Top Recruiting and Hiring Initiatives for 2021

Posted by Dave • December 21, 2020 (Last modified June 13, 2022) • 6 min read

As 2020 comes to a close, HR and recruiting professionals are busy preparing their organizations for success in the coming year. We recently surveyed the user base of our Applicant Tracking System (ATS) offering and asked what the top recruiting and hiring initiatives will be.

The survey generated a total of 274 responses. Participants were mostly from organizations with 1-300 employees and primarily represented the following industries:

  • Healthcare (16%)
  • Software/Technology (15%)
  • Professional Services (15%)
  • Nonprofit (14%)

We analyzed the results and identified 177 responses that represent trends. Based on the survey responses, here are the top 13 recruiting and hiring initiatives for 2021.

1. Organizational growth (35 responses)

Growing the workforce is the top initiative for next year. After a year where economic progress slowed, many companies are planning on bouncing back and returning to full operations.

Hiring for multiple positions at once is a major undertaking, which is likely why it landed at the top of the list. Achieving company growth objectives requires outlining a hiring roadmap and efficiently sourcing, evaluating, and interviewing candidates.

2. Diversity hiring (31 responses)

Building a diverse team is the second biggest hiring priority for 2021. As companies expand their workforces, they’re planning on bringing on people of various ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and religions. 

This initiative isn’t a surprise since forming a diverse workforce starts with hiring. It requires attracting people with different backgrounds and building an inclusive organizational culture where everyone is welcomed and treated with respect.

3. Employee retention (22 responses)

Even though extensive hiring is the top recruiting trend, there are a number of organizations hoping to do the opposite. Rather than growing the staff, their main 2021 goal is to retain the people they already have.

Unless you’re hiring for a new role, retention is ideal. Employee turnover slows progress as tasks are spread to other team members or go unaccomplished until the role is filled with a new hire.

4. Hire quality candidates (21 responses)

A large number of survey respondents are striving for quality over quantity when it comes to 2021 hiring. With U.S. unemployment high, organizations have the opportunity to bring on talented individuals who are the right fit for their culture and team.

Of the 21 recruiters and HR professionals who said quality hiring is their main initiative, three specified they hope to hire skilled software engineers and two clarified they hope to hire talented sales reps. One respondent specifically mentioned their goal is to “build the perfect team” in the coming year.

5. Improve the hiring process (13 responses)

Hiring efficiency is the main 2021 priority for 13 of our survey respondents. A multi-step hiring process, involving different stakeholders, can take months to complete. However, identifying where candidate movement slows and streamlining the process is a must for the companies hoping to achieve ambitious growth plans. 

Additionally, three respondents specified that they plan to use data to optimize their recruiting efforts. Hiring reports shed light on the bottlenecks that need to be resolved to achieve hiring efficiency.

6. New hire onboarding & training (11 responses)

A handful of survey respondents will be focused on preparing new hires for immediate job success in the coming year. Training and onboarding is an often-overlooked but crucial step to concluding the hiring process.

An effective training and onboarding program makes new hires feel welcome and answers the many questions that come with starting a new job. They get to work knowing what is expected of them and understanding organizational policies and procedures.

7. Employee engagement (9 responses)

While it’s not necessarily a hiring trend, a large portion of our survey participants said improving employee engagement is their main priority for next year. It’s a vague term but usually means having a workforce of happy and productive employees.

Some respondents clarified they need to establish a company culture that promotes engagement. Others said they hope to showcase their culture to candidates during the hiring process and continue the experience through onboarding.

8. Internal hiring & employee training (9 responses)

Nine respondents aspire to promote from within and prepare junior employees for more responsibility. This continues the theme of succeeding with the employees already on staff rather than building a team of external candidates.

Career advancement opportunities and professional development training are excellent ways to boost employee engagement and retention. Team members work hard on a continuous basis if they know their effort will eventually be rewarded with a promotion.

9. Hire for important positions & leadership roles (7 responses)

Some recruiters and HR professionals will be heavily focused on filling important roles on their teams in 2021. 

Hiring for a position crucial to the organization’s operations leaves little room for error. The candidate pool for in-demand positions is often small and requires proactively contacting potential candidates to gauge interest or working with a recruiting agency.

10. Attract qualified candidates (6 responses)

Sourcing the right candidates will be a priority for some hiring organizations next year. Filling the start of the pipeline with people who have the necessary skills and background kicks off a healthy hiring process. The team can then interview and evaluate multiple candidates and find the person who is the best overall fit for the job.

Attracting qualified candidates naturally starts with effective sourcing. Recruiters and hiring managers need to take advantage of the right job boards, as well as accept employee referrals and proactively contact potential candidates.

11. Integrate HR systems (6 responses)

Six survey respondents plan to ensure their various HR and employee management systems are fully integrated in the new year.

The automation features of cloud-based software eliminates busy work for HR teams. For example, a new hire’s details are automatically imported into the performance management software, payroll system, and other solutions when everything is integrated. There is no need for manual data entry, allowing the HR team to focus on more important projects.

12. Candidate experience (4 responses)

Four survey respondents hope to provide a great experience to everyone who applies to their organization. Job seekers often get disheartened by the lack of communication that occurs after applying or interviewing for a job.

Two respondents said they will be more transparent about next steps with candidates and two said they will stay in touch with candidates throughout the process.

13. Better use or implement an ATS (3 responses)

And lastly, three survey participants aspire to better use their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) in 2021. The vast majority of the hiring initiatives included on this list can be achieved simply by taking full advantage of hiring software.

An ATS helps better evaluate candidates and leads to a collaborative hiring process. It also streamlines each step and results in great people being hired for the right roles.

Here’s to successful hiring in 2021

HR and recruiting professionals who participated in our survey will be focused on a wide range of initiatives in 2021 but all share a common goal—build a team of great people who propel the organization forward. 

No matter what you and your team will be focused on, we wish you the best in all your endeavors in the coming year. 


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