we think that as we look to the future, the question is, is how, what, you know, better understanding that shift for managers and how managers can help connect employees more broadly into the organization is going to be a big theme for this year.

Dani Johnson (09:40):

The other part of that is a lot of times managers, we haven't talked to one organization where, to who is like, Oh yeah, our managers just kill it. They're awesome. A lot of managers don't have the skills that they need in order to do some of the things that Stacy was talking about. And so we've seen a big uptick in the conversations around performance management and learning and mobility and all of these things where managers are, or managers are a part of those discussions as well, where we haven't necessarily seen that in the past. So instead of sort of a standalone thing, we're actually seeing managers integrated more into these different things as well.

Trend 3: Mobility is a focus

Dani Johnson (10:14):

Third one is mobility. Mobility is definitely a focus. I think part of this is because of some of the things that have happened this year with respect to large swaths of organizations being furloughed hand their skills not being needed right at this very minute, we're seeing this a lot, especially with frontline workers. And so mobility has really become a focus we're in the middle of a research project, actually, we're done with the research part and we're in the writing portion of mobility right now. And one of the really interesting things is the switch in the past mobility has mostly been used for retention and for engagement purposes. And now we're seeing organizations also include things like need making sure that we've got the skills in the right place, making sure that we have the right skills. And so moving people around to develop those skills, et cetera. The other thing that we're seeing where it comes to mobility is a lot of our vendor friends have come to us and said, Hey, we've got this new mobility project or product. They would really like you to see and give us feedback on. So it's not just the learning leaders and the business, the people leaders that are seeing this it's also is the vendors that are recognizing that this is a thing and will probably continue to be a thing into the future.

Dani Johnson (11:28):

Any, any comments on that Stacia? Any thoughts?

Stacia Garr (11:31):

Well, I think, you know, it, it ties into some of the other things that you're going to mention here, but, but you know, the focus on skills and kind of, you know, skills, not in isolation, but skills is kind of part of an enablement of other things that are really important

Dani Johnson (11:44):

For sure. And if you've seen a theme so far with just these three it's that some of those walls between some of the silos we've seen within the people practices are really breaking. And we're having to have wider discussions across the organization about how we deal with people on how we help people rather than staying within our talent acquisition and our learning and our performance silos.

Trend 4: Definition of "learning" expands

Dani Johnson (12:05):

The next one is the definition of learning expands. And we've been talking about this one for a while now, but in the past six to seven months, we've seen this really sort of accelerate. We're no longer just talking about courses and we're no longer just talking about the LMS. We're actually defining, learning very broadly. What does it take in order to help people plan? How do we helping people discover what they need? How do we help people experiment? What's our, what's our take on failure in the organization and how can we get people to learn from them? All of these things sort of wrap around this idea of learning, which we're sort of moving toward employee development, because we think that's a more inclusive term. How are we, how are we developing people in our organization to get not just them where they want to go, but where to get the organization where it needs to go. And we think we'll continue to see that through this year and probably beyond that.

Trend 5: Not just skills, skills as an enabler

Dani Johnson (12:58):

And then the final one, a couple of you have mentioned already is skills. We've actually been following the skills conversation for years. Like we started, we started listening about four years ago and I've had regular conversations with companies like Deloitte and Microsoft to kind of understand how they're viewing it and what they're doing and what they see as important. One of the things that we find really interesting about the last six months is we're not just talking about skills, we're talking about skills as an enabler. And so until the, the, the COVID crisis gathering skills and figuring out a skills data was more of a a conversation that we were having with ourselves rather than figuring out what to do with that information to help actually enable things in the organization. And so some of the things that we've seen over the last little while is we can barely have a conversation about mobility without also talking about skills.

Dani Johnson (13:52):

We can't, we seem to be running into diversity, inclusion, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging all the time when we're talking about skills. So all of these things where we're talking about, you know, giving people opportunities to develop these skills and moving people in the organization to develop these skills, have that diversity and inclusion component associated with them. And the same thing with data, why are we collecting this data? Where's this data going, what's it going to do, et cetera. And so we think the conversation is shifting from skills and re-skilling, and the whole sort of philosophical discussion that we've been having for four years on skills. We think it's finally firming up a little bit and we're using skills as an enabler. We're going to do the skill thing, but why are we going to do these, the skill thing we're going to do it for very specific reasons within the organization? Any thoughts, there Stacia?

