Staffing Trends from 2021: A Review

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to take a step back and look at the HR and staffing trends from 2021 as we prepare for 2022. The increase of technology, globalization, and automation have all had an impact on staffing needs over the years. The past 12 months in particular have presented some changes-in-the-making for the future of HR professionals. 

From AI taking over jobs, to remote work becoming more commonplace than ever before, here are some of the big changes we saw in staffing trends from 2021.

The State of Staffing: An Overview of Staffing Trends from 2021

The staffing industry is constantly changing, and the past year has been no exception. In order to breakdown the significant changes we saw in staffing trends in 2021, we are going to focus in this article on the top challenges in 2021, the top successes in 2021, and insights into 2022.

First, here’s a look at what people predicted about 2021. At the end of a tumultuous and uncertain 2020, people were hesitant to make predictions about 2021. In Monster’s forecast of 2021 hiring trends, they predicted that: 

  • Companies will focus more on diversity, equity & inclusion in hiring
  • Remote work is here to stay
  • Upskilling will help companies—and staffing firms—fill hard-to-hire positions
  • Candidates will continue to need assurance that workplaces are safe
  • More companies will turn to gig workers

Now that we have a general understanding of what was predicted, let’s take a look at how these staffing trends actually played out in 2021.

The Top 3 Staffing Challenges from 2021

As we look back on the past year, there are some staffing trends that stand out as particularly challenging. While many of them were predicted to happen, they still created significant challenges for businesses and HR professionals in 2021. Here is what you need to know about these top three staffing challenges:

Running Out of Talent

This has been a perennial challenge for businesses, and we expect it to continue to be part of staffing trends well into 2022 and beyond. From a significant number of resignations and retirements to the massive loss of life from the pandemic, we are short on talent.

On August 8, 2021, CNBC reported that there are about 1 million more job openings than people looking for work. This statistic means that employers are needing to fill more jobs than there are people to fill them.

The Great Resignation caused retention to be a huge challenge in 2021. Industry experts at SHRM say that recruiting was a top concern for HR in 2021, and it looks like neither of these trends are slowing down into 2022.

In 2021 we also saw many jobs taken by robots. TechJury reports that, “Jobs lost to automation stats in 2021 show that up to 800 million roles could be phased out”. They explain the impact of this by writing, “In more wealthy nations like the US or Germany where up to one-third of the workforce would need to re-train for other roles. For other countries, it’s one-fifth”. While we may be short on talent, more humans will become available for these jobs. The question will remain well into 2022 if they will have the necessary skills.

Integrating Remote Work and Hybrid Work Models

Company culture and coworker connections have been a huge challenge in 2021 with so many companies still adapting to remote work, and this is only one challenge that remote work poses. While businesses struggle to adapt to remote work, many individuals are eagerly seeking it out when looking for jobs.

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article writes that, “In a June survey of 1,000 human resource professionals, fewer than 10% said their employers plan to operate fully remote long term”. The thing is, talent pools are small and workers like flexibility. We will have to see what 2022 holds for remote work and hybrid work models.

Hiring Gig Workers & Contractors

With workers tackling burnout and other work pressures, many began rethinking their work and life goals. Google Year in Search 2021 reports that, “The world searched for ‘how to start a business’ more than ‘how to get a job’ in 2021.”

Many people turned to more flexible work as a gig worker or contractor in 2021. DDIY reports that, “65% of freelancers make more money than at their previous job.” This has caused significant classification challenges and upheaval in labor laws. That’s why GreenLight created the world’s first AI-driven classification engine.

The Top 3 Staffing Wins from 2021

Since we have discussed some of the challenging staffing trends from 2021, let’s celebrate some wins from 2021.

US Unemployment Rate Reduced

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate steadily decreased in 2021. After the huge hit the unemployment rate took in 2020, many breathed a sigh of relief this year as these statistics rolled in. 

Not only did the unemployed rate go down, there were significant additions to the job market as well. The PGC Group reports in their US Staffing Industry 2021 Roundup that, “The US economy added 938,000 jobs in June 2021, representing the largest monthly gain since August 2020.”

Virtual Recruitment & Hiring Technology Advancements

While virtual recruiting and onboarding has been a challenge for many in 2021, we have seen significant technological advancements in this area as a result. 2020 exposed huge gaps in HR technology, and 2021 was focused on filling these gaps.

From video interviews to chatbots, recruiting and hiring technology was mostly well-received this year. According to Lighthouse research from 2021, “¾ job candidates say that chatbots improved their candidate experience.”

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

In 2021, we saw many businesses understand the importance of diversity, especially in leadership. In order for companies to best serve their customers, they must have a diverse, empathetic workforce that is representative of their consumer base.

Fundera reports that, “Diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions. A study of 600 business decisions made by 200 teams found that when diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individuals 87% of the time and were shown to make decisions faster than individuals.”

Why This Year Left Us Feeling Optimistic About Staffing Trends for 2022

We are optimistic about staffing trends for 2022 because of the innovation and progress we saw this year. While the year was not perfect, it left us feeling like there is room for improvement and that we are headed in the right direction. 

We are watching as more diverse voices are heard and a more conscious relationship between corporations and their workers develops. Remote work and flexibility within roles is allowing more people to take control of their lives. AI is improving the efficiency and accuracy of work while demanding the leveraging of human capital.

As an HR technology start-up, GreenLight is committed to making the Future of Work a brighter place for everyone. We will continue to be the change we wish to see in the world. Schedule a demo today so you can feel confident and prepared for the Future of Work in 2022 and beyond.

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Jason Posel

Jason Posel

Founder and CEO of, Jason Posel is a sought-after expert in issues related to technology innovation in contingent workforce management, the gig economy, and the Future of Work. London > Atlanta > Miami > Palo Alto > Miami

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