The key factors and trends are discussed further along in the article and support the trends expected to gain traction over 2024.
A major factor that has brought about drastic changes in how companies used to function and how the flow and operational and management strategies and approaches are evolving has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have been constantly adapting and adopting new approaches and devising more efficient and streamlined strategies to develop and maintain a new normal in terms of driving functionality, productivity, recruitment, training, employee interaction and communication, and recruitment and talent retention in the past years since 2019. Human Resource Department (HRD) and executives have been having to relearn and implement newer and more ad-hoc arrangements and then make corresponding adjustments to otherwise regular practices and HR procedures. The need to adjust, adapt, and adopt new approaches and technologies have given rise to new trends across the working world, and some past strategies and trends are expected to be further amplified and maintain dominance and evolve to suit needs in future. The key factors and trends are discussed further along in the article and support the trends expected to gain traction over 2024.
A major factor that needs to be addressed to increase productivity is lack of technical skills or digital competency gap. If addressed through renewed emphasis on productivity and uptraining and nurturing of relevant skills in the proper direction, employees would have incentive to remain loyal and add value to the company. This exercise would also add confidence and instill a level of job security and career prospects.
The use of technology has contributed significantly to HR and business functions since implementation and use, and has also served well to enhance employee lifecycle. HR focus continues to remain keen on use of GenAI as the benefits outnumber the complexities, and effective utilization has opened up avenues to a steady stream of talent and means to make successful acquisition. Generative AI has also served to eliminate redundancy at the workplace, and contributes significantly to enhanced decision making with regard to selecting or shortlisting the right candidates, communication, recruitment, engagement, and service delivery. As use and understanding of the capabilities of this technology expands further, it is expected to gain more prominence and be used extensively across an increasing number of areas and applications in future.
The pandemic was followed by a period of shortage of relevant talent and the corporate sector was faced with major challenges and shortfalls. With the introduction and integration of AI and other technologies, the task of the HRD to access or source relevant and valuable talent was eased to some extent. Also, the shortage and unavailability of talent served to expose the importance of tapping into latent talent and skills in potential employees within companies and organizations, instead of investing efforts on off-base sources. As a result, employers are focusing on individuals who do not have the credentials or degrees, but those who have the right skills and talent for the job. The primary concerns with regard to harnessing potential of such hidden talent pools was that employees with specific skills and talents willing to contribute were either underpaid or deprived of equal opportunities due to gaps in protocol or lack of flexibility in HR policies to accommodate such approaches ethically. However, this prospect, though it began to gain traction during the latter part of 2022 and into 2023, has empowered the HR to cater to the needs of such employees and promote an inclusive culture. In addition, this trend is expected to continue to maintain dominance in 2024 and have significant impact on how hidden talent is discovered and harnessed across companies.
Surveys have indicated that an increasing number of employees are finding the workplace a difficult place to be in. Almost 50% of employees mentioned that they feel alienated by DEI efforts in their organization, while an equal number feel that such efforts are divisive and unfriendly. A number of companies have been taking DEIB seriously and it is fast becoming an indispensable imperative for a company. Besides dealing with discrimination, companies are also focusing on moving towards systemic DEIB and in building equitable practices, transparence, and targeted actions. This trend is expected to gain significant traction across 2024 as more companies are understanding the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and the benefits and advantages in enhancing productivity and adding value to the brand.
A steady shift away from traditional work ethics and practices in 2023 has ushered in the need to develop an environment of sustainability are the workplace. This is emerging as a core value among employees and has been serving to drive enhanced engagement with the job. An increasing number of companies have been initiating change and allowing development of sustainable practices, all the way from the top down, in order to eradicate issues with cultural alignment for employees. HR is also more focused on aligning with procedures and processes to ensure a more environmentally-friendly organization to drive positive employee engagement. As sustainability increases employee value and drives towards a purpose, it has positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Leveraging this trend to further capitalize on benefits and desirable outcomes is expected to ensure this trend gains traction in the near future with more companies focusing on corporate sustainability rather than offering lucrative paychecks and packages and benefits.
