IT leadership: 1 trend to abandon and 2 to adopt in 2021

As we settle into 2021 and move toward a post-pandemic future, consider these two workplace culture trends that we should embrace – and one we should end
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CIO as Digital Leader

After what felt like a geologic timescale in the last year, a growing number of scientists say that we are in fact at the beginning of a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene, marked by rapid geological changes resulting from human activity.

That pretty much sums up 2020: Rapid changes that will continue to impact people.

IT leadership should view how the pandemic transformed their culture as if they were in a new cultural epoch. Much of what we took for granted in terms of work culture will likely never come back. Our teams are more agile than ever before, and we’ve started to master the full spectrum of communication tools that could benefit office work tremendously as hybrid work models become the norm.

[ Which IT skills are most valuable now? Read also: 15 highest-paying IT certifications in 2021. ]

So, which IT culture trends should we embrace in this new epoch – and what should we leave behind? Here are my picks:

1. Abandon: Hiring for 'culture fit'

Some work cultures are relaxed and casual, others more buttoned-up and traditional, and many others fall somewhere in between. But the concept of hiring for culture fit is changing in today’s work-from-home reality. Instead of looking for stereotypical archetypes, enterprises are prioritizing values and skills above all else. Hiring is now about aligning values at every stage of the interview process while objectively evaluating skills.

Instead of looking for stereotypical archetypes, enterprises are prioritizing values and skills above all else.

At HackerEarth, we look for people who put our customers first, but ultimately, skills are at the heart of our organizational culture.

We also look for diversity of thought. Teams that include different cognitive styles and personalities can assess problems from a variety of angles and perspectives. Not only are they able to evaluate problems more comprehensively, but they generally solve them more efficiently as well because they can dive into important strategic considerations right away.

2. Adopt: Getting serious about diversity

According to a January 2021 survey by LinkedIn, 76 percent of black women believe diversity and equity are important to the senior leaders at their workplace. Despite this, 40 percent have found this to be more talk than action, with no material changes to policies to date.

A big factor behind organizations’ failure to address diversity is bias. This starts in the earliest stages of sourcing new employees. According to our own survey of over 2500 recruiters and hiring managers, nearly 16 percent said tackling bias is their biggest challenge. While this might not seem like a particularly high number, it was the second-highest response after “accurate evaluation.” Considering the impact of various social awareness-raising events throughout the past year, I believe that HR leaders and hiring managers will be more likely to address the diversity challenge head-on as we move forward.

I am hopeful that 2021 will be the year that companies go beyond making statements about diversity and start actively tackling unconscious bias in their hiring processes. A diverse team is a better team, and IT teams need more diversity.

3. Adopt: Continuous learning from anywhere

Establishing remote work capabilities practically overnight was no easy task. For many, it meant putting a pause on professional development as they tried to hold on for dear life in the midst of the craziness. As our remote and hybrid work capabilities mature, IT organizations need to look to a future that includes continuous learning from anywhere.

Continuous learning will be a critical aspect of hybrid work throughout 2021 as organizations explore ways to help their employees learn new skills. In fact, in our survey 60.7 percent of companies said company-sponsored upskilling was a must-have benefit for attracting new tech talent.

How we design these continuous learning programs will change as well. In tech, we live by the mantra of design, test, iterate – but many learning and development programs don’t emphasize the last two steps. Companies design wonderful programs, but they’re not getting the data they need to understand and quantify their success. I expect continuous learning programs to become much more data-centric as they become optimized for long-term hybrid working conditions.

A new cultural epoch

As for the future of the Anthropocene epoch, it remains uncertain. Will it be an unmistakable layer in the geological strata – or just a blip?

Either way, the pandemic has certainly ushered in a new normal – and with that, we must evolve our IT culture. Practices that enable and support agility will be the name of the game, and I’m excited to see how organizations embrace diversity and make real progress over the next several years.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Sachin Gupta is the CEO and Co-Founder of HackerEarth. Sachin is a former software developer at Google and Microsoft, and now heads sales/marketing/operations at HackerEarth. A developer by trade, he is passionate about the developer community and ensuring every developer is connected with the right opportunity.

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