A Bold Path Forward for HR in 2021

By Caitlin MacGregor

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Read Insights from Plum CEO Caitlin MacGregor and Lean how to Reimagine Talent Management in 2021


We made it! 2021 is here, and while we are still facing challenging times, it feels like a new chapter is beginning – one that will shape our collective stories for years to come.

As we begin this pivotal year, I call on all the visionary purpose-driven HR leaders, who have long dreamed of putting the “human” back into human resources, to take bold steps forward to reimagine talent management in your organizations. The time in now.

2020 was the year of survival. It was all about creating psychological safety and ensuring that our collective focus went into supporting our employees and our customers through a really difficult time globally. All that mattered was that we were getting through 2020 as best we could. While we are still facing difficult times, we are slowly starting to see a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and the time to start taking bold steps toward implementing meaningful change in our organizations is here.

This is the year to reimagine how we think about, invest in, and optimize our talent.

2020 clearly revealed cracks in our talent systems that many HR leaders already knew were there. We’ve known that the talent infrastructure isn’t always set up to allow people and businesses to fully thrive, and we know that talent processes can be riddled with systemic bias, despite our best efforts to remove it.

But we also know that HR, as a function, has never been more visible and more respected than it is right now. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, CEOs put themselves in the shoes of their Chief People Officers, and truly saw how critically important it is to ensure that employees were supported and taken care of. As uncertainty and unrest moved through all our lives, HR became the most important voice at the executive table.

Right now, HR has the voice, the respect, and the buy-in needed to transform how we manage talent, so that our businesses can stay resilient and thrive over the long term.

2021 is when we can start to create meaningful change for our businesses and our people, because if not now, then when?

In a recent report surveying 800 HR leaders across 60 countries, Gartner identified the top priority for HR leaders in 2021 to be focusing on employees’ critical skills and competencies. Currently, many HR leaders are challenged by the lack of visibility and understanding of key skill gaps across their organizations, and this year, they’ll be looking for ways to reskill and redeploy talent to align with the changing needs of their businesses. The Gartner report also put a spotlight on the importance of organizational design and change management, building the leadership bench, preparing for the future of work, and enhancing the employee experience in 2021. These priorities all speak to the opportunities that organizations and HR leaders have to make meaningful change this year.

So, what does that meaningful change look like?

Meaningful change in 2021 begins when organizations truly understand their people – knowing what drives and drains each individual across the entire company, so they can quickly and efficiently map them to opportunities where they’ll thrive, as business needs and objectives shift.

Meaningful change happens in 2021 when purpose-driven HR leaders choose to focus on potential, instead of past experiences, hard skills and traditional credentials, when determining who to hire, who to promote, and in whose development to invest.

Meaningful change happens in 2021 when we make good on our DE&I commitments by removing bias and systemic barriers in our talent processes.

Meaningful change happens in 2021 when we ask ourselves, “If given the opportunity, what could our people do?” The world is changing quickly – it’s no longer about preparing for the future of work, because the future, as we imagined it, is here. We need to act now. We need to unlock the potential within our people. That means putting them into jobs that they might not have done before, but where they have the behavioral competencies necessary to thrive and produce top results. It means looking forward at the road ahead of us, not backward in our rearview mirrors. Too many accidents happen that way.

Meaningful change happens in 2021 when we shift the conversation around employee experience away from simply streamlining processes and providing employees with better technology, to focusing on empowering employees to identify and leverage their unique talents so they can thrive at work every day and shape their careers to tap into their full potential.

Imagine what our organizations could look like if we had the right people, in the right seats, at the right time, doing work that truly allowed them to leverage their strengths and unique capabilities? Your people would thrive. Your company would too. And you wouldn’t just survive the hard times, but you’d achieve a true competitive advantage and thrive for years to come.

At Plum, we believe deeply in this vision and are here to help you realize it. What we do at Plum, that no other company does at scale, is give you deep insight into who your employees really are using decades of proven industrial/organizational psychology, while simultaneously enabling you to articulate the behavioral indicators required to succeed in any given role in your company. With these insights, you’ll be empowered to map people to jobs where they’ll thrive, at scale, so your business can thrive too.

Let’s make meaningful change together in 2021. How will you take bold steps forward this year?