2021 Predictions for Small Businesses by 3 Experts

No one can truly predict the future, but using the lessons learned in 2020, maybe we can accurately depict the top themes and trends that will dominate 2021. 3 experts offer their top 3 predictions for 2021.

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2020 was a wild ride for everyone — especially those in the small business community. In one year it feels like almost everything about the workplace and workforce has changed. There is no way anyone could have predicted this particular chain of events, but maybe we can use the lessons learned from 2020 to predict some of the trends and themes that will dominate 2021. So, we asked three small business, HR and tech experts for their Top 3 Predictions for Small Businesses.

Lisa Reeves, Zenefits Chief Product Officer:

  1. The acceleration of trends already underway in the SMB market will continue. Remote working will embrace digital and/or touch-less models for work and will increasingly extend into everyday life. This shift will be underpinned by a focus on total employee wellness — spanning across work and everyday life.
  2. SMBs will continue to explore new ways of working and/or business models as they adapt to changing economic and market conditions. As a result, there will be a focus on re-skilling/cross-skilling as people across the workforce transition to new roles and/or companies.
  3. Digitization of the healthcare industry will accelerate as employees embrace a direct to consumer model. Employees will benefit in a number of ways including — convenience of telehealth, improved healthcare outcomes, increased cost transparency, and improved healthcare delivery.

Tracy Cote, Zenefits Chief People Officer:

  1. Remote work will increase, which will by extension improve diversity, equity, and inclusion, in companies of all shapes, sizes, and industries. The pandemic helped leaders and business owners realize that for many roles, remote work, works, and they will need to embrace flexibility and remote work going forward to ensure they attract and retain the best talent.
  2. What goes down, must come up: It has been tragic to see so many small and mid sized businesses unable to weather the Covid storm. But new businesses will rise from the ashes, and they will be better prepared for whatever is next to come, having learned by observing what existing companies had to go through as they pivoted, or attempted to pivot, to meet the changing needs and challenges posed by 2020.
  3. Politics in business matter. In a world that has become polarized by the red versus the blue, we will see more companies take a stand on political matters, human rights initiatives, and more. By doing so, companies will both cement and alienate customers, employees and even local communities. My hope is that this happens in a way that, rather than being divisive and antagonistic, is civil, and encourages discussion and insight into new ways of thinking so we can all be better informed, good citizens.

Parijat Sarkar, Zenefits VP of Product:

  1. The “blended” workforce will have a new dimension: hybrid in-person + remote teams. We’ve shown this year that remote teams can work in many situations (excluding scenarios which absolutely need in-person attendance) and even when people can go back to physical offices, blended teams will be the norm. As such, people teams will have to adapt to set new norms and rituals to sculpt the best culture possible in this new normal. The reduction in reliance of local workforces will also continue to open up larger talent pools for SMBs.
  2. Greater peer empathy and tighter teamwork: During the pandemic we’ve seen glimpses into people’s personal lives through Zoom/Teams (e.g. parents taking care of their kids, people displaying their personal passions such as musical instruments in their home office) and though we’ve been physically apart, these personal glimpses will have brought many teams closer. When people get back to shared locations, we will see individuals more as their “whole selves” and that will help bring teams closer together, especially for SMBs which have smaller teams in the first place.
  3. With Prop 22 passing in California and similar such bills being considered in other states, the notion of what it means to be a “contractor” will continue to evolve with innovative new solutions in the benefits realm being delivered to meet the ever changing landscape. Benefits in this case isn’t restricted to just insurance options but extends to things like schedule flexibility and wellness offerings too which will also need to adapt.
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