Stacia Garr (14:39):

Yeah. And I think that, that this also ties in really well to this you know, the, the heating up of the market around, you know, specifics skills and specific needs that organizations have moving forward. And so we're starting, I feel like we're starting to see a lot more specificity and it ties into actually our next trend here, but a lot more specificity around what are the skills that we need, not just like, Oh, the, the, you know, like top 10 general skills we need in 2021. But like, as an organization, as we're actually doing our planning, what are the, what are the skills into what extent do we need them in order to do X, Y or Z thing? So it just feels like it's kind of gone from being up here in the sky and a little bit ephemeral to a lot more concrete around what we're trying to do.

Dani Johnson (15:25):

Yeah. I think you're right. And I think it's also changed the way that organizations are thinking about their people. So up until about six months ago, we were talking mostly about, okay, how do we get the skills? And a lot of times the question was we buy them. But, but since, since there's a shortage of pretty much everything right now we're seeing organizations say, okay, well, how do we develop these skills, and what people need to develop these skills and all of those kinds of conversations have come in that, that weren't there before that I think makes the skills discussion much more interesting and much more concrete and much more actionable.

Trend 6: Data as a crucial element of success

Dani Johnson (15:55):

Data as a crucial element of success.

Stacia Garr (16:01):

Yeah. And so, and so this ties in really well, you know, it's fun cause Dani and I kind of, we have our swim lanes to a certain extent, but they often intersection and the skills conversation is actually one of the biggest examples of how they've been intersecting. So so Dani has been doing a lot of work on kind of skills from a learning perspective and what's happening there. And then I've been doing a lot of work in understanding skills from a data perspective. And, and what's fascinating, isn't in so many organizations, those too late to parallel paths remain parallel and they're, they are not intersecting. And so a big thing that we're going to talk about this year is, is how should they be intersecting? Cause there clearly is talking about the same skills, the same people, the same need in the organization, but it's just tends to happen in two different parts of the organization.

Stacia Garr (16:48):

And so skills is a great example of that with, with data. But I think there's a lot of others. For, again, for those of you who follow what we do, we just publish the people analytics tech study last week. And in that we talked a lot about kind of just a range of, of capabilities that that technologies are now offering folks. And I think the underlying message though from 2020 was that tech, or I'm sorry, that people analytics and then the tech that enables it is more important than ever, you know, as we saw workers go into to leave the office and work from home, there was this incredible sense from leaders that we don't necessarily know what's happening. We don't know what's happening necessarily from an engagement perspective or what's working or what people need. And so we saw the role of people, analytics just really shine this year.

Stacia Garr (17:37):

And I expect that shine not to come off, if you will. You know, I think that now that people have kind of seen the value of it, they're not going to be willing to relinquish it. And so we see that particularly for employee engagement and experience, but we're also seeing that more broadly as we start to see different platforms that can bring in a whole lot of different information and to give us a much more nuanced understanding of what's happening for people, what helps them achieve success and also what are some of the warning signs that we should be looking for? So I just think that we're going to continue to see 2021 as a year to bring in data and to start to really do this analysis with the idea that it will really begin to impact business outcomes in a very large and meaningful way in 2022.

Dani Johnson (18:20):

Yeah. I think one of the outcomes of that too will be that all of the people practices are going to have to start thinking differently about how they do their job, because if you think about it up until fairly recently we've all used our gut to determine whether we hire somebody or, you know, where we move people or all of those things have been largely, you know, how someone's performing has been largely based on gut, but with some of the things that we've seen this year with, with data and technology, we have a much more unbiased view that helps us make decisions better, but also that we can push down to individuals to help them make, make decisions better, which I'm pretty excited about.

Stacia Garr (18:55):

Yeah. And it, and it connects back to the point around DEIB being integrated with everything. You know, that's one of the biggest opportunities is this connection between DEIB and data and people analytics using it to make less biased decisions, help us understand where bias may exist in organizations and to flag that in critical moments of decision-making. We're gonna dig into that topic in Q1. Because I think I've, to be honest, I've been just trying to get there is Dani now for the last three or four months, and we just had other things on the agenda that had to get finished up. But for me, I think that's a huge topic for 2021

Trend 7: Humanizing of human resources

Dani Johnson (19:32):

Humanizing of human resources. I think this is a really interesting one to talk about right after we talked about data. Sometimes we think of data as sort of non-human and cold and exacting. But what we're seeing is that some of this data is being used to actually humanize human resources a little bit more. I think we're also seeing it, this idea of humanization, when we think about kind of how we've addressed this crisis versus how we addressed the last crisis, it's pretty different. So in 2008, a bunch of people got laid off. We didn't, we were more concerned about the world in the economy and the business. And we were about those people this time around, it seems a little bit different. And I don't know if it's because of, because COVID is a really personal thing, or maybe I'm hoping we've evolved as the human race just a little bit, but we are starting to understand that, that the human part of human resources is a really, really important thing. So we've talked about that with the DEIB, we've talked about it with managers and making sure that they connect people, talked about it with that data and how it helps us become more human by making better decisions and less biased decisions. But we think in general, sort of the humanizing of human resources and the experience associated with working we'll continue along that path.

