2021 year in review

2021 year in review

During the past year, the world of business has seen huge changes to office life, brought about by the global pandemic. Changes that had started, but were expected to evolve over the coming years, were suddenly happening and are here to stay. Let’s look at some of the changes we’ve seen in the core sectors of human resources (HR), marketing and finance.

What has had the most impact on businesses in 2021?  

HR careers 

Throughout the pandemic, HR departments countrywide have been central to how businesses have adapted to their employees working remotely. Despite advances in technology and gradual changes in HR over recent years, 2021 saw HR professionals having to make quick changes to respond to critical business priorities, fluctuations in the workforce and how to use the latest technology in response to both.  

Technology is now used in far more ways than previously for recruiting, managing, and connecting employees. Artificial Intelligence (AI) based software systems are used to assist in onboarding, tracking performance and data administration, with Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Bridge and GoSkills used more and more for training and workshops.  

Many companies saw an increase in productivity with remote working, resulting in a continuing hybrid work model, with staff splitting their working week between home and office. This has posed further challenges to HR as they adapt again to the new arrangements and consider how to ensure a continuing positive and productive workplace culture.

As a result of the pandemic and other world events, the past year has seen an increased focus on employee mental health, diversity and inclusion. The HR department leads the way in encouraging and ensuring employee wellbeing and inclusion across all levels of a business.  

From managing technology and communications, to ensuring staff wellbeing and retention, HR has emerged as an indispensable part of an organisation.  

Marketing careers

It is the nature of the job that marketing professionals need to constantly adapt, changing their approach based on the current situation, consumer trends and business landscapes. This became more apparent than ever over the past year, first during the height of the pandemic and lockdown, then again as the world started to return to some sort of new normality.  

Changes in consumer behaviour has meant a shift for marketing. Market research has become increasingly important, analysing and understanding the target audience and building new strategies to keep them engaged. The pandemic accelerated e-commerce, making digital marketing far more valuable than traditional marketing methods. With the increasing popularity of smartphones, now used by an estimated 92% of the UK population1, it is essential that digital marketing is mobile friendly. 

Lockdowns meant that many marketing promotions could no longer take place face to face. Instead, marketing professionals had to get familiar with organising and presenting events using online platforms. It is only now, near the end of 2021, that in-person events are starting to take place. 

Finance careers

Finance professionals, like everyone, had to adapt to remote working, incorporating the increased use of technology into their workday to communicate with co-workers and clients. Although the main point of contact with clients was generally by email or phone before the pandemic, the move to home working meant there was no longer the opportunity to meet in person and all meetings had to take place using platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. The need to use technology transformed the way many finance businesses deliver services, using new virtual and digital methods.  

One of the key effects of the pandemic for those in finance, has been understanding and managing the government’s furlough scheme and the various grants given to certain businesses. This has meant finance professionals taking the lead in informing and advising clients of the various rules and payments they and their staff are entitled to. In some finance roles it was necessary to implement and manage the furlough scheme. All this has meant a lot of new rules and regulations for finance professionals to learn over the past year.  

Changes to the HR, Marketing and Finance jobs market in 2021  

All three of these professions have seen a significant increase in available positions when comparing data from October 2021 with October 2020. This is a positive sign for the recovery of the jobs market, and the increase in median salaries across the board is also encouraging for those looking for new opportunities.  

Below are some of the job roles that Tate regularly places candidates in. The figures are from a report using data from EMSI. Median salaries and hiring demand are for the whole of the UK based on year-on-year changes from 2020 to 2021: 

HR Manager 

  • Median salary is £42,600, up 4%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 39%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire.

HR Administrator

  • Median salary is £22,300, up 6%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 145%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the East and West Midlands, Scotland.  

Marketing Manager 

  • Median salary £40,100, up 5%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 66%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire.   

Marketing Executive 

  • Median salary £27,500, up 9%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 86%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the North East, Wales and East Midlands.  

Finance Manager 

  • Median salary £45,000, up 4%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 56%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the North East, South West and South East. 

Accounts Administrator 

  • Median salary £22,000, up 10%. 
  • Hiring demand has increased by 92%. 
  • Highest growth in hiring in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and North West.  

The over-riding influence of the pandemic has been the advances in technology. A digital transformation has occurred in almost all workplaces and has changed the skills requirements for many sectors.

In addition to HR Administrators needing recruitment skills, Marketing Executives being creative and Accounts Administrators being good with numbers, they all need to have diverse business and technological experience, as well as a range of soft skills. Employers look for candidates with strong communication and interpersonal skills, who can be flexible and adaptable. The ability to problem-solve is also a sought-after attribute, as well as people with managerial and leadership skills to fill higher-level positions.   

Looking ahead to 2022  

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many employers to take a new look at their businesses and what will work best for them and their employees moving forward. Many will look to implement changes to working life. This could be anything from redesigning or downsizing office spaces as people continue to move to a hybrid work model, to reviewing the wellbeing and recognition programmes that companies may provide for their staff. 

The trends in HR that are likely to continue are the increased use of cloud-based technology and AI to assist with recruitment and training. It is likely that more training will take place using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and also with the introduction of more mentoring programmes to help both new and existing staff gain the skills required to do their jobs. HR is set to be a more valued department by being recognised as the central link between all management and employees within the business. 

When it comes to marketing trends, the move to digital marketing has provided the opportunity for two-way interactions between customers and clients that wasn’t possible with print marketing. Engagement with potential customers and clients is essential for the success of online marketing and it is important to understand the analytics behind marketing campaigns. It is expected that influencer marketing and the use of videos will become more and more important in the year ahead, which can be combined with the use of VR and AR to market products online. Sustainability has been another hot topic over the past year, and this is something that could be used by Marketeers as a positive angle in future marketing campaigns. 

Again, technology is expected to have an influence on finance trends in the year ahead. The use of AI and advanced software will take care of some of the more repetitive tasks, enabling finance professionals to spend less time on tedious administrative tasks and more time on high-value work. It is therefore going to be even more important for those entering the finance sector to have good technical skills.  As 2021 comes to an end, we at Tate would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. 2022 is set to bring lots of new and exciting opportunities and challenges in the world of work and we will continue to keep you up-to-date through our website and consultants.

Happy New Year to you all!  

Next steps

Visit our jobs pages to keep a lookout for new opportunities in your sector:  

Marketing Jobs

HR Jobs

Finance Jobs  

Other Office Jobs

For more information you can click here for Careers Advice, or to review our recruitment process click here.  

You can keep up to date with industry news and advice by visiting our blog or visit our LinkedIn page.   


  1. O'Dea, S.2021.Forecast of smartphone user numbers in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2018 to 2025.[Online].[7 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/553464/predicted-number-of-smartphone-users-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/