The 5 Best (and Worst) Workforce Trends of 2020

Hang on, everyone. 2020 is almost over. Let's hope that, when the new year dawns, 2020's bumpy ride will smooth out, paving the way for a new normal. The events of this year, most notably the pandemic and the civil unrest surrounding equality in the United States have rocked our workplaces in ways we simply couldn't have predicted when we were all ringing in the new year last January. Some of those changes may well be permanent. One thing is for certain: We're not going back to our pre-pandemic normal anytime soon.

Here are some of the best and worst workplace trends we've seen arise in 2020.


1) Remote work 

During the lockdown, businesses not deemed essential shut their doors. Depending on the industry, employees hastily set up home offices to get the job done. The trend toward more and more remote work had already been percolating because of tech advances, but many companies that had traditionally used office face time as a benchmark of productivity were reluctant to fully embrace the idea. That reluctance had to be put aside, rather abruptly, out of necessity. Because of the lockdown, remote work wasn't AN option, it was the only option. During these past months, however, even the most traditional companies have realized it's not just possible to get the job done with remote teams, it can be more efficient and effective. The benefits to employees' work/life balance are enormous, not to mention the possibility of a boost to the company's overall bottom line if they can scale down their office space. A recent survey by Gartner found that almost half of all employees will continue to work remotely even after the pandemic leaves our shores.

For remote work to be successful, one of the most important requirements is proficiency in the technology that allows teams to collaborate from a distance. Employers need to know their employees are proficient in those skills.

2) Skills

In 2020, it has been all about skills. But it's not just tech skills for remote work that are in the forefront today. It's bigger than that. Much like the trend toward remote working, skills-based hiring was already gaining steam when COVID came knocking. The pandemic put it into warp drive. Skills are becoming the new currency to get and keep a job for a variety of reasons, including the fact that students are eschewing four-year degrees for more affordable two-year degrees, augmented by skills in specific areas. Companies are focusing more on skills versus roles, reassessing exactly what it takes to get the job done, and then hiring based on those skills.

Verifiable digital credentials are crucial for employers and employees alike. It's simply not an option anymore. It's a must.

3) An increased focus on diversity and inclusion

2020's impact on the workplace wasn't confined to COVID. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, which began in 2013, was ignited by the killing of George Floyd, causing a nationwide racial revolution in our streets and our cities with people demanding change. The workplace responded with diversity and inclusion initiatives that were meaningful and tangible. Companies started walking their talk about D&I. Credly's CEO Jonathan Finkelstein wrote an article for that outlines exactly how digital credentials reduce hiring bias. 


4) Company culture took a hit

It's difficult enough to nurture and maintain a company's culture with everyone present in the workplace. It's easy to throw a company barbecue when people can gather. But now, with social distancing, those types of culture-building events just aren't possible in person. HR has had to be creative with things like Zoom happy hours to boost engagement and keep people connected.

5) Contingent workers

That same survey by Gartner found that 32% of companies are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers, including gig employees and temps. At first blush, this could be seen as positive for employers who need to staff up but are wary of hiring full-time employees because of economic uncertainty. But hiring contingent employees also comes with a risk. How do you know they have the skills to get the job done? As with many trends on this list, digital credentials are essential, whether you're hiring for those verifiable skills or offering opportunities for these workers to earn those credentials to skill up on the job.

2020 has been quite the wild ride. At Credly, we understand how vital digital credentials will be to both employers and employees going forward, into whatever 2021 has in store for us. To find out how to begin laying the foundation for a digitally credentialed workforce, fill out the form below. 

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By Patricia Diaz