2024 HR Trends: Where Are We Now?

As I launch my new blog on steviebarnes.com, there seems no better to place to start than a look at the HR trends that were forecast to set our people agendas alight in 2024. We’re now three months into the year. It’s as if we’ve only blinked and we’re almost a quarter down. So how are they holding up?

Let’s take a look…

The Generative AI Takeover

This was on every 2024 HR Trend list. Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) is one of the fastest-adopted technologies and there’s no escaping conversations about it, but is GenAI really infiltrating the workplace in 2024? Last year we saw FOMO-driven HR teams quickly catch up with the earliest adopters, but many HR leaders remain cautious observers, noting concerns around GenAI’s potential to perpetuate inequalities.

If you’ve managed to remain out of the loop until now, GenAI is a form of machine learning. Algorithms like ChatGPT can be used to create content, including text, code, images, video and audio (for the avoidance of doubt, this blog is an AI-free zone!).

People teams are experimenting with GenAI to streamline processes and co-author documentation, utilising ChatGPT for training content, candidate search, writing policies and job descriptions. Whilst the primary benefit is time and therefore cost efficiencies, chatbots have been also been applauded for helping to remove literacy barriers faced by people with dyslexia. However, businesses recognising the need to stand out know not to rely on GenAI for original content. There’s a balance to be had and the debate will surely continue.

Societal Impact

With 1 in 3 Gen-Z workers rejecting company’s whose environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments don’t stack up, this emerging theme is one we can expect to continue to see grow over the course of 2024.

Global talent expert Josh Bersin shared at the beginning of 2024 how societal impact matters for 71% of people when considering a job. This is about working somewhere where your values align, there is a greater sense of purpose, and the CEO takes a stand on issues that really matter.

By having a voice on societal issues, or aligning your company to a charitable cause, you are not only showing what matters to you, but creating a sense of meaning for the people in your organisation. This can build trust and retention. A word to the wise: saying or doing nothing can be just as brand damaging as saying the wrong thing, as it can lead employees (and those outside) to make assumptions about where you stand.

Compelling Hybrid Work

Four years on since the first lock-down, business are still scratching their heads over the relationship between performance and work location. We know we are capable of working remotely (and in many cases we’re more productive), but 2023 saw a surge of office-working mandates as leaders called for a return to the way it was. Those pushing 5-days-in-the-office are seeing a negative impact in both employee morale and retention. There’s clearly a balance to be had.

Alongside this, with 92% of the companies participating in the four-day week pilot deciding to continue and a growing number of countries legislating the right to disconnect, work arrangements that offer flexibility and balance are clearly going to remain a focus throughout 2024.

At the foundation of creating a compelling hybrid work proposition is building trust. There is no one-size-fits-all and to know what really works, it’s going to take listening and perhaps a little experimentation. Key to success are manager capability, taking an inclusive-first approach, and creating an engaging workplace experience – both in the office and remotely. If you’re going to demand people come to the office, make it worth their while and don’t forget those connecting virtually.

Employee Financial Wellbeing

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) define financial wellbeing as about being “financially resilient, confident and empowered”. It’s become an increasing focus for businesses, as the impact of an increased cost-of-living has contributed to a hike in employee stress levels, which in turn hits productivity levels. In addition to rising household bills, increased energy prices have also extended to increased commuting costs for many being asked to return to office based working.

Best practice is coming from employers who are taking an holistic approach to wellbeing, with financial wellbeing forming a key pillar to their ongoing approach to acknowledging and supporting employee health and wellbeing. This is likely to continue to be a focus throughout 2024. Employers can support employees by making it OK to talk about financial wellbeing, signposting to relevant resources and being conscious to the impact it can have on mental health.

Greater Pay Transparency

The EU pay transparency directive came into force in 2023, introducing several new rules regarding pay transparency, including sharing salaries with jobseekers and extending the right to information about average pay levels to all workers.

It only applies to companies with employees in EU member states, but you’re missing a trick if you don’t acknowledge the role equitable compensation has on employee experience. Many in HR and Reward teams will attest to the fact that non-transparent compensation not only creates efficiencies due to the number of queries it creates, but it’s also a key driver of disengagement. They’ll also likely agree (but may not be in a place to admit) that it covers up inequitable pay and processes.

Secret salaries are also a great way to slow-down your hiring process, leading to unnecessary screening for recruiters and wasted applications for candidates. This is definitely a trend that won’t be going away in 2024. Plus, with deadlines for gender pay gap reporting looming, calls for greater breadth in equity reporting may also ignite conversations around ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting.

The Skills Evolution

How we think about about employee skills is changing and this is continuing to be a focus in 2024. There are two significant drivers of this: the influence of generative AI (both as a skills enabler and replacement), and the way we recognise potential in the post-pandemic era.

These are both bringing a more adaptive approach to how businesses recruit for and develop skills, recognising that employee skills will need to continually evolve to keep up with moving digital trends. Many companies are already adopting a skills-based approach to recruitment and employee development, including a growing trend of disregarding qualifications during the hiring process. On the L&D side, the shift is moving away from focusing on top talent or offering generic content, instead recognising the value in behaviourial change and the need to innovate.

This trend will require a more dramatic shift for businesses who currently focus on annual employee training programmes involving heavy planning cycles. It’s important to be responsive to external factors, as well as to to pay attention to employee capabilities and business needs. Transition to an adaptive approach can demand an entire mindset shift, but doing so can bring transformative results.

Embedding DEI Practices

DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) has been incredibly divisive over the past 12 months, ending 2023 with some of the most passionate social change-makers having to once again justify their value in political and corporate spaces.

Meenakshi Krishnan, Principal Research Fellow at IES, likened DEI job cuts and the influence of US conservative discourse to ocean currents. This metaphor not only resonates, but it gives some hope to values-driven organisations and DEI professionals that this agenda still matters. The decision to invest in DEI comes from a place of morals, values and financial sense. These drivers are set to strengthen in 2024, but we are likely to see a change in how we communicate the value of DEI practices and how DEI is embedded not just in one team, but across the whole business.

It’s already shaping up to be a busy year! If these are areas of focus for your business, how are you prioritizing impact in this ever changing environment? Let me know in the comments or get in touch!

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