While the pandemic and lockdowns had severe repercussions on various aspects of everyday life and employment and related stress, mental health issues increased substantially over the period of time and into 2023. One major factor for high stress and insecurity was the advent of Artificial Intelligence and risk and fear of losing out to this technology on the workfront. As deployment of this ‘threatening technology’ continued unabated and began to perform and create ripples across industries and sectors, stress levels only rose further and some individuals even opted out of their positions or accepted defeat and resigned rather than be laid off or terminated. It did not matter initially whether a company was highly digitally advanced or had just ventured into the digital playground, the threat was all too real and caused severe stress and anxiety among human counterparts. Integration of AI also exposed a level of brutality as companies resorted to mass lay-offs and downsizing, with employees being left in the lurch and with economic uncertainty following the pandemic and the chaos it brought along. Now however, employees have begun to understand that AI is a tool, and HRD and companies also realize that the while the correct human-AI alliance is crucial, so is building a caring human experience for employees. As a result, focus is expected to remain on building caring human experiences and forging human-AI alliances is set to be the trend in 2024.
HR has come a long way in a relatively short span of time, especially during the testing period of 2020 to current times. From being a standalone function, HR has transitioned to becoming strategic business partner, and are donning the role of driving business transformation and in some first-mover instances, taking over more core responsibilities as well. More recently, alliances between Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have been gaining importance in making crucial decisions related to some business aspects as well as those related to employees and further actions and strategies. Also, as HR has been stalwart during the difficult times that companies were thrust into all of a sudden with the pandemic, trust and dependence among management has grown and increased significantly. In addition, the HRD or a company contributes significantly to a company’s growth, and this has also enabled a rediscovery of identity and positions it as an integral component to success of an organization.
An increasing number of companies and HRD are focused on building and maintaining a secure and strong internal talent pool and pipeline. Also, focus is high on extending new opportunities to existing talent and sourcing and attracting new talent from external sources in order to maintain a robust workforce and encourage inclusivity and add value to employees. In 2023, this was the trend and as it became increasingly challenging to attract new candidates to add to the talent pipeline, recruiters and HR deployed proactive recruitment approaches as opposed to reactive recruitment. This approach entails engaging in skills-based candidate sourcing to ensure potential hires align with future needs of a business. As the number of companies adopting reactive recruitment begins to ebb, focus on sourcing, engaging, and attracting candidates before hiring demand is the trend that is expected to be followed through 2024.
Among a number of issues that have been coming to the fore on the workfront in recent times is pay transparency and the gender pay gap. This may not have been noticed as companies and HRD stringently highlight non-disclosure and confidentiality about pay package and benefits at the time of hiring, demand for more transparency has brought this matter into the limelight. Currently, demand for gender-neutral pay and benefits has been gaining steady traction in a number of developing countries and pay transparency policies and legislation has already been implemented in countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France and others. This trend is expected to result in HR professionals and recruiters actively highlighting pay transparency in job postings in 2024 to address concerns in this regard, and to promote credibility and brand image.
Most other forms of discrimination are quick to be noticed or create a buzz, and ageism at the workplace is beginning to gain due attention. This form of discrimination can cause problems for HR and business owners if not understood and addressed. Some approaches HR leaders are taking to address ageism include a multipronged one to educate, communicate, and bridge gaps among the generations. A primary approach to combatting ageism at the workplace is acknowledging that it exists and then make proactive efforts to address pertinent issues and challenges. In 2024, a significantly large number of companies are expected to address ageism at the workplace as it has been gaining rising attention and support. HR leaders advise achieving organizational success through leveraging insights from all age groups. Companies are exploring designing of inclusive meetings and social activities, conducting training to address prevalent biases, including ageism, and initiating mentorship programs pairing younger employees with experienced professionals to bridge generational gaps and nurture inclusivity at the workplace. Some approaches include avoiding pension policies targeting specific age groups, and encouraging managers to holistically evaluate both hard and soft skills of employees. Creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for intergenerational dialogue, promoting good behaviors and highlighting bad ones, encouraging ownership and giving space in the workplace for right and wrong statements, regularly reviewing hiring and promotion practices for fairness, advocating advantages of a multigenerational workforce, and others are expected to be approaches being followed in future.
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