Dani Johnson (20:45):

Any thoughts there Stacia?

Stacia Garr (20:49):


Dani Johnson (20:49):

Apologies for putting you on the spot there.

Trend 8: Purposeful, holistic employee experience

Dani Johnson (20:53):

Purposeful holistic employee experience.

Stacia Garr (20:58):

Yeah. So again, this year we spent a lot of time talking about purpose and the role of purpose and organizations and, and the and how we've seen that kind of tying back to what Dani just said, seeing that really show up in the midst of this pandemic. And, and we expect that to continue in the purpose research, we talked about, you know, it's this just a fad, this whole focus on purpose. And we think not for a whole bunch of reasons that I could go into, but I think that, that, that this focus on connecting having a clear organizational purpose and enabling employees to connect their own purpose to it is going to continue tied into that is this idea again, of this holistic employee experience. And I think there are actually two ways to read holistic. One is you know, is actually Jackie mentioned at the beginning, there has been this big shift to digital.

Stacia Garr (21:49):

And before the pandemic, I felt like we were talking about kind of the digital workplace and then the, you know, in-person workplace and with the pandemic, we've really seen those to integrate and have to think about kind of this more holistic perspective of what does an employee experience mean. Now, when you, when you layer in purpose into that, I think you're not just talking about kind of the nuts and bolts of an employee experience, but really about how does all of that come together and enable an individual to achieve their purpose and enable the organization to achieve the purpose. Their purpose is we think as we look to 2021, we're going to start to see, we are already seeing all of those things kind of meld together in a way that I think is much more holistic and much more, again, human than what we've seen in the past. So not just a digital experience, not just an in-person experience, but really all purposeful holistic employee experience.

Stacia Garr (22:41):

Dani, did you have anything you want to add there?

Dani Johnson (22:42):

Yeah, I think again, that, that data is helping us provide that really personal experience to individuals. And so it's, we're not doing, we're not putting in people in personas anymore. We're not talking about job roles anymore. We're talking about providing that employee experience. That's really personal to the individual and we're able to do that because of some of the advances we've seen in data and technology,

Trend 9: Building networks, changing work

Dani Johnson (23:02):

Building networks and changing work. And I'm going to let, Stacia start on this one too.

Stacia Garr (23:06):

Yeah. So one of the outcomes of the pandemic and people working remotely is that and we know this from a number of the organizational network analysis vendors is that we are seeing people strengthened their immediate network and their immediate relationships with the people that they work with on the day-to-day, but their weaker connections are dying away. And that is problematic for a couple of reasons on the individual level. We know that diverse people tend to have led to be in lower power networks and so, and have weaker connections to higher power networks. So if we think about kind of all the benefits of diversity and all the need to accelerate the, the rise of diverse individuals in the organization that weakening of those networks is a challenge. And then secondly, for the organization, we know that if we have less diversity, we have less of all sorts of other benefits including critically innovation.

Stacia Garr (24:02):

And so, as we think about kind of longterm moving in this new world of, of how we're going to work together you know, there will be a larger percentage of the workforce who are remote. So we've got a real nut to crack we think around how do we make sure that people are still building networks, still making connections? You know, we talked about managers as connectors and that's great, but we all know that that cannot be the only, or the strong, you know, just the it needs to be one of many strong connections. And so we think there's a conversation here around how do we make sure that people are being connected in ways that are meaningful, that allowed them to grow, that allowed them to get access to the opportunities they need with an overall benefit to the whole organization.

Dani Johnson (24:42):

And I think the other part of that, that trend that we're seeing is the changing of work we're seeing work, adjust to accommodate remote better than it ever has before. And the whole world is talking about this right now. So we're not going to address it too much right now, but it will probably, it will most likely, it'll definitely creep into some of the things that we write about because it literally having a remote workforce. And some of the things that have happened this year literally changed the way that we work.

Trend 10: Acceleration…of everything

Dani Johnson (25:07):

And our final one is the acceleration of pretty much everything. So just an example of this, we had a conversation with an organization that was trying to implement an LXP, a learning experience platform at the beginning of the year. And they had this year and a half long plan, and they were going to roll it out to different parts of the organization at different times, et cetera, et cetera.

Dani Johnson (25:28):

And then COVID hit and they were, they had everybody online within three weeks. So one of the things that we think will take a lot of time don't necessarily take the time we think they will. And we're seeing this in pretty much everything. So diversity and inclusion has stepped up, but this year learning has stepped up this year. And the importance of managers has stepped up pretty much everything on this slide has, has been accelerated at least a little bit by COVID in some of that, the DEIB challenges with that we've seen this year, and we don't necessarily think that's going to slow down now that we know that we can get stupid work out of the way and do things faster. And we think it's probably going to continue. Any thoughts there Stacia?

Stacia Garr (26:11):

No, I agree. I think I'd love to hear what other people think though, now that we've kind of laid out our 10 for 2021,

Dani Johnson (26:19):

Any thoughts on this and please feel free to use the the chat as well.

Speaker 1 (26:29):

This is Speaker 1 again, I love the example that you just gave where under previous project planning, that's a year, year and a half, but under crisis it's three weeks. Like that's amazing. It'd be interesting to follow up with them in a year to see, you know, and how's it going now? You know, did it, did it all fall into place just like you expected?

Dani Johnson (26:50):

Yeah, no, I think you're right, Jackie. And we definitely will. I'd love to, I'd love to understand kind of what happens with that organization. I think sometimes we're afraid to introduce change into an organization because we're afraid of the pushback when everybody's sort of rallied around one, cause things tend to go smoother. And so it'll be interesting to see how much change we can continue to push without sort of that, that unifying challenge and bolt says, I love the holistic employee experience, huge topic for us.

Speaker 1 (27:20):


Dani Johnson (27:22):

Any other thoughts here before we move on to your questions or anything we missed or anything we missed?

Stacia Garr (27:27):

We have plenty of contenders who almost made this list.

Dani Johnson (27:39):

Okay. Please continue to comment and share Stacia and I are big on making sure that everyone understands that we don't know everything and how we learn and how we develop and how we make this. The most useful thing possible is to integrate other people's ideas and thoughts and questions. So the questions that we got we got a good chunk of questions we chose about eight of them.

Are there any "usual" trends that override disruption?

Dani Johnson (28:00):

The first one is, are there any usual trends that override disruption? Which we thought it was a really interesting question and we actually put it at the front because we wanted to talk a little bit about it. Just kind of going back to the trends that we've talked about. Some of the things that have been ramping for years now is diversity and inclusion. The DEIB has been ramping for years, the learning trend, it used to be not that that important within organizations and now has become very important, not just to individuals, but also to senior leaders. Data has been ramping for a really long time as well. So we think some of these definitely overrides sort of the crisis that we're in, which means they probably have a longer, their trajectory is still going up. Stacia anything to other,

Stacia Garr (28:46):

Yeah. I think employee experience and purpose. I think that that's another one, you know, again, back to our purpose research you know, we talked about how the business round table made their change to the statement on the purpose of a corporation in August, 2019. So that was clearly before this. And you know, the business round table doesn't do anything until it let's just say they're not the fastest moving most on the cutting edge of, of stating these types of changes. So I think they were really kind of an indication of a long lead up to this focus on broader purpose in stakeholder capitalism. So we think that one and then that integration with employee experience again, was something that we were seeing before this. So I'd just underscore that one too, right?

Stacia Garr (29:32):

Any thoughts from, from you all, are there trends that you've seen sort of accelerated by COVID, but maybe were in place before?

Speaker 3 (29:48):

This is Speaker 3. I have seen a lot more interest in how do we communicate, not just what programs are in place for DEIB, but how do we effectively communicate and connect all of our staff to these initiatives? So before it was a lot of people would just be doing it or not a lot, but some people would be working on it. But now we see more people, I should say more executives than at the board level of the companies that I'm working with are connecting and wanting to make sure that their entire company knows their role in DEIB.

Dani Johnson (30:25):

Yeah. I really like that example. I think that's sort of a perfect example of what we're talking about here. DEIB, we've been, we've all been given it sort of we've, we've been talking about it for years, but now it goes clear up to the board level of Stacia was telling me before this call that we've never seen a higher need for, what did you call them Stacia? The Chief Inclusion Officers?

Stacia Garr (30:46):

Chief Diversity Officers.

Dani Johnson (30:49):

Officers at the top of the organization who are actually giving some real time and effort and consequently budget to, to some of these things that we've been trying to solve for years with volunteer panels and things like that.

Stacia Garr (31:01):

Yeah. Yeah. Just to kind of, to jump on that, you know, we've we published this DEIB strategy report, and one of the things we talked about there was the executives are more open to the DEIB topic more broadly, and I have this is totally a thought experiment, but I'm going to share it with you guys. Cause I think it's kind of interesting. I wonder if part of the reason for the greater openness and the greater desire to move the needle here is that we, by when the social justice movement started this summer at that point we were depending on where you were roughly around three months into the COVID crisis. And I think that through COVID a lot of executives got a whole lot more comfortable with being able to say we don't necessarily know all the answers, this is hard.

Stacia Garr (31:52):

We're doing our best. We're, you know, a much more compassionate, empathetic, open, and potentially vulnerable leadership approach than what we would have seen, you know, six months prior. And so I wonder if some of this greater openness and some of this greater desire to actually maybe properly fix some of the DEIB challenges we have was a result of leaders already kind of having just gone through this, you know, very challenging initial experience with, with COVID and having already adopted kind of a more empathetic posture. So we'll, we'll see if that's kind of a long-term change and if that continues to play out. But I do have a strong hunch that that may have contributed to this greater level of openness.

Speaker 2 (32:38):

Hi, this is Speaker 2, Stacia. Just to kind of jump off of what you were saying. I've noticed in the organization that I am in very heavy involvement, like up to the CEO receiving, you know, emails and messages, even like you know, senior VP leader of leaders, of business units, holding all day conferences and just kind of having their face and their thoughts and out there. Which I think is really interesting because that, that's sort of the first time I'm seeing this embrace by senior leaders all the way up to the CEO being very vocal about this topic.

Stacia Garr (33:25):

Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, that that's something we heard from a lot of folks when we did the interviews for that study. And I think it reflects this broader shift that we've seen actually in the in the Edelman trust barometer, where they talk about they, they Edelman focus on within the U S but, you know, by and large us consumers expect companies to do something about social justice and about diversity equity, inclusion, belonging in their organizations. And I think that is actually then translating to action. There was a really cool data point and I need to see if there's an updated one where it said that in Q1. So just before the kind of the pandemic really got going the just 4% of S&P 500 companies talked about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging on their earnings calls with investors. And in Q2, that number shot up to 40%. And so I think, you know, there is this heightened awareness that DEIB can have such big impacts on the organizations. And so there is a that greater executive embrace as you mentioned, Speaker 2.

Speaker 2 (34:36):

Yeah. And I think even just showing vulnerability in terms of like, you know, we don't have the answers, we want to work on finding solutions. And you know, we, it's important to keep talking about it and keep the dialogue open. So I think just, you know, whereas before it, might've kind of been not addressed or kind of swept under the rug, like we don't need to address this. I find that leaders are now getting at the forefront of it and addressing things that you know, incidents of social injustice that might happen and say, you know, this is unfortunate. We don't have the answers, but, you know, feel free to reach out if you want to talk about it. So,

Stacia Garr (35:23):

Yeah, definitely. And Marlene, I see your comment. I'll see if I can find the study and send it out to you all. It was RBC. Did the, did the research.

Dani Johnson (35:36):

just to wrap this one, someone says that he and his organization, they're seeing more interest in visual collaboration and digital workspaces as people move as people, as more people work from home. And I think that's, I think that's awesome, first of all. And secondly, I think it's needed we've seen more acceptance of some of the things that we use as well. We use a tool called Miro and we've been able to take that into a couple of organizations and introduce them to something like that that allows you to still do some of those sort of hands-on group activities that need to be done in order to get the work done and in a digital way. So we're thinking, that's fantastic.

How are organizations putting their 2020 DEIB commitments into action?

Dani Johnson (36:11):

The next couple of questions have to do with DEIB. So we'll continue that conversation. How are organizations putting their 2020, their DEIB commitments into action in 2021? And do you have examples?

Stacia Garr (36:25):

Yeah. So, and, and I'd love other folks comments and thoughts here, but I'll kind of kick us off here. You know, one of the things we saw was immediately after the murder of George Floyd that a lot of organizations made kind of very public commitments with regard to what they were going to do with DEIB. So, you know, for instance, we saw like you know, Adidas saying that they were going to fill 30% of their open positions at Adidas and Reebok with lacquer or Latino or Latina candidates. IBM said they were not going to offer or research facial recognition technology because of potential human rights abuses. We saw Facebook and a whole bunch of other organizations talk about the number of black and Latinx employees that were going to bring into the organization.

Stacia Garr (37:20):

They said they were going to double them. And then there were a whole bunch of organizations that pledged to make large contributions to you know, black lives matter, NAACP ACLU, et cetera, et cetera. So, so we saw a lot of immediate action right after, and then I feel like some of the changes that came down or that I feel like then what has happened is organizations have begun to go away. Do some of the hard work mentioned, you know even in, in, I think there was an article in the wall street journal in July that said the chief diversity officer was the hottest job right now in the market. And, and the number of DEIB professionals I've personally seen, just move has been pretty astounding and used to, and it feels like there's a DEIB role at pretty much every company that wasn't there three months ago.

Stacia Garr (38:07):

So I think right now organizations are starting to do the work of putting more people, more investment into their organizations. But what that's going to translate to on the other side is I think still an open question, you know, there's and then I think there's also a question of how they're going to talk about it because there are a lot of changes that organizations will make, particularly as their results and their, their mix of talent and their focus on accelerating particular types of talent that may not get into the news. It may not be, I'm almost certain, it's not going to be the thing that they put into their CSR ESG reporting. And so I think that there's going to be kind of a dance that organizations have to do as they try to demonstrate that they're walking, you know, that they're walking the talk but do it in a way that one, their legal teams feel comfortable with. Cause that's been a big, you know, throttle on DEIB efforts as well as the publication of what's happening with them. So what their, their legal teams are comfortable with and then also what they feel like kind of furthers their, their talent brand. So I think that there are things that are happening, particularly with regard to talent acquisition, and then also talent mobility. But I think it's going to take a little bit of time for us to see them.

Stacia Garr (39:22):

Do I see your comment if the compensation for DEIB roles will improve? I think, I think it will. And I think it already has begun because the talent market is so tight right now for DEIB roles. So I think that's a good call out.

Dani Johnson (39:34):

I think someone actually surfaced a couple of good questions too. So there's the one, she says, one thing that comes to mind as we talk about one so much focus on moving digital and to DEIB is the need to keep in mind the portion of the workforce that can not work digitally. How are they being supported and included in opportunities, et cetera. So really good question. One of the things that I think we're seeing is some of the technology is allowing us to address some of the challenges with the DEIB, even though those are frontline workers and cannot work digitally. And so even that, well, the aspect of digital that affects them as different, but we're still using some of those digital tools to make sure that we're taking care of them. The other thing that we're seeing just no past, and I think this pretty predates COVID two is more of a focus on frontline workers. So a lot of learning tech and tech in general has been focused on exempt workers, people that work in an office. We've seen that shift a little bit as new tools come out and new awareness comes out of, you know, as organizations realize the value of those workers and understand the need for them to grow and develop as well.

Dani Johnson (40:44):

Any other thoughts or questions on this question? All right.

What are the top 3 DEIB goals that are contributing to DEIB tech buying?

Dani Johnson (40:52):

Let's move on to the second DEIB question, which is what are the top three DEIB goals that are contributing to DEIB tech buying?

Stacia Garr (41:01):

Yeah, so And the pet study, we talk a bit about this. So, so the kind of the top three areas that we saw as a, as an area of focus were employee engagement and experience DEIB analysis and monitoring. And that was a big shift, like a few when we did the study last year that was much lower. So that was number two that showed up number two. And then the third one was performance management when we, when we looked at kind of the, the analytics side. And so when we're thinking about kind of the DEIB intersection here, a lot of it is understanding, you know, amongst those three kind of really critical areas, what's happening with people. What are, what do we need to understand about our different populations and and how their experiences are then influencing their the kind of what's going to happen with the talent pipeline overall.

Stacia Garr (42:00):

So we know that representation numbers are backwards looking. And so now I feel like we're starting to see people trying to use the tech to get a little bit farther back into what's happening and to be able to address things a lot faster, but so, so engagement and experience. Certainly like I said, performance management, because that contributes to our ability to advance people in our understanding of how people are performing and their perceptions of what's happening differently. And then the, I should say from the PAT study the learning and development being the third, third one and the understanding of how those learning experiences are different for different populations.

Dani Johnson (42:40):

Great. Any other thoughts on this question? Okay, let's move to the next one.

How are organizations defining mobility?

Dani Johnson (42:48):

How organizations defining mobility. So one of our, the trends that we mentioned earlier, and one of the things that we've seen craziness around is this idea of mobility, moving people in the organization to different parts of the organization. For some reasons, a couple of the biggest reasons that we see the first and I think probably the oldest is we moved people around organizations to, to retain them, to, to give them experience for sure, but to retain them and engage them as part of that larger employee engagement thing that's happening right now. The other thing that we're seeing since COVID is the, the need to move people around the organization to put the right skills in the right places at the right time. So as large parts of organizations have, have become unnecessary, especially given sort of the situation that we're in, we're seeing organizations really ramp up the skilling three skilling and the development to take tangential skills and turn them into the skills that they need in the organization right now.

Dani Johnson (43:49):

So a large communications organization, for example, had to sort of either furlough all of their retail, or it had to retrain them to, to handle some of the online stuff that was coming in at a greater pace, because some of those retail stores were out of commission. And so that's just one example of the way that we've seen organizations sort of think about mobility differently. Another thing that we're seeing is mobility used to mean moving from one job to another job from one role to another role. And that is also sort of being redefined. It's much more of a, I don't want to, I'm not sure how we're going to say this yet in the research, but it's much more of a, sort of a psychological move. So mobility doesn't necessarily mean picking up and moving somewhere, even though a lot of organizations are still thinking about it, that way mobility actually means working out of wherever you are and getting new experiences and new opportunities while maybe still having your home base, where it was before.

Dani Johnson (44:42):

And we're seeing that manifest itself in things like talent open talent, marketplaces. Some people call them gig economies within the organizations. So they're trying out gigs for two or three weeks. We're seeing it in terms of rotations. So you still belong to a central place. But you have the opportunity to experience some new things. In the military, they call them details and they can be up to a year long. And so this idea of mobility is changing to be much more sort of cerebral than it is physical, which I think is really, really interesting. The research that we have coming out in a little bit, sort of talks about how different organizations handle that differently. We have the latter model, which is moving people up, are really defined the latter on, you know, what your put your next step is. We have the lattice model, which has been talked about for 15 years, which is moving people around to give them more breadth.

Dani Johnson (45:28):

We have the agency model, which is what a lot of consulting firms use, which is organizing the people around the work instead of organizing the work around a predefined organization of people. And then we're also seeing quite a bit of organizations start to talk about external workers. So retiree pools and gig workers and contractors and consultants, and those type of people paying attention to them as part of your talent pool and helping the organization understand what skills they have so that they can also be mobilized within different parts of the organization. So we did this study five years ago. We did it again this time I've learned a lot and things have changed quite a bit about about mobility, but those are the biggest things. People are thinking about it more cerebrally than they have in the past. And we're probably including more, more talent pools and, and, and paying attention to skills that skills data to help people get where they need to go. So I'm gonna stop right there for a second. Any questions about mobility?

Stacia Garr (46:29):

You know, I'll just add, as you were talking. I wonder if like, with some of the changes that we've seen with the workforce, like we know we've seen a large percentage of women go out of the workforce, it's like three to one and we've seen other changes around you know, younger workers. And, and I just wonder if all of that will get connected here into mobility, you know, thinking about those different talent pools differently. And, and also, I mean, it seems funny, but we've kind of stopped talking about the whole, you know, baby boomers leaving the workforce, but it's, it's still happening in very great numbers. And so I wonder if this will all kind of end up coming together, particularly as, you know, as we get a vaccine and as potentially the market starts to take off again.

Dani Johnson (47:20):

Yeah, no, I think that's an interesting thought. And as, as walls in organizations continue to become more transparent and permeable as well. When you retire, you don't necessarily retire. You are put into, you know, you're a lot of people still consult with the organizations that they retire from. And so what does that mean for, for the skills that we thought we were going to lose, but maybe we're not losing and the way that people want to move. The other thing that we're seeing that's really interesting is success has to be redefined in this new, in this new sort of way. Not everybody is going to be CEO. We had one organization actually say that not everybody is going to be CEO. And so how do we help people have the best experience and get the best types of experiences that they want and learn what they want to learn while they're here and be okay if they step out of the organization for a while, knowing that we want to keep that relationship good so that they can come back later. So it's, it seems to be that we're rethinking it and we're not necessarily thinking of ownership anymore, but rather relationship, which I think is a pretty healthy way to think about it.

Dani Johnson (48:20):

All right. Any other thoughts here before we move to the next question?

What are the most important questions that HR leaders are trying to answer with data?

Dani Johnson (48:26):

What are the most important questions that HR leaders are trying to answer with data?

Stacia Garr (48:32):

Yeah, I think I kinda touched on this one earlier. But you know, from our, from our PAT study, like I said, it was in playing engagement experience, D&I performance management and learning and development. And so I think what all of that really points to is trying to understand the employee experience much better and to be able to understand, you know, what's going to happen in terms of our talent retention in terms of, you know, what we're gonna need from a skills perspective what we're gonna need from a new talent perspective versus maybe some of these other talent pools. So we're seeing, seeing kind of a focus there, but most immediately the focus has been how are people doing during COVID. And I think that's gonna continue. One thing that didn't actually show up in the PAT study though, that I also am hearing about anecdotally is that focus on wellbeing and burnout. It wasn't in the study. But I think that in something that we're going to hear more about, particularly quite frankly, as we get into February, you know, and for many, many people, the vaccine is still three, four months off. And it just starts to feel hard you know, a long winter, et cetera. So That's what I think.

How important will attention to the remote work be?

Dani Johnson (49:50):

How important will attention to the remote worker be? Pretty important for the next year. I, and I think it will continue to be important. I think I'm hoping there. One of the things that comes out of COVID is enough time understanding how it feels to work remotely, that we have a lot more sympathy, empathy, and impetus to change the way that we work with with our remote counterparts. This one is always really interesting to me cause I've worked remotely for 15 years. Our entire organization is completely remote. We have people working for us that we've never met face-to-face. And so it's, it's an interesting mindset shift to, to take into account remote workers. But I I'm hoping that this has given us enough empathy to sort of think about it differently, moving on. And I think with that, some of the technology that is surfacing per someone's comment to help us do this better is getting better. It's getting better and it's allowing us to do completely different things. We're not just putting the live experience online now. We're actually doing completely different things that may even be very, say a little bit better than, than in-person in some cases. What do you think Stacia?

Stacia Garr (51:06):

Yeah, no, I agree. I agree. I think we're going to the big challenge. I think one of the big challenges of 2021 is going to be, how do we balance when, which, when people are going back to the office, which people go back to the office, which ones maybe don't and with what frequency, and then, you know, when we've all been remote to any more level playing field in some ways. And so as we manage those in office and remote relationships, how do we make sure that we remain inclusive for those who are remote?

Dani Johnson (51:38):

Any thoughts on this one? All right.

Dani Johnson (51:46):

The next one is when things settle down, will purpose still be a thing.

When things settle down will purpose still be a thing?

Stacia Garr (51:49):

So I think you were going to jump in, I saw you come off mute.

Speaker 1 (51:53):

Oh, I was just gonna say one of the phrases I've heard different people saying to you is others have been remote, just like you gave in your example, it's not new to everyone. So I would hope in 2021, those that are well-experienced with working remotely and keeping engaged and keeping on track can, you know, have the bandwidth to reach out to the ones that are struggling. So maybe like like you said, a level playing field because it's not a new thing. It's just new to everybody all at the same time this year for obvious reasons.

Dani Johnson (52:30):

I think that's a really good point. So back to the purpose question, when things settle down, will purpose still be a thing?

Stacia Garr (52:40):

Yes. As I, as I said before, the purpose was, it was a train that had been coming. And I think it's going to still be here when, when this is all said and done. Now you go back to why organizations, you know, clarify their purpose, you know often a part of it is providing clarity in terms of why we're doing what we do in the face of a lot of other changes. So, you know, some of those changes are technology. So as we have more AI and we have more machine learning, a lot of people have been asking before COVID, you know, what is it that makes us human? What's our unique human contribution. And part of that is aligned to purpose is, is understanding what it is that we uniquely do. You know, the gig economy the ability to work from anywhere enhanced by our increased remote capabilities makes us ask questions about, you know, well, why would I join this organization?

Stacia Garr (53:37):

What do I get, what am I contributing by joining this organization? And having a clear sense of purpose helps answer that question. So I think that there's all sorts of reasons that purpose will continue to be a thing. I think the bigger question though, is we'll the organizations who have clarified or reinforce their purpose through COVID remain as committed to it. Well, we still see the level of commitment that we've seen and, you know, it's easy for, for healthcare organizations, you know, we've, we have this purpose podcast that we're that we're putting out right now. And we've had, for instance, Medtronic and Johnson and Johnson on there, and it's easy for easier for them to clearly articulate their purpose, but will other organizations continue to do so. And I think that for some of them who really are clear on this and believe in, it absolutely will. You know, another interviewee was Rachel Fichter at S&P Global, and, you know, that's a financial services firm, and yet they have a very clear sense of purpose. So I think it'll be interesting to see if there's some drop-off but I think that the fundamental reason for a focus on purpose will not shift.

Dani Johnson (54:50):

I think just because of time, we're going to leave it there. We've gone a little bit over what we usually schedule for a Q and A, we really appreciate everybody who has participated, and we really appreciate those that sent these questions in, because that makes our life much easier. When do we have questions in the Q and A session. This we'll be providing a transcript and a recording to, to those who are members on the site. And if any of you have any follow-up questions or would like to discuss any of these further, or have ideas that weren't shared today, please, please, please reach out your questions and your comments make us smarter. Thank you so much.

Stacia Garr (55:23):

Thank You. Happy holidays!


Stacia Garr